Thursday, February 4, 2010

Research and Scholarly Activity - Feb 3 discussion group summary

Laurie Beckwith and Tad McIlwraith facilitated our second face-to-face discussion on the theme of Research and Scholarly Activity yesterday at the New West campus and they provide this summary. Please feel free to comment. --Scott

"The Research Train Has Left the Station"
Research and Scholarly Activity discussion group summary - from Laurie Beckwith and Tad McIlwraith, Instructors in Sociology and Anthropology

As a degree granting institution, we have an imperative to do research. Research is required for the accreditation of some programs. Research is being done. And, we acknowledge that there is a wide range of research taking place at the college (echoing the January 25 conversation on the same strategic theme at David Lam).

In the discussion, we asserted that we do not need external validation for our research. We validate it by doing it - but to build on our own identification as researchers, we need a commitment from the institution in terms of money, time, and other resources. Moreover, as one person suggested, our commitment to research needs to be about inspiring people to conduct research and not simply about satisfying the needs of the institution.

Further, we want to move past the debate around what research is to answering a more significant question: what does research do for us and the institution? We need to be more explicit, for example, about how our research contributes to our teaching. It seems that we research for personal enrichment, creating vital and vibrant classroom experiences for our students, for making and maintaining connections to other institutions, and building relationships within the community in its broadest sense.

We heard a call for creativity in finding and securing funding - sure, the big grants are great but aren't there other funding opportunities? What is the role of the College Foundation in the funding of research at the College? Endowed chairs? A pool of central funds from private sources? Money to incorporate students in the research process as research assistants or in other roles?

Finally, we want to consider a broader college culture around research and scholarly activity. We need the infrastructures in place and practices established to support research activities. We also acknowledged the fact that we are a self-selected group of people interested in research and our goals and ambitions may not be shared across the College community. Still, research is happening. It's necessary in many situations. The train has, in fact, left the station.

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What do you think? We welcome your comments on this discussion.

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