Case Study: Applying the Theory of Planned Behavior as Interventions to Increase Sponsored Project Proposal Submissions from Liberal Arts Faculty

Article excerpt

Introduction

The effects of economic turmoil have not spared many institutions. Tough economic times call for prudence in reducing costs, as well as creativity in increasing revenues. An organization's ability to move direct costs, such as faculty salaries, to sponsored projects, as well as to increase recovery of indirect costs, is critically dependent upon a principal investigator's intentional deliberate behavior to write and submit funding proposals. Senior officials in education, industry, and government

represent the group of research administrators most often charged to develop policies and devise strategies for the increase of funding proposals.

Ajzen's Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is a powerful model with practical application to a variety of situations to predict and influence human intentions to perform a range of desirable behaviors (Ajzen, 1991). Evidence from narrative and meta-analytic reviews support its efficacy as a predictor of intentions and behavior capable of explaining 20 percent or more of the variance in prospective measures of actual behavior (Armitage & Conner, 2001). This theoretical model is particularly applicable to a variety of intentional human behaviors that are of importance to research management.

Theoretical Model

The Theory of Planned Behavior is a derivative of Ajzen and Fishbein's earlier Theory of Reasoned Action, in which they tried to estimate

discrepancy between a person's attitude toward a behavior and the actual performance of that behavior (Ajzen & Fishbein, 1980). Subsequent research indicates that behavior may not be voluntary or under control. Recognizing that human behavior can be both deliberative and planned, the initial theoretical model was refined to include the element of perceived behavioral control and published as the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991).

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The theory explains that the best predictor or immediate determinant of a behavior (i.e., whether a faculty member will prepare and submit a funding proposal) is the intention to act or not to act. This critical decision point of intending to act is influenced by three factors:

1. Attitude toward the behavior, which reflects the individual's evaluation of the behavior, its personal value and desirability, and the perceived benefits or rewards for performing the behavior.

2. Perception of subjective norm: Intentionality is also influenced by the individual's perception of the social pressure to execute, or not to execute, the behavior.

3. Perceived control over the behavior, which is a person's perceptions of his or her ability to perform the behavior. An individual's perceived control is influenced by experiences with the behavior and ability to overcome associated obstacles.

TPB predicts that a potential principal investigator (PI) is more likely to intend to pursue external funding for projects, and will actually follow through to write and submit a funding proposal, when that person:

a. believes that submitting funding proposals is a desirable and valued behavior:

b. sees other similar people successfully writing and submitting proposals: and

c. perceives they are able to write and submit proposals, that obstacles can be overcome.

Case Context

The University

The University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) is located in the interior of Alaska, approximately 75 miles from the Arctic Circle. UAF is the main campus, and the research university, of the statewide University of Alaska system; UAF is the only doctoral-granting institution in the State of Alaska. UAF was originally founded in 1917 as the Agricultural College and School of Mines. Today, UAF is America's northernmost Land, Sea, and Space-grant institution, and in 2009 was named as one of the West's best colleges by the Princeton Review. UAF holds an RU/H Carnegie classification, and research expenditures at UAF have increased substantially from $56. …