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Dreaming Away in the Winds of Change
April 22, 2012 - 9:03pm

During the ritual of Strategic Planning that my University holds every time a new President is put in place, a new “goal” was announced: we were going to become a research University. Accordingly, a flurry of new programs were created to support publication-driven research projects, particularly targeting ISI-listed journals and reputable publication houses abroad. Publish or perish, which has been the mode since the 1990s just got deadlier and at the same time, more lucrative. Multiple monetary rewards await those who labor and toil according to these new rules (e.g. $1200 per published article in an ISI-listed journal; 3-year Scientist designation with a $10,000 bursary; foreign travel support to disseminate research findings, etc.) and those who don’t likely are confined to the dust of humdrum teaching unable to cross ranks.

To me, this is welcome indication of a new work ethic. My previous U Venus blogs have been mantras about scholarship being a key element in the academy and how some University policies (e.g. teaching overloads, not requiring publication as an output to research grants, etc.) create disincentives to building such a culture of scholarship.  As Division chair, in particular, it is an added boost that the current crop of University officials support efforts at my level to curb teaching overloads, provide funding for mentoring initiatives in research proposal preparation and journal article writing workshops, and generally push the faculty to re-focus their energies.

I rejoice in the fact that I am not a lone wolf among my colleagues. Recently, I have been invited to collaborate in an interdisciplinary, inter-campus, multi-year competitive research project on water governance involving 4 Philippine sites. I was also involved in crafting a new research program called Mentoring Initiative which will pair Scientists like myself one-on-one with a junior colleague to do a publication-driven research project on a smaller scale. Through this window, I hope to continue my work on civil-military relations in the Philippines, with the end view of inspiring another colleague to follow on my research interest. 

There is a silver lining to this cloud of optimism. University officials are counting on the new pool of money available from within to entice faculty members to research and publish. The tagline “who wants to be a Philippine millionaire?” brandied about by one official may not work given the even MORE lucrative research and training consultancies that many of my better-positioned colleagues are involved in. The financial rewards for consultancies from foreign NGOs and institutions like the World Bank are ridiculously high; but with no added value to the University. Colleagues who do this don’t publish scholarly works, nor do they have proprietary claim on the data they gather. Sadly, this line of work is the typical money trail where pandering to funder themes and goals is the name of the game. To this group, the push for a new research ethos by the University has no effect.

There has never been a better time, at least for me, to be at my University. I could get more monetary rewards for the work I do without prostituting myself to the whims of donor-driven projects. I also am providing a better template to my junior colleagues about what being a University Professor is all about: scholarship NOT money for money’s sake. Doing research to make a contribution to the body of scholarly work; participating in the discipline or specializations conversation via peer-reviewed publication. The money is incidental, not the primary goal.

Iloilo, Philippines

Rosalie Arcala Hall is a Professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

 

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