Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Kick-Starting Research in Newly Emergent Universities: Why Faculty Do Not Apply for Research Development 'Seed' Funding at the University of Technology, Jamaica

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Kick-Starting Research in Newly Emergent Universities: Why Faculty Do Not Apply for Research Development 'Seed' Funding at the University of Technology, Jamaica

Article excerpt

Abstract

Newly-emergent universities face a plethora of problems which bedevil development efforts and inhibit the building of a research culture almost from scratch. These challenges arise from lack of human and material resources, lack of research infrastructure, lack of role models and mentors and general capacity problems often lumped together and described as a general lack of a "research culture." In order to redness this lack of a research culture and encourage the building of an active research enterprise, the 10-year old University of Technology, Jamaica introduced a seed grant mechanism in 1998, since re-designated the Research Development Fund (RDF) to encourage staff of the university to pursue research activity. Despite this initiative, response to the funding has been lackluster. In this paper, we investigate the reasons why academic staff at the University have not utilized this promising facility and what could be done to encourage more active participation in research.

Out of the 66 academic staff who responded to a questionnaire survey, 74.2% claimed to be aware of the available funding for research in the university but only 10.6% had applied for funding under the RDF mechanism between 1999 and 2004. Of those who applied, only half were successful. However, about a third of the respondents have been utilizing other funds for research outside of the RDF. The reasons given for not applying for the fund include lack of time to write the proposal or conduct the study (46.9%), the bureaucracy surrounding the release of the fund (22.8%), the paucity of information in the proposal form and the tedious application process (19.6%) while 7.5% of the respondents were deterred by fear of being rejected. However, such reasons may just underlie the need for more capacity building efforts, research training and mentorship at all levels. A number of suggestions were made by the respondents in order to encourage increased participation in the application process. These include a more customer-friendly application process, reduction in teaching load in favor of research, research mentorship and the reduction in staff participation at meetings and other administrative duties.

Introduction

The importance of research and the role of universities in the new knowledge society are well recognized. The purpose of research and the major role of universities as articulated in the UK Dearing Report (National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education, 1997) are to "increase knowledge and understanding for their own sake and to foster its application for the benefit of the economy and society." Further, the reasons for encouraging faculty to engage in research are to prevent "obsolescence, restore vitality and foster the teaching - research nexus by ensuring that faculty remain at the cutting edge of their discipline" (Idaho State Board of Education, 1999). There is an added dimension to university research given the new emphasis on entrepreneurship and commercialism, in terms of revenue generated from intellectual property - innovation, patents and technology transfer (dayman, 2004).

However, there is a segmented or an uneven world of research as institutions have varying research capabilities and differing institutional norms and values which may hinder or support research (Young, 2001). Although the challenges facing research in established universities are well known (Taylor, 2001), hindrances to the development of a research culture in newly emergent universities have not been well articulated beyond the anecdotal. There is therefore a need to identify ways in which organizational processes in new universities can be employed to support change and institutional transformation so as to foster a research culture.

The University of Technology, Jamaica

The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) was accorded University status in 1995. Created out of the former College of Arts, Science and Technology (CAST), established in 1958, it is a public institution supported by the Government of Jamaica. …

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