Academic journal article Social Work Research

Advancing Administrative Supports for Research Development

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Advancing Administrative Supports for Research Development

Article excerpt

Research administrative supports must parallel and reinforce faculty initiatives in research grant procurement. This article features several types of developments that draw on presentations at the National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work meetings. Key changes in social work programs are addressed, including the growing research portfolio, the growing number of centers and institutes, and National Institutes of Health funding. Mission-driven strategies are seen as essential to building effective research cultures and diverse research funding. Key developmental steps in building more robust research climates and cultures are cited in brief case scenarios. The article describes several features of research infrastructures and administrative supports that range from associate dean for research to research administrators.

KEY WORDS: administrative supports; infrastructure; National Institutes of Health; research capacity building


Research-intensive universities have raised the bar for all academic units, expecting them to increase research grants and contracts to support knowledge creation and scholarship. Teaching universities also expect more scholarship and research productivity from faculty. These expectations compel deans and directors of schools of social work to undertake new roles related to research development and administrative capacity building to help faculty and their units succeed.

In the 15 years since the first National Institute of Mental Health-funded centers in social work were fostered, developments in research among our schools have included a growing National Institutes of Health (NIH) portfolio (Institute for the Advancement of Social Work Research [IASWR], 2007). Moreover, it is estimated that the number of schools generating at least $3 million in research funds has increased dramatically over the past eight years. An estimated 80 schools and departments have at least one research center.

To achieve such successes, key barriers have been confronted and overcome: These obstacles have included the absence of funds for pilot studies, support for grant applications, grant match, technical support, course releases, financial incentives, student assistantship support, travel, computer software, mentorship, ongoing research consultation, and research collaboration with community agencies (National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work [NADD], 1997). Teaching loads and service obligations may have a negative effect on faculty research. Given these and many other predictable barriers, it may seem paradoxical that some schools are increasingly able to celebrate successes. Success has come in part from mission-driven strategies, resources and policies already in place, a "whatever it takes ethic," faculty buy-in, and capacity building.

Many school or departmental cultures in the past have been characterized as housing autonomous scholars and researchers. Now, the expectation, if not the mandate, to foster research infrastructures and capacities requires much more collaboration within the school and across disciplines. Moving from solo scholar-entrepreneurs to collective teams of researchers requires numerous strategies and supports. The first may involve the hiring of faculty (including grant-funded research professors) with interests that intersect with the emerging research priorities of the faculty as a whole.

To advance scholarship and research in this new, more collaborative culture, at least two kinds of faculty mentoring systems may be established. They involve tenure-related mentoring and scientific mentoring. Whereas collegial mentoring by more senior faculty may help untenured faculty with strategic decision making about where to publish, manuscript development, and advancing related scholarship priorities, scientific mentors may be on the faculty or be hired as consultants from another discipline or university. …

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