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Friday, October 12, 2012


Here is a discussion of a significant issue. Should you up the teaching load of professors who are paid X% of their salary for research, but do little or none? In my view, yes. If I am paid 40% of my salary for research, and I devoted 5% of my time to it, then I am not doing 35% of my job. Why does this sound harsh? People can get stuck on research for a few years at a time, so there is the danger of mistaking a temporary lull for a steady decline. If we look at it over the long range (3-5 year periods), then the faculty member should have something to show for this amount of time. Even if there is a long term project, then there will be at least some spin-off articles. It sounds harsh because the variability in research can be so extreme among members of the same department. In contrast, everyone teaches, at least preparing, grading, and showing up, so the differences are never going to be as glaring. I suggest that this seems harsh because we pay lip service to research, are all presumably doing it, but we tend to be over-generous with our friends and colleagues who simply are not that accomplished.

This depends on my perspective, of course, that a person hired for a research position should be willing and able to do research. We have over 100 applicants for one position.


Thomas said...

I'm not sure that upping the teaching load is the right solution. After all, in many other jobs, if you don't do 35% of it, you don't get your job reconfigured, you get fired. I think that would be a better solution, if even more harsh. It would also mean that the judgement an administrator would have to make about whether or not Prof. X is doing research X% of the time would have to be much more, if you will, serious.

Actually, I think it is very difficult to determine whether or not a researcher is spending enough time doing research. You've pointed this out yourself. There are many different things you do to maintain your scholarly base, and not all of them will appear to everyone to be obvious instances of "doing research".

So all we can do is have some rough idea about how much (or how well) a researcher should be publishing in a particular position. If the researcher consistently "underperforms" we should not assume they're just wasting their time (and then begin to occupy them with other activities). We should talk to them very seriously about whether or not they are qualified for the job.

If you just up their teaching load you ensure that they will not improve their research performance. And then you're stuck with a non-researching faculty member. Why would you want to do that?

Jonathan said...

I agree that upping the teaching load is not the solution. You should support the researcher to get her research back on track. If the professor truly doesn't want to do research, could he be transferred to a teaching-intensive position, doing 6 rather than 4 courses a year, rather than firing him? You can't just have a "base" and never use it, so after a while you have to ask for some level of productivity.

Thomas said...

But if you want/need a teaching-intensive position at your department then you should hire someone who is a good teacher, not someone who is an underperforming researcher.

I really think you just have to deal with research productivity head on: specify the goals you expect researchers to accomplish and then actually hold them to it. Don't tell them how much time they should be spending on it.

profacero said...

4-7 courses per semester is what you have in teaching intensive positions here. 3 courses per semester is what you get if you do research.

profacero said...

OK, the article is subscriber only so I cannot read but I have figured out what I think.

The percentages of time are a trap. See Lombardi, "Deconstructing Faculty work," in IHE, an important piece. I like using them to justify the amounts of time I spend on things, but who cares really about exact amounts of time spent, and also those percentages are part of corporitization and so should really be resisted.

And then reality almost everywhere I have worked is, you are paid to teach, and research is what you do so as to be and remain qualified to teach. That is what gets it shunted off to nights and weekends -- the decentering of research is built in structurally.

People do lose jobs for not being successful researchers, up to tenure time. Afterwards there are other things like: not getting promoted, not getting merit raises, etc. And, people not putting out more books, does not necessarily mean they are not doing their job -- they are just not getting things published.

But I do have an idea for these people: more administration and service. They might be great program directors and things like that. Have them edit your journal, etc.

Jonathan said...

Yes, "to justify how much time I spend on things."

Leslie said...

Yes. Because one is constantly told, or at least I have been constantly told since getting the PhD, that research is *not* what I am paid for. In fact it is 30% of contract so all time spent on it, even if said time is just spent on remaining generally current, is fair enough.

We have time stipulations for everything. A course that meets 3 hours, we are supposed to spend exactly 9 hours on preparation, office hours, exam design, grading, etc. for. That is a total of 12 hours per week, and 3x12=36. Or, if you are the standard teaching intensive type, 5x12=60.

If you are not 100% teaching for your 60 hours, there are 6 hours of service expected and 18 hours of what they call "research and scholarship." The "scholarship" part appears to mean the research that isn't on your research, e.g. finding out what Golden Age scholars are now doing when one is thrown that particular out of field course, etc.

In any case, due to the percentages I feel totally justified saying no to service if I have already put in 6 hours of it in a given week, or to more grading and so on for a course if I have already put in 12.

profacero said...

I am fascinated by the percentages thing. I have realized that among the research faculty in my subunit actual work done, if we are considered an aggregate person, is 22% research, 45% teaching, and 33% service/admin. This is because we carry the service load for the teaching intensive people and also a lot for the larger unit.

One can totally see where we need to cut our engines (that 33%, it cuts into our contract percentages not just on research but also on teaching).

As I say, I am ultimately against the percentages because they bespeak "deconstructed" faculty work (Lombardi) but they are a really good reality check and defense.