Monday, April 13, 2009

Research and Scholarship

Northern Arizona University is classified as a high research activity institution according to the Carnegie Classification. This national system to categorize colleges and universities is based on the level of research activity using indicators such as R&D expenditures in science/engineering and non-science/non-engineering fields, research staffing levels, and doctoral conferrals. This classification does not differentiate institutions with respect to research quality or importance. Institutions with more extensive research activities (e.g. ASU and UA) are classified as very high research activity institutions.

When considering the direction of the university, how do we cultivate one of the key components of our mission—scholarship and research? The Strategic Planning Council is interested in learning your opinions. The following items should guide this online discussion:

  1. What does it mean to be a highly successful institution in our “high research” category? How do we define success in the context of different fields (engineering, natural sciences, social sciences, art etc.)?
  2. How do we better integrate teaching and research/scholarly activities? How can undergraduate students become more involved in research activities, and/or non-funded scholarship? How do “public service” and “instructional” funding/activities fit into the picture? How does being a research campus benefit student education?
  3. How do we attract private funds to advance our research and other scholarly activities?
  4. When we say that the Flagstaff campus is a “research” campus, what implications does this have for NAU’s other campuses/sites across Arizona?
  5. What recruitment strategies could colleges and departments employ to balance a teaching-focused and research-focused faculty? What reward mechanisms should be in place to reward both teaching and research?
  6. Should we focus on a few already successful areas of research to achieve even greater recognition or fund new projects that would expand the portfolio of the university’s research activities? What are the implications of selecting one strategy over another?

To submit comments, click on "Comments" below. Your posts will remain anonymous.


rnm said...

When we say that the Flagstaff campus is a “research” campus, what implications does this have for NAU’s other campuses/sites across Arizona?

It means that there are more opportunities for research on the Flagstaff campus. With the majority of classes being evening and students being part time, there are fewer opportunities for faculty directed research with students.

Anonymous said...

With the current budget crisis, the increased emphasis on teaching must affect our future ability to do research here. Faculty may find time to maintain research programs (nights and weekends?) but we are now less competitive with researchers who apply for the same pots of funding dollars as we do. If I were a grant reviewer (and I am) I would question giving money to a researcher at NAU vs. an institution that supported research with more than words in mission statements. Other institutions will give a better return for the research dollar.

Anonymous said...

NAU already is a high research university and that is one of its strengths. Students benefit greatly from the research being done on the Flagstaff campus. Many faculty contribute to the research vitality of the campus and would not want this designation for NAU to change. We already have the infrastructure and processes for our research efforts, and that is very hard to create on a campus if not yet already in place. Our research efforts help our recruiting for top students and separates us from universities that do not yet have a mature research infrastructure. Finally, our research mission is what will keep us distinct from new 4-year institutions that may arise in the coming 10 years in Arizona.


Anonymous said...

How do we cultivate one of the key components of our mission -- scholarship and research? How do we better integrate teaching and research activities?

A primary constraint on research activities at NAU is its limited number of PhD programs. PhD students are the engine that drive our existing vibrant research programs. They generate data, write reports, and help run laboratory and field programs. Most importantly, PhD students help oversee undergraduate students who benefit directly from the opportunity to become involved with an established research program where they receive training in career-relevant skills.

A new PhD program is unlikely to emerge from scratch; it needs to build upon existing strengths. And, it requires active participation by faculty who are granted the time to develop projects and compete for funds to support their students. Such an investment by NAU would pay dividends to many benefactors, including undergraduates who seek an interactive experience as part of a research team.

Anonymous said...

Research in sciences and engineering cannot be separated from teaching in these fields. Faculty who are not active in research will eventually teach yesterday's technologies instead of training students for tomorrow's challenges. The odd think about such an effect is that no one will notice when this is happening; the students will get the feeling that they get what they need, the faculty will feel that they are doing their job, ... and only 5-10 years down the line the students, by then graduates, will feel that they were "cheated" or they may not even realize why they become less competitive. NAU accomplished a nice position nationally in terms of its research status. This needs to be sustained or even expanded.
Faculty in sciences and engineering (at least in these fields it is essential) should be required to be actively involved in research at least at 50% of their work load, and should be assessed accordingly.
The faculty that are active in research should be assessed in terms of their research output based on the following categories:
*Quantity (publications, amount of external grants, etc.)
*Quality (journal publications, books, conferences...)
*Impact (evidences of impact e.g. citations, national and international awards, national and international honors, ...).

Student involvement in faculty's research is natural and any faculty is self-motivated to involve students as this allows for a better research work-load distribution. The only constraint on the latter is availability of funds or programs that are consistent with specific research needs. The latter may be addressed only if NAU decides to be more ambitious in its research agenda and strategic plans.

Anonymous said...

To be a highly successful institution in a "high research category" requires the support and pride of the higher administration. Even during times of duress, faculty who are successful at research (and who can demonstrate their successful efforts rather than just talk about it) should not be discouraged from continuing with their research efforts. Sadly, NAU is wearing its researchers down and will wear away its "high research" designation at the same time. Faculty

Anonymous said...

In response to question 6 (“Should we focus on a few already successful areas of research to achieve even greater recognition . . . ?”), I would emphatically say “No.” For NAU to be a vital research institution, faculty members in all departments should be encouraged and enabled to do research to the best of their abilities. I would hate to think that a department’s future research potential would be diminished just because it had less of a prior reputation for research. For example, I wonder whether the NAU community would consider the School of Music a hotbed for research, and yet last year it garnered 4 of 21 Intramural Grants awarded across all of NAU.

Regarding research specifically in the humanities:

First, I think it is somewhat less important for us in the humanities to have graduate programs, certainly doctoral programs. In other words, graduate students don’t help to drive our research as much as they seem to in the sciences.

Second, it is crucial for our library to be well funded, so that we have good access to the materials we need for our research. Getting JSTOR was very helpful, and I hope that we can continue to make similar improvements.

Finally, it is also vital that we have better funding for participating in conferences. Giving papers at conferences is a necessary and expected part of our jobs, and we should get fully funded (up to some reasonable amount) for doing so at least once or twice a year.

Affiliation: NAU Faculty