Research, Publishing, and Tenure among Texas Biologists

Article excerpt

This study examined opinions toward research among biology faculty in Texas institutions of higher learning. The objectives of the study were to determine what the viewpoints of Texas biology faculty were toward research according to faculty rank and institutional type. Mailed questionnaire approach was used in this study to collect data. Instrument was developed to assess perspectives toward research. Seven hundred-and-forty-two individuals participated in the study Major findings of this study were: a) more than half of the participants (59%) showed positive opinions toward research, b) approximately 40% of the biology faculty of all ranks in Texas reported that publications used for tenure and promotion at their institutions are just counted, not qualitatively evaluated, c) more than 56% of the biology faculty of all ranks in Texas institutions believed that it is difficult in their department to achieve tenure if one does not publish, d) almost one-third (31%) of the biology faculty in Texas indicated that the pressure to publish reduces the quality of teaching in their department, and e) sixteen percent of the biology faculty from all institutions of higher learning in Texas revealed that research is frowned upon by administrators on their campus.

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Boyer (1990), Buzza (1990), and Weaver (1986), to name a few, report that college and university faculty are vocalizing their frustrations with efforts to be good teachers, carry on research, publish, and provide services to students and communities, all at the same time. These researchers report that faculties in American institutions of higher learning recognize the conflict caused by a system that provides recognition and monetary compensation for limited tasks such as research and publication, while academic responsibilities to serve on college committees and to serve in the community that go beyond requirements are largely unrewarded. For years education theorists such as Bressler believed that research is necessary to improving professors' classroom teaching skills. However, more recent research studies by Friedrich and Michalak and Boyer do not support this notion. Madsen has written: "Faculty members of small universities should be judged by their teaching ability, not by their publication". Caplow and McGee reported that many educators believe that pressure in the academic arena comes from being paid to teach, while being valued for research productivity and publications. Crimmel wrote: "Hired to teach, but paid to publish. It is a conflict that is both unfortunate and unnecessary." The significance of this study lies in the potential insight gained from a better understanding of biology teachers' perspectives toward research and publishing. Faculty scholarship is essential for maintaining the high quality learning, teaching, and they should be encouraged to produce scholarly products but not be threatened to the point of publishing or perishing (Bowyer, 1992). The findings of the study may also provide useful information to be useful to administrators or directors of faculty development programs.

Elements and Techniques

Mailed questionnaire approach was best for the study for the following reasons. They can reach many subjects all over a large state like Texas at a relatively low cost. Subjects have more time and privacy to formulate well thought out answers on the questionnaires than over the telephone or in person. Finally, interviewer bias and recording errors do not prejudice the information (Clover and Balsley, 1984, p. 125). The developed instrument was validated by a panel of experts in the fields of biological sciences and higher education. The resulting instrument was used to gather information from the population. Responses used a five-point Likert-type scale. One key to success for any survey is a high rate of response. Alreck (1985) reported that the "cosmetic appearance[s] of the mail survey are very important. …