Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Research Administration as a Living System

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Research Administration as a Living System

Article excerpt


Imagine a university where faculty and research administrators work in harmony. Rather than strife, manipulation, placing blame, stress, and disallowances, a system where research administrators are empathic and helpful and receive accolades and recognition from faculty. Picture a system where faculty are supportive of research administrators and share their objectives and needs openly. Can you envision a university where faculty and research administrators receive and accept constructive feedback? Systems where university business practices support the research endeavor? Funding agencies support new research ideas and new researchers? How could such a system be accomplished? Previous research explains how these circumstances evolved, and is addressed in the literature review.

Literature Review

Publish or Perish Syndrome

Faculty are faced with the need to publish journal articles and books, and to obtain grant funding. This publish or perish syndrome is caused by universities using published research results to evaluate faculty for tenure, merit, funding, and salary decisions (Hu & Gill, 2000). Hu and Gill (2000) developed the theory of faculty productivity as a life-cycle model, which states, "an individual engages in research because of the perceived significant future financial reward for the research activity" (p. 16).

This theory suggests that productivity rises sharply in the first stages of a career, peaks at the time of tenure, and then begins to decline. Hu and Gill (2000) found that the post-peak decline rate was slower for those in the high publication rate group compared to those in the low publication rate group. This finding followed the hypothesis that research provides reputation capital, which yields positive returns in subsequent years. Hu and Gill reported that faculty who took administrative positions such as department head or dean showed a significant drop in research productivity compared to their academic colleagues, and that productivity varied among institutions.

Hu and Gill (2000) noted that institutions could help by providing graduate assistants and reducing teaching and administrative duties. Taking this previous research into consideration, Hu and Gill attempted to "identify the set of variables that have the most significant effect on the research productivity of information systems faculty" (p. 24). Results of their data analysis lead to the following conclusions:

1. Junior faculty may be productive because of current technological skills, a strong reason that leads to longer working hours, more time allocated for research activities, and a light service load.

2. Senior faculty may be productive because of favorable teaching loads, opportunities to work with several junior faculty and doctoral students, or more time for research activities because of fewer new classes requiring preparation.

3. Faculty were adversely affected when assigned with a weekly teaching load of more than 11 hours, [by taking] on many academic service responsibilities, or [having] been in the faculty position for several years.

4. Tenure status, academic rank, and school type seemed to have no significant correlation to faculty research productivity. (p. 24)

The authors remarked that the life-cycle model has potential limitations that might influence reliability because the data are self-reported, and the numbers may be inflated for various reasons (Hu & Gill, 2000). What is clear is that the ability to participate in grant-funded research can be critical to new faculty seeking tenure and to institutions seeking funding to support research activities. Participating in research projects, preparing proposals, and publishing research results are traditionally considered activities of scholarship.

McMillin (2004) reported that becoming a complete scholar was a process through which junior faculty attempt to construct a professional identity:

[A senior faculty is] characterized as [having] a thirty-five year career, [being] an award-winning teacher, an effective dean, and a well-respected historian. …

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