Academic journal article Social Work Research

Institutional Supports for Faculty Scholarship: A National Survey of Social Work Programs

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Institutional Supports for Faculty Scholarship: A National Survey of Social Work Programs

Article excerpt

This survey of 99 U.S. social work programs investigated the types, prevalence, and correlates of supports that schools provide to facilitate faculty scholarship. The dean, director, or program chair at every school with an MSW program was invited to participate in an online survey. Items addressed program characteristics and research infrastructure supports related to programs' provision of time, funding, and technical assistance for faculty scholarship. Of 186 accredited MSW programs, 53.2% participated in the survey. On average, the programs provided 11.0 (SD = 3.6) of 20 possible general faculty supports and 2.8 (SD = 1.7) of six junior faculty supports. Programs most commonly reduced teaching workloads with external funding, disseminated funding announcements, provided annual funding for conference travel, and assisted faculty with preparing grant applications. For junior faculty, most programs reduced teaching workloads for at least one year, provided research start-up funding, and had a formal mentorship system. Program size, faculty productivity, presence of a PhD program, funded research center, and National Institutes of Health funding were positively related to the number of supports provided, and teaching workload was negatively related. The findings provide valuable information for schools trying to increase faculty productivity or to recruit talented, scholarship-oriented faculty.

KEY WORDS: faculty development; junior faculty; research infrastructure; scholarship; social work; workload


Scholarly productivity among faculty has increasingly become a focus of concern in social work (for example, Austin, 1992; Fraser, 1994; Jenson, 2006). Although individual traits such as personal motivation and commitment to research contribute to scholarly productivity (Green & Bentley, 1994; Schweitzer, 1989), some theorists have noted that institutional characteristics carry more importance (Bland, Center, Finstad, Risbey, & Staples, 2005). As Khinduka (2002) observed, "A school can hire the most promising graduates of the top-rated doctoral programs and still stifle their productivity by its organizational culture and administrative structure" (p. 693).

Scholarship has been defined as the "creation, discovery, advancement, or transformation of knowledge" (Kennedy, Gubbins, Luer, Reddy, & Light, 2003, p. 2). Although Boyer (1990) defined scholarship broadly to include many teaching and service activities undertaken by faculty, the literature on faculty scholarship has not widely adopted this alternative definition. Instead, common indexes of scholarly productivity include the number of peer-reviewed articles, authored or edited books, and book chapters published (Corley, 2005); external funding obtained (Ferrer & Katerndahl, 2002); citations of published work (Holden, 2005); conference presentations (Ferrer & Katerndahl); and, less commonly, nonrefereed publications such as book reviews (Green, Baskind, Best, & Boyd, 1997).

The overarching institutional characteristic that fosters scholarly productivity is a "culture of scholarship" (Fraser, 1994, p. 262). In such cultures, positive peer pressure emphasizes the importance of generating scholarship. Administrators affirm scholarship as "an institutional, organizational, and professional core value" (Frontera et al., 2006, p. 288). A community exists in which to test new ideas and collaborate with others (Creamer & McGuire, 1998; Fraser, 1994). Another crucial characteristic of a scholarly culture is the provision of adequate resources, both material and intangible, for faculty to develop and sustain a research agenda. These resources can be divided essentially into three categories: (1) time to pursue scholarship, (2) funding to pursue scholarship, and (3) technical expertise, assistance, and training.


Heavy workload and its natural consequence, lack of time, often loom as barriers to scholarly productivity (Jackson, McCord, Dahdal, Zgarrick, & Brock, 2005). …

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