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Research Cartoons

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I greatly enjoy cartoons describing research. One of my favorites is a view of a home’s entryway with a wife greeting her husband returning from work. Behind them, in another room at the dining room sits a man with glasses and a dark beard, in a three-piece suit, bent over some papers. The caption above the wife’s head says, “I don’t know, he said he was a visiting scholar and sat down at the table and just started working.”

Cartoons about research almost always show men, generally older, and often frumpy. Cartoons about natural science research always seem to have men in white coats, with lots of devices on the laboratory bench. Another favorite picture is a man at a blackboard, filled with incomprehensible equations. Then, there are astronomers, always peering into a telescope. Even there, the researcher sometimes wears a white coat. There are a lot of white coats.

The social science cartoons often portray a research interviewer on a doorstep. These too are men, often holding a clipboard. The householder greeting the interviewer is most often a woman. The joke is usually generated by a stupid question from the interviewer or a sarcastic answer from the householder. I’ve seen a few anthropology cartoons, generally a picture of a westerner asking a question of a villager outside a hut. The health sciences seem to be often represented by clinical scenes rather than research images. The computational sciences seem to be placed inside large, old-style mainframe settings or data farms.

One interesting feature that the cartoons often get right is that they show researchers at work, clearly self-motivated and passionate about their labors. In fact, hyper-passion of the researcher is sometimes the brunt of the humor.

One wonders how these stereotypes emerged. The obvious gender bias is grating. The formal dress belies the pervasive academic ethic that not wearing a suit is a badge of honor and, we all know, only administrators wear suits. The “absentmindedness” theme in many of the cartoons breeds a notion of one removed from the real world. The common theme of irrelevance in the actions of the researcher doesn’t fit with how fields are organized.

Perhaps the most telling omission is that the cartoon scenes rarely portray the link between the act of research and the beneficial outcomes of research. They are great at shining a funny spotlight on the doing of research but not the impact of research.

We’re living in a time when the value of investments in science are questioned. The value of many other spheres of higher education are even more threatened. But, higher education is fundamental to expanding understanding of the basic questions of humanity.

In thinking about our students, I am convinced that we need to show them as frequently as possible our research lives as well as our instructional lives. We educate our students for a life of self-teaching, not just their first job. The content of our teaching has a shorter shelf life than our methods of inquiry and research. It is these that will arm our students with the ability to transform themselves when their field of work is fully disrupted by innovation we cannot now anticipate. We dearly need enhanced awareness of the link between higher education’s research activities and beneficial innovation research produces.

I wish I had cartoon-drawing talent.

A Call to Dialogue at Georgetown

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On Monday, Executive Vice President Ed Healton and I announced via email that we reached agreement with a group of graduate students, GAGE, and their partner union, the American Federation of Teachers, to hold an election determining whether those eligible want to be represented by the union.

This is a union election unlike any that has occurred at Georgetown, in that it is taking place outside the purview of the National Labor Relations Board. It is not an election that has been directed by the NLRB, but one that the University and GAGE/AFT have mutually agreed will occur.

As a Jesuit university, we excel at intergroup dialogue. We engage in dialogue across religions, races, ethnicities, political ideologies, and groups differing on countless other issues. Hence, the email we sent asks that all members of the community learn about the issues relating to graduate student unionization.

We have provided FAQ’s, with answers to common questions. We will update these over time, in order to stay current with issues as they arise. We have also provided guidance to faculty and staff on how best to engage in respectful dialogue on the issues.

We want all community members to discuss the consequences of graduate student unionization. We are not just permitting such talk, we are encouraging it. Over the many years of Georgetown’s existence, we have learned that we collectively become better when we understand each other’s viewpoint better. When we engage in dialogue, our community grows stronger.

Hence, we urge faculty to express their views consistent with the guidelines referenced above and listen to the views of their faculty colleagues and those of students. We encourage graduate students to express their views and listen to the views of fellow students and those of faculty. Dialogue involves both listening and talking.

We can imagine many different ways to foster real dialogue:

  • The unit chair/director can take advantage of existing informal settings, to permit faculty and students to interact and discuss the issues
  • Individual students can seek out discussions with faculty
  • Students can meet with faculty over lunches
  • Labs with several research assistants could use their routine group meetings to discuss the issues
  • Deans could use their open office hours to meet with graduate students and faculty about the issues

In short, we think there are many different ways that Georgetown could take this moment as an opportunity to understand different perspectives more fully. When we do that, everyone involved will make better judgments, and we can build a better institution.

As a Jesuit institution, we excel at inter-group dialogue. It would be a shame to miss the opportunity to foster that at this moment. So, to my colleagues, both graduate students and faculty, I urge you to review the FAQ’s and guidelines and talk to each other.

Metaphors Matter

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Some decades ago, there was an influential book that labeled academic disciplines as “tribes.” The metaphor generated offense because of its implication about savagery and unsophisticated cultures. But the authors were promoting the idea that the disciplines had unusually strong control mechanisms defining what were legitimate research questions and research methods, powers to rate publication outlets, and general influences over reward systems. Another metaphor that became popular was one of “silos,” which connoted narrow, impermeable structures of thought.

Much has happened in the decades since the book was authored. There are more academic units, programs, and fields now than before. Many of these are the result of disaggregation of disciplines. There are PhD programs that have defined new combinations of traditional disciplines. There are more research institutes on university campuses that are problem-oriented (e.g., environmental research).

Further, many disciplines permit and reward combining their traditional knowledge with other fields. As disciplines have evolved, there appears to be more acceptance of fluidity of methods and questions. Disciplines change over time in what questions are legitimized. There seems to be evidence of several disciplines taking on similar problems (e.g., decision making under uncertainty of interest to political scientists, economists, and psychologists).

In short, the metaphor of “tribes,” or of “silos,” may not be fit to the modern academic work.

I recently read a nice piece1 that suggests a different metaphor – one of an ocean. Water merges together naturally. But inside an ocean there’s variation – in temperature and salinity. Combining water differing on those attributes creates new temperatures and salinity. Some academic fields, close to one another in topic areas and methods, blend together rather fluidly. Scholars in the two fields sometimes publish in each other’s outlets.

Oceans have currents; portions move at different rates. The currents pull along adjacent portions of water. Speeds blend together. When academic fields are combined, it’s often the case that both fields are changed because of the combination.

Oceans have tides that raise and lower their levels in different areas because of external forces. Over the decades, academic fields gain and lose prominence. They become viewed as more or less important to the problems of the day.

Oceans are fed by rivers coming from land. The fresh water from diverse rivers blend into the oceans, eventually to be indistinguishable from the rest of the ocean. As new observations arise from outside academia, they are gradually absorbed inside the academy. They are mixed together with the knowledge of existing disciplines. They become part of accepted knowledge.

Well, I’m not sure how far I can push the ocean metaphor, but it has some attraction. It implies that academia is not crippled by active resistance to combining knowledge from multiple disciplines; it’s more a problem of conceptual distances among fields (just as distances across oceans). Advances from combining knowledge from multiple disciplines require an environment that encourages interactions among them, reducing the conceptual distances. Bringing together diverse approaches, as a way to bridge those distances, ought to be our focus.

Footnotes

Manathunga, C., and A. Brew, “Beyond Tribes and Territories New Metaphors for New Times,” Chapter 4, pp. 44-56, in Trowler, P.; M. Saunders, and V. Bamber, Tribes and Territories in the 21st Century, Routledge, 2012.

In Defense of Disciplines

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I’ve written in the last post about the interdisciplinary movement in universities and what may have prompted it. This is a post about the necessity of the disciplines to fuel any interdisciplinary movement.

First, definitions matter in this discussion. Are disciplines limited to those departments/units/fields that existed 100 years ago in most universities? Most definitions include the notion that a discipline requires an academic curriculum, a professional organization, a journal or named set of publication outlets, as well as other features. US universities clearly have increased the number of organizing units that have such features. We are approaching 30,000 different scholarly journals, with more proliferating on the Internet each year. There are thousands of professional organizations. So, definitions are tricky in this discussion.

Indeed, over the years, interdisciplinarity has already altered the organization of academic units. Biology, for example, as a discipline, has transformed itself on many campuses into a larger set of departments with an adjectival modifier (e.g., environmental biology, microbiology). Economics is earlier in the same evolutionary process, with health economics and behavioral economics, among others, developing as distinct subfields, with growing split-offs into separate departments. In short, defining disciplines by what departments exist is probably unwise. The set is constantly changing.

Second, from afar, disciplines may appear homogeneous. From another perspective, the expansion of academic departments reflects the continuous dynamic nature of disciplines. All are constantly in a state of change. The pressing issues of the field change. What is novel and important evolves over time. New knowledge from other fields is brought to attention and forces a rethink of central assumptions. Subfields emerge, morph, and are combined.

The churning reflects a thirst to solve the unsolved. Some of the problems are remaining questions in one field whose answers can be unlocked by adding knowledge from another field (e.g., the detection of gravitational waves with LIGO). Therefore, some of the interdisciplinary actions can be categorized as new ways to do “basic” not “applied” research. Other problems are imported from society as needing a solution, and thus are more “applied” syntheses of different fields.

Third, when a new combination of disciplines can address a large set of issues, the combination tends to survive. Books and journals start to proliferate. New professional organizations support the interaction of those crafting the combination. Academic classes form, and the education arm arises. Later new departments bloom. Scholars begin to describe the new filed as a discipline.

In this regard, disciplines ironically are the engines of interdisciplinary activities. This belies Foucault’s famous quote: “The disciplines characterize, classify, specialize; they distribute along a scale, around a norm, hierarchize individuals in relation to one another and, if necessary, disqualify and invalidate.” We need to add that disciplines, in their search for truth, also motivate and empower interdisciplinary work.

So, yes, unsolved problems often need multiple knowledge domains for their solution. But without deep work in those domains, there’s nothing useful to combine.

The Interdisciplinarity Movement

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My current reading about research collaborations presents the puzzle of why a movement for interdisciplinarity is occurring at this time. Certainly, if one examines the current set of unsolved world problems (e.g., income inequality, environmental impacts on society, terrorism), they all seem to clearly present themselves as complex systems of interrelated features. But, how could anyone ever have thought that they could be “solved” by interceding on only one of the features? Did not scholars always see these problems as requiring solutions-based knowledge from multiple domains? Were academics unmotivated to tackle such problems?

I have multiple hypotheses for why we see such current support for interdisciplinary work. First, the call for interdisciplinarity might be the unintended result of reductionist progress of all the disciplines. It’s pretty easy to document that academic fields tend to multiply, as knowledge evolves. We have more undergraduate majors and more graduate programs than we have had in prior decades/centuries. Human knowledge just doesn’t expand; it spawns relatively cohesive subfields, like the mitosis of cells. Subfields provide the environment for deeper and deeper study. Some of the divisions, however, take on more applied problems (e.g., computer science emerging from electrical engineering, finance programs emerging out of business schools and economics departments, environmental biology). Sometimes these sub-disciplines are better thought of as “inter-disciplines.” They then stimulate, in their journals and texts, a platform of thought compatible with interdisciplinary research. Once an openness to interdisciplinarity is bred, it tends to shape lifetime agendas.

A second hypothesis comes from the organization of funding agencies of central governments and international organizations throughout the world. One could make the argument that social and political oversight of these institutions has demanded greater societal benefit. Governments need to identify how academic research benefits the taxpayers. It’s easier, the argument goes, to justify research activities that solve well-documented societal problems. Application of knowledge thereby enjoys preference over the generation of basic knowledge. Hence, we see a disproportionate number of new initiatives in science funding agencies aimed at solving well-defined problems (e.g., search for a universal influenza vaccine). These problems demand interdisciplinary efforts.

A third hypothesis concerns a growing commonality of research methods. When two fields use the same research tools, it’s easier to implement collaboration across fields. The invention of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) devices has led to collaboration among biomedical researchers, cognitive and social psychologists, and even behavioral economists in ways that would be unimaginable prior to the invention. The growing use of social media data in the social sciences is another example, with data scientists, macroeconomists, social psychologists, political scientists, and communications science researchers using Twitter, blogs, and other data. One of the great problems of effective collaboration across disciplines is the lack of common language. Using the same research tools eliminates some of this problem.

A fourth hypothesis is the call on universities to become more relevant to the societies in which they are placed. (This is similar to pressures on research funding agencies.) The invention of land grant universities in the US in the 1860s created institutions with explicit missions of serving their communities. Jesuit institutions have explicit missions of service; some other institutions share this. But on the whole, as public opinion in the US reflects, universities are viewed by many as irrelevant to their day-to-day lives and ineffective in improving their lives. There are more calls by social and political leaders for university engagement in the critical issues of the day. Indeed, Georgetown’s efforts at interdisciplinarity are often motivated by our desire to improve the lives of others. Societal impact as an explicit goal breeds interdisciplinarity.

The movement toward interdisciplinarity is likely a complicated blend of all these features of modern life. Certainly, the “why” of interdisciplinarity in universities is equally important as the “what” of interdisciplinarity. Strong disciplinary knowledge is needed for interdisciplinary work. Sometimes basic findings in a single discipline find their interdisciplinary application decades later. Leaving one’s disciplinary home needs a lasting reason. When the “why” is a passion for solving an important problem affecting the world, collaborating across disciplines is most easily sustained. I like that about Georgetown.

Remember Those Off the Grid

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There was a recent Pew Research Center study that caught my eye. It reports that fully 11% of US adults do not use the Internet.

These days, social media communication platforms appear to play a more and more important role in politics, commerce, and friends’ network formation. But the study is a useful reminder that we may be misled by information solely based on these platforms when we’re forming impressions about the entire US adult population. In fact, for those of us who are nearly constantly using the Internet for our day-to-day life activities, it’s difficult to imagine that not everyone lives like we do. It’s easy to assume that reports about behaviors on the Internet represent everybody in the country.

Now, it’s important to note that the percentage of adults not using the Internet has dramatically declined over time, from 48% in 2000 to the 11% this year, using roughly the same survey method to generate the statistics. However, an increasing number of the statistics that the news media present to us each day, which we all use to form impressions of what the US public thinks about topics, are based on those with Internet connections.

So, what do we know about those who do not use the Internet? The study shows that they disproportionately are rural residents (the rural rate of nonuse is 22% versus urban rates of 8%). Part of this result is no doubt associated with the inadequate penetration of high speed Internet and spottier cellular services in rural areas. Indeed, much of attraction of the Internet comes with fast response and ubiquitous availability throughout the day.

Education attainment is another correlate of nonuse of the Internet, with adults having less than a high school education showing the highest rate of nonuse (35%). Since lower education attainment is also correlated with lower income, the study also finds that the lowest income group reported (those earning less than $30,000 per year) are nonusers at a 19% rate. With these two attributes combined, one is reminded that Internet use costs money out of one’s personal budget each month, and Internet connection also has greater value to those desiring ubiquitous, continuous access to information sources.

Finally, age is correlated with nonuse. Thirty-four percent of the highest age group reported, 65 years old and older does not use the Internet. As this group passes out of the population, there will be dramatic changes in the rate of nonuse (the next highest age group, 50-64 year olds, have only 13% nonusers). It’s easy to speculate that in 10 years or so, the 11% overall nonusers will dramatically decrease.

The study shows a fascinating lack of correlation between Internet use and race/ethnicity, especially when one considers that income differences among such groups.

So, what does all this mean? We need to be careful to remember that, for the time being, conclusions reached about US adults based on Internet behaviors miss 1/10 of the population. This 11% is older, poorer, less educated, and more rural than the rest of the population. When an Internet study describes behaviors that we would expect to vary across age, urbanicity, income, and education groups, we should be cautious about the conclusion. So, the next time we see a report on what is circulating on Facebook, what popular searches are for Google, and what’s trending on Twitter, remember that 11% of the population is completely divorced from such behaviors. It’s important to read the details of how the data were collected before accepting the headline of the story.

Conflicts between the Creator and the Audience

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I was recently reading a discussion about artists’ reactions to commentary on their work. While many artists view their work as occupying a place of its own, removed from the reach of discourse, their audience sometimes feels obliged to analyze it, dissect it, categorize its various attributes, and induce from those attributes the central meanings and intents of the creator. I recall artists saying, “If that’s what you see in it, that’s ok with me.” Other artists find commentary dissecting their work as mainly irrelevant to what they believe they are doing in life. Still others are offended. Clearly, similar reactions occur, but perhaps at a different rate, in the literary arts, where words rather than materials are the medium.

However, it does seem when a piece generates intense and long-lasting attention by the audience, it signals an important contribution. Work that is discussed and dissected by hundreds of audience members over years generally is viewed as valuable.

I wondered whether there are similar distinctions between the creator and the audience in the social sciences and natural sciences. These domains of creation are governed by more well-defined paradigms, greater constraints on forms of presentation, and heavily governed norms of conclusions. The act of creation required for the product may be more linked explicitly to past work; its uniqueness has less value.

Further, while some of the power of art is its ability to generate different reactions across audience members, much of the focus of scientific papers is guiding the reader to a single reaction. The desired reaction is a certainty that the conclusion of the writer is correct.

But research papers do sometimes generate diverse reactions. This generally occurs in one of three ways. First, readers may question the conclusions as being unjustified by the presented evidence. Such reactions often occur during the peer-review process that precedes the dissemination of a research product. If such skepticism is displayed by several reviewers, the product is not disseminated by the publication organ.

Second, the readers may question the integrity of the data generation process. If this occurs during peer review, it may similarly yield a rejection by the journal. If an article appears that generates such reaction, it can sometimes stimulate another researcher to mount a rebuttal to the original paper.

Third, the readers may question whether the required assumptions underlying the research findings are plausible. When this occurs, other work is also stimulated, but this generally is work that portends important developments might possibly be occurring. Many fields wobble back and forth between periods of relative stability and periods of controversy and ferment. In the times of stability, there is consensus on the important questions and the appropriate methods to address the questions. But all approaches to inquiry rest on certain assumptions. When a field begins to questions those basic, well-accepted assumptions, look out for controversy! Further, when a paper generates intense and long-lasting discussions challenging long-held assumptions, it is often viewed as an important contribution.

So, compared to artists facing critics deconstructing their work into constituent components, the world of social and natural sciences seems inevitably different. Acts of creation explicitly build on one another over time dialectically. Critical dissection is desired and mandatory. That is how the goal of the creator (the conclusion he or she reached) is widely acknowledged as having been achieved. Where the two domains of creation come back together, however, is the fact that intense controversy and long-lasting discussions about a piece of work generally means something important has been created.

Three Levels of Understanding

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I taught the same course for about a ten-year period, sometimes twice a year. My recent reading about “threshold concepts” in different disciplines has made me rethink my own evolution in understanding the material in the course I taught. I now perceive three stages of my learning.

First, as a graduate student, I conquered all the major concepts and their interrelationships. This meant I could answer any question that an instructor could pose to me; I could “solve all the problems at the end of chapters;” I could read the research literature in the field. In retrospect, this was the level of understanding that only made me a good student in an advanced course in the field. I now realize how superficial such understanding really was.

Second, post-PhD, after teaching the course a few times, I realized a different level of understanding. Upon reading just a few words of a question, I could classify it into its proper context among all the concepts in the field. I could mix and match concepts in creating new questions, to test students’ ability to synthesize them. Part of this understanding arose from lecturing on the different components of the field and inventing progressively complicated constructions of pieces of knowledge as the course proceeded. Concepts built upon concepts, creating more possible combinations. Teaching led me to relearning the material, but in a new way.

As I assembled class examinations over the years, I forced myself to construct different versions of questions, each of which tested the same subdomains. The questions were different enough from one another that clever students who acquired prior examinations could not profit from knowing prior exam questions. Indeed, in later years of the course, I would give out to students many of the questions of prior examinations in order to help them study. My hope was that their exposure to hundreds of questions related to the field could indeed give them this same second level of understanding. They too would be able to quickly recognize what combination of knowledge a given question was seeking.

The third level of understanding came later in my teaching of the course. After grading thousands of examinations, I was exposed to all the possible wrong answers to a given type of question. I had seen every possible mistake. Further, in talking with students after exams, I learned what errors in logic led to the wrong answers. When I was at my best helping a student, I was able to identify the problem in their logic, go back to the material that troubled them and correct it. These episodes were often transformative for the student; everything became clear. A roadblock had been removed. In some sense, I felt that was my best teaching. Many of the causes of errors stemmed from their lack of understanding at the first level mentioned above. They never really “got” one of the early concepts in the course, leading to confusion with diagnosing how best to approach a given question much later in the course.

This problem is quite close to the notion of “threshold concepts” made popular by David Pace and his colleagues. They make the argument that there are key concepts in every field that are gateways to more sophisticated understanding. The more structured a given field, the more likely that there are key central notions that are building blocks to the entire field. One of the surprising findings of the research is that some sophisticated experts in a field cannot easily identify these threshold concepts. They find it difficult to remember the time when they learned the material for the first time. They look upon the field with completely different perspectives than that of a novice. Hence, the relative difficulty of key concepts to comprehend upon first exposure is something they have forgotten (or maybe never perceived).

One of the ongoing challenges of teaching, it seems, is remembering the perspective of the learner, not the expert in the field. The learner is constructing the conceptual structure, brick by brick. The expert sees from above the entire, integrated structure, in all its beauty.

Coming Closer to the Census

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As we approach 2020, my past life as a Census Bureau director begins to intrude, with calls from journalists about my thoughts on the funding, design, and politics surrounding the next census. Each decade about this time (the year ending in “8”), funding issues come to the fore, concerns over the latest census technological innovation arise, and a re-education takes place for political elites about the independence of the operations of the census. This decade is no different. This is the year, under the current laws and regulations, that the final form of the census questions is selected and verified by Congress. This is the year that funding must ramp up for the large-scale field data collection operations to contact households that don’t themselves answer the call when first made. This is the year that, like it or not, key risks of the next census start to come clear.

While there are complicated statistical and data processing issues involved in any census, my memories of the experience arise from completely different aspects. One of the duties of a director during the census is to promote civic participation in the census, encouraging each household to provide information requested by the census. The director does a lot of traveling, focusing time and attention on communities where prior research has shown to be reluctant to respond to the census.

I spent time on the Texas-Mexico border. I visited several “colonias,” which are collections of self-made housing, often lacking electricity and water services. Many are placed on unused fields of ranchers and farmers, who rent small plots on which the structures are built. The extent of undocumented persons is high. Fear of the Federal Government is widespread. Many residents have fled countries in which the government could not be trusted. In this environment, we attempted to convey the message that all persons are part of the US census, whether they are citizens or not, whether they are documented or not. I tried to assure them of the strong legal protections of data confidentiality. I found families with admirable resilience, communities with very strong bonds, and households that shared among themselves in admirable ways. Indeed, they had come to the country for the same reasons that many, many others came to the US: the hope that the next generation would have lives that were safer and more financially secure than the current generation.

I spent time with Muslim-American and Arab-American groups in multiple cities. I will never forget a dinner with such a group. As the dinner progressed at a table of 10 or so persons, and we became more comfortable with one another, the father of a large family asked what the question about “race” should mean for them. Did the census seek a self-report of skin-color? Was it something else? It reinforced the fact that the social constructions of the American experience were not ubiquitous to all cultures now in the country.

I spent time with groups connected with various islands of Micronesia, each with strong cultural bonds both within their US communities but also with their islands of origin. They sought recognition of their numbers within the larger fabric of the country. They were proud of their hyphenated American community and looked to the census to make known to the society how their numbers had increased over the previous ten-year period. They too sought the opportunities for their children in the US and were full believers in the American Dream.

These groups on the whole were not rich in money, but they were wealthy in the bonds of family, friends, and community. It made me proud of how the country is enriched by their contribution to the social fabric.

A Survey that Really Matters: the 2018 COACHE Survey of Faculty

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Since 2013, every two years, we mount a survey of full-time faculty on the main campus and the Qatar campus, using a web-based questionnaire organized by the Harvard School of Education. In doing this, we join Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, Tulane University, University of Rochester, University of Arizona, and University of Virginia, among others.

The survey is called the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Survey. The areas covered by the survey include the research environment and institutional support; teaching load and student quality; nature and distribution of service responsibilities; facilities and work resources; personal and family policies; health and retirement benefits; interdisciplinary work and collaboration; mentoring; tenure and promotion opportunities, clarity and reasonableness; recruitment and retention, and institutional governance and leadership.

I view this as a bit of a report card on the provost’s office. It has told us which aspects of faculty life are getting better and which are not. When concerns of faculty were evident in the statistical results, we assembled faculty task forces to ameliorate the problems. We mounted focus groups to get richer, qualitative information about important domains. We designed and implemented improvements in areas where we saw major problems. While there is always more work to do, we’ve made some progress on the clarity of tenure and promotion criteria, support for interdisciplinary scholarship, and mentoring for associate professors.

We’ve found the systematic measurement very useful. Use of the Harvard team to conduct the survey allowed us to assure faculty that administrators, like the provost, would never be able to associate answers with individual faculty members. Only statistical summaries of data are available to the provost’s office, deans, or unit heads. We sought transparency by giving presentations on the results of the survey to faculty throughout campus.

We want to continue using feedback directly from faculty, based on these measures, to hold ourselves accountable for the responsibilities of the provost’s office. We want to see whether things are getting better, staying the same, or getting worse.
Surveys become most useful with widespread participation by the faculty.

Please take a few moments to complete the web survey if you receive a request to do so. You can be assured that the many of your colleagues are participating; the results will be used, not just filed away. This is your chance to have a voice in the future of Georgetown.

Office of the ProvostBox 571014 650 ICC37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057Phone: (202) 687.6400Fax: (202) 687.5103provost@georgetown.edu

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