When Research isn’t Counted

by Nicole Eva
University of Lethbridge

As the last 6 months of my 2-year reporting period wind down, and as the same time remains until the start of my study leave, I have been reflecting on the research I’ve done in the recent past. It’s been an unusually high period of service for me – for 2016/2017 & 2017/2018 I was chair of our faculty association’s Gender, Equity, and Diversity Committee, during which time I conducted an extensive literature review on the potential biases in Student Evaluations of Teaching (statement can be found here; annotated literature review here), and I searched the literature for examples of faculty perception surveys to lead the creation of such a survey at our institution. This past year I’ve served as past chair on that committee, during which time a few of us have been involved in a deep qualitative analysis of those survey results. I am also chairing the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion this year, for which we conducted surveys, held campus consultation sessions, and interviewed local experts for their thoughts. It’s been enlightening and valuable work, but there’s a lot of it. And a lot of the analysis is among the most rigorous research I’ve been involved with to date. While it will pay off in great experience for future research I might take on, it won’t be ‘counted’ in the traditional sense in terms of publication output. The survey work of both groups is highly confidential and while reports are being produced, they won’t be published in a peer-reviewed journal. The same goes for the Teaching Evaluations work; while both the statement and the annotated literature review are published in our Institutional Repository, again they aren’t ‘published’ in the traditional sense. I am fortunate that I did produce one other article last year which should be published this year, and some prior work which finally came out in the last couple of years, so it’s not like I have nothing for publications; but still, there has been SO much time, effort, and actual rigorous research done regarding these projects I hate to ignore them as research output.

Another element: I’ve been pulled into writing a grant which supports some of our President’s committee recommendations. But again, while normally grant applications would be counted under Research, in this case it’s more Service (which is of course limited in its value for evaluation purposes, and not at all for promotional purposes). But from my perspective, having limited experience applying for external grants, the experience is invaluable. But that value is quite invisible. I’ve also gained a lot in terms of the people I’ve worked with, relationships developed, and institutional knowledge gained. But again, intangible.

It made me curious: what ‘counts’ as research? If you’re doing research for committee work that results in internal documents, does it still ‘count’? If it’s highly confidential and you can never publish the results because you didn’t clear ethics for that purpose, does it ‘count’?

These are my thoughts as I was faced with writing this blog. What has changed since my last blog post, in terms of actual research effort? Well, quite a bit. And yet it looks like nothing at all.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

[Editor’s note: I encourage reader comments on this issue. Brain-Work is hosted by the University of Saskatchewan and there is a problem with the comments that cannot be resolved. If you try to comment on this or any blog post and you get a “forbidden to comment” error message, please send your comment to virginia.wilson@usask.ca and I will post the comment on your behalf and alert the author. I apologize for this annoying problem.]

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