Grazing - a personal blog from Steve Ehrmann

Steve Ehrmann is an author, speaker, and consultant.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Faculty research, institutional economics, and the reward system

Some folks at research universities act as though research grants are a way for a university to make money.  Not exactly.

At universities such as George Washington, most revenue comes from student learning, either directly (tuition and fees) or indirectly (alumni gifts).

Doing research should help keep our educational programs at the cutting edge of their disciplines, and fresh. (As Ernest Boyer pointed out several kinds of research can do that. More on that below).

Research costs the university money, even grant-funded research - it must almost always be subsidized with some of those teaching-derived dollars.

So any research university walks a tightrope:

  • Divert too many of those teaching-derived dollars to non-teaching uses, and we risk our reputation as a good teaching institution (and the income we get from that reputation);
  • Divert too few teaching-derived dollars to research and our teaching could stagnate, with perhaps the same result.
I've written this down because, until recently, it wasn't obvious to me. So I thought perhaps some readers might find this useful (or worth arguing with). In either case, feel free to post a comment!

PS. Ernest Boyer, in his book Scholarship Reconsidered, described four types of scholarship, each of which, in its own way, can make teaching more vital and current:

  1. The scholarship of discovery that includes original research that advances knowledge.
  2. The scholarship of integration that type involves synthesis of information across disciplines, across topics within a discipline, or across time.
  3. The scholarship of application (also later called the scholarship of engagement) that goes beyond the service duties of a faculty to those within or outside the University and involves the rigor and application of disciplinary expertise with results that can be shared with and/or evaluated by peers.
  4. The scholarship of teaching and learning that the systematic study of teaching and learning processes. It differs from scholarly teaching in that it requires a format that will allow public sharing and the opportunity for application and evaluation by others.
We're talking more at GW about the possibilities of encouraging all four kinds of scholarship, especially (in current conversations) for associate professors building a record for promotion to full professor.