22 SES 01 D, Development of Research & Teaching: Tools and Practices
High research performance influences university prestige, and attractiveness to staff and students (Norton, 2013). It is also necessary for competitive performance in world rankings and for forging links with high quality international researchers (Meek & Davies, 2009). In some countries, such as Australia, high performance also provides funding dividends for universities (e.g., Coaldrake & Stedman, 2013). Hence, internationally, many universities seek to improve research performance by implementing various research strategies to build research capacity, to improve research productivity and to attain research excellence. However, universities vary substantially in their histories of research performance and research culture. Hence, achieving high performance will be more difficult for some universities than for others. This study explores the relationships between university research performance and university research strategies.
Bosch and Taylor (2011) classify universities into three groups based on their phase of research development. At the Instilling Phase, there is little or no research activity in the university and research performance is low. These late-developers or newcomers to research are highly vulnerable in a competitive research environment (Hazelkorn, 2004). At the Broadening Phase, some discipline groups are performing well but others are not. At the Honing Phase, research culture is embedded in university life and research performance is relatively high across all discipline groups. Thus ideally, universities should work towards attaining the Honing Phase. In Australia, irrespective of a university’s current research performance, it is mandatory for them to document research strategies to improve research performance (e.g., Australian Government, 2013).
There is a substantial literature on ten university research strategies that can be effective. The strategies are ordered for convenience and no hierarchical order should be inferred:
- Setting research priority setting (e.g., Hazelkorn, 2004);
- Using performance indicators (e.g., Stanley & Reynolds, 1995);
- Investment and funding (e.g., Hazelkorn, 2004);
- Supporting Research Centres and Institutes (e.g., Sabharwal & Hu, 2013);
- Fostering research collaborations (e.g., Frenken, Holzl, & de Vor, 2005);
- Establishing a culture of scholarship (e.g., Kennedy, Gubbins, Luer, Reddy, & Light, 2003);
- Employing postdoctoral researchers (e.g., Felisberti & Sear, 2014);
- Supporting early career researchers (e.g., Laudel & Gläser, 2008);
- Supporting women academics (e.g., Monroe & Chiu, 2010); and
- Supporting Indigenous researchers (e.g., Fredericks, 2009).
The intent of these research strategies is to improve university research performance. However, such improvement is dependent on improvements in individual and discipline group research performance. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979, 2005) Bioecological Theory provides insight into how research strategies provide development opportunities for individuals and groups. He argues that development occurs through proximalprocesses, namely,interactions between an organism (biology) and the environment (ecology) and that these processes impact development through the person, time period and context. Thus, the university provides a critical context for research development through the implementation of research strategies.
Brofenbrenner (1979, 2005) proposes that the context for development comprises five nested ecosystems. The microsystem is an individual’s immediate environment (e.g., research centre). The mesosystem is where microsystems interact (e.g., the relationship between a university department and research centre). The exosystem is the indirect influence on the individual or group, such as a national research assessment. The macrosystem is the broader sociocultural influence (e.g., national higher education policy). The chronosystem relates to specific time periods. This study examined how selected Australian universities employed research strategies within the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem. (The chronosystem is excluded because all Australian universities have performance-based agreements with the Commonwealth for 2014-2016, titled “Mission-based Compacts” (e.g., Australian Government, 2013)).
The research question was: What are the differences in the implementation of common research strategies at the ecosystem level in universities at various phases of research development?
Australian Government (2013). 2014-16 Mission-based Compact – ACU. https://docs.education.gov.au/documents/2014-16-mission-based-compact-australian-catholic-university Australian Research Council (2012). Excellence in Research for Australia 2012. http://www.arc.gov.au/era/era_2012/outcomes_2012.htm Birnbaum, R. (2004). The end of shared governance. In New Directions for Higher Education (pp. 5-22). San Francisco, C.A.: Jossey-Bass. Bosch, A. & Taylor, J. (2011). A proposed framework of institutional development phases. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 33(45), 443-457. Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: University Press. Bronfenbrenner, U. (2005). Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development: Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Coaldrake, P., & Stedman, L. (2013). Raising the stakes: Gambling with the future of universities. St Lucia, Qld: University of Queensland Press. Felisberti, F. M., & Sear, R. (2014). Postdoctoral researchers in the UK. PLoS ONE, 9(4), 1-7. Frenken, K., Holzl, W., & de Vor, F. (2005). The citation impact of research collaborations. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 22(1-2), 9-30. Fredericks, B. (2009). Race and Equity in Higher Education: A Harder Path for Indigenous Academics. Frontline, 17, 14-15 Hazelkorn, E. (2004). Growing research: Challenges for late developers and newcomers. Higher Education Management and Policy, 16(1), 119-142. Kennedy, R. H., Gubbins, P. O., Luer, M., Reddy, I. K., & Light, K. E. (2003). Developing and Sustaining a Culture of Scholarship. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 67(3). Laudel, G. & Gläser, J. (2008). From apprentice to colleague: The metamorphosis of early career researchers. Higher Education, 55, 387-406. Meek, V. L. & Davies, D. (2009). Policy dynamics in higher education and research: Concepts and observations. In V. L. Meek, V.L., U. Teichler, and M. Kearney (Eds.), Higher Education, Research, and Innovation: Changing Dynamics (pp. 41 - 84). UNESCO/INCHER-Kassel. Monroe, K., & Chiu, W. (2010). Gender equity in the academy: The pipeline problem. Political Science and Politics, 43, 303-308. Norton, A. (2013). Mapping Australian higher education, 2013, Grattan Institute. http://grattan.edu.au/static/files/assets/28a92f8b/184_2013_mapping_higher_education.pdf Pope, M. L. (2004). A conceptual framework of faculty trust and participation in governance. New Directions for Higher Education, 127, 75-84. Rapley, Y., & Jenkings, K. N. (2010). Document analysis. In P. Petersen, E.Baker, & B. McGaw International Encyclopedia of Education (3rd ed) (pp. 380-385. Sabharwal, M., & Hu, Q. (2013). Participation in university-based research centers. Research Policy,42(6-7), 1301-1311. Weber, R. P. (1990). Basic content analysis (2nd ed.). Newbury Park, C. A.: Sage Yin, R. K. (1993). Applications of case study research. Newbury Park, C. A.: Sage.
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