Research from the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success at the University of Southern California suggests that better support for non-tenure-track faculty members leads to better student outcomes. The project also has urged a more thoughtful, less-haphazard approach to filling the growing non-tenure-track faculty ranks. But reform has remained largely at a “standstill,” argues a new report from Delphi. Why? Because various groups, from tenured faculty members to administrators to governing board to adjuncts, lack a “shared vision for the future of the faculty.”
With “The Professoriate Reconsidered: A Study of New Faculty Models,” Delphi offers a rough outline of that collective vision, via the results of a survey of some 1,550 faculty members, administrators, accreditors and state-level policy makers. The respondents, about 1,200 of whom were faculty members, weighed in on ideas and priorities such as ideal faculty pathways; contracts; unbundling of faculty roles; promotion, development and evaluation; and flexibility. Delphi found a surprising level of agreement in responses across categories, suggesting there is common ground on which to move forward on reforming the faculty role. “Our findings dispel the pervasive myth that there is a tremendous and impassable gulf between groups’ views about the faculty,” the paper says.
A major theme that emerged was the need to maintain and restore professionalism to the faculty role, such as protecting academic freedom, offering professional development, including faculty members of all kinds in shared governance and working toward equitable pay. Responses from unionized participants did not differ significantly from those of nonunionized respondents. Participants did express practical concerns that about the feasibility of proposals such as creativity contracts, customizing faculty roles, creating more flexible roles and creating consortial hiring agreements.
“The areas of agreement identified in this study can serve as starting points for discussion, providing points of consensus to help move the greater dialogue about the future of the faculty from mere exchange of ideas to the creation of a reality,” Delphi argues.
An outside study on gender equity at the University of California Anderson School of Management has found that female faculty members tend to feel bias of various kinds in the hiring and promotion process and in decision making. The bias isn't of the "women can't be promoted" type, but a devaluing of any nonquantitative research, while almost exclusively valuing quantitative research.
The report says women are much more likely than men among business school faculty members to engage in nonquantitative work. Judy D. Olian, dean of the school, attached a letter for the report, calling for a faculty retreat to discuss the findings. She also said she was concerned about the way many female faculty members feel a lack of respect for their work.
Bryan College, in Tennessee, has set new requirements to be met before faculty members can organize faculty meetings, The Times Free Press reported. Now faculty members will need to go through a seven-step process to obtain approval to hold a meeting, and then will be required to have a waiting period of at least a week. Faculty members are noting that the new rules follow a vote of no confidence last year in President Stephen Livesay. College officials said that the new process is designed to give more legitimacy to faculty meetings.
Could blind analysis of data — meaning that an investigator or computer program obscures data values or labels, or both, and that, more generally, as much analysis as possible is done “in the dark” in relation to expected results — help decrease bias towards certain research findings? Robert MacCoun, a professor of law at Stanford University, and Saul Perlmutter, the Franklin W. and Karen Weber Dabby Chair in physics at the University of California at Berkeley, say yes in a new essay in Naturethat’s getting a lot of attention, including on Twitter. The authors say that blind analysis is commonplace in several physics subfields but that it holds lots of potential for the biological, psychological and social sciences, as well — the latter two of which especially have weathered recent data legitimacy scandals.
“Many motivations distort what inferences we draw from data,” say MacCoun and Perlmutter, who is the 2011 Nobel Prize winner in physics. “These include the desire to support one's theory, to refute one's competitors, to be first to report a phenomenon, or simply to avoid publishing 'odd' results. Such biases can be conscious or unconscious. They can occur irrespective of whether choices are motivated by the search for truth, by the good mentor's desire to help their student write a strong Ph.D. thesis, or just by naked self-interest. …Working blind while selecting data and developing and debugging analyses offers an important way to keep scientists from fooling themselves.”
Friends and colleagues of Tomas Lindahl, a professor of microbiology at Sweden’s Linkoping University, rushed to congratulate him on winning the Nobel Prize in chemistry earlier this week, but it was a case of mistaken identity. The real winner was another Tomas Lindahl, also Swedish, who works at the Francis Crick Institute and Clare Hall Laboratory in London. (His prize-winning research centers on how cells repair their DNA.)
The two have been mixed up by fellow scientists for decades, but the confusion reached its peak when friends of the Sweden-based Lindahl deluged him with emails and the local government in Linkoping sent out a congratulatory press release before quickly withdrawing it, the Associated Press reported. The mistaken winner reportedly was in good spirits, telling a local newspaper that “it's sort of fun actually. To be mixed up with a Nobel Prize winner when I'm doing research in chemistry myself.” Referring to December’s Nobel banquet, he added, “But it would be really nice to go to the party.”