Research/Creative Activity Report
The survey identified several strengths, relative to our peer institutions, regarding the working conditions and support for faculty research and creative activity at UMass Amherst. First among these is that our faculty report very high satisfaction with their academic freedom and influence over the focus of their research/scholarly/creative work: 89% are satisfied and this proportion is higher than all of our peer institutions. UMass Amherst faculty, while expressing less satisfaction, remained more satisfied than faculty at peer institutions in three additional areas. These include expectations for finding external funding (47% satisfied), pre-award support for obtaining grants (45% satisfied), and institutional support for research (45% satisfied). While faculty are more satisfied than our peer institutions, these three items show room for improvement in support for faculty’s pursuit of external funding for research/creative activity.
Across all items, assistant and full professors, men, and Asian/Asian-American faculty expressed greater satisfaction with support for research, compared to associate professors, female faculty, and under-represented minority faculty.
UMass Amherst faculty expressed greater dissatisfaction along two dimensions. The first is finding time for research/creative activity in the balance of research/creative activity, teaching, and service; the second is accessing institutional support for including undergraduates in research. For example, UMass Amherst faculty expressed the least satisfaction vis a vis peer institutions with the portion of their time spent on research. Only 54% of faculty were satisfied with this indicator, and more men (69%) than women (42%) were satisfied with the time they can devote to research. Faculty from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups similarly reported low satisfaction (48%) with this measure. Relatedly, while we outperformed our peers on this measure, it is concerning that only 55% of faculty agreed that they are able to balance research/teaching/service work, with significant gender and race/ethnic disparities. To illustrate, 68% of men compared to 44% of women felt able to achieve balance across these areas, along with 55% of white faculty and 43% URM faculty.
With respect to teaching, faculty satisfaction with support for engaging undergraduates in research is not high. Only 38% of faculty reported at least some satisfaction with this measure, and this is significantly less satisfaction compared to faculty at most of our peer institutions. At the same time, only 28% of faculty were satisfied with the availability of course release time for research. Moreover, a significant gender difference emerged here, with 34% of men and 23% of women faculty expressing satisfaction with course release availability.
Faculty satisfaction with research/creative work depends on the amount of time, clarity of expectations, and institutional supports faculty are given to do this work.
Sustain support for research across the career-lifecycle. While protecting research time is appropriately prioritized for assistant professors leading up to tenure, tenured faculty continue to need opportunities and support for research.
Connect faculty with pre-award proposal development support. Increase services and outreach for intensive grant and fellowship preparation training delivered by the Center for Research on Families, the Institute for Social Science Research, and the Research Administration and Compliance Office, along with seed funding offered by many centers and institutes on our campus.
Mentors can connect faculty to seed grants at the department, college, and centers/institutes levels, along with campus-wide internal funding opportunities.
Host departmental colloquia and/or research networks where UMass Amherst faculty can present their research and creative activity that is still in progress. Many of these “chalk talk” opportunities are in place on campus, and they are highly important for faculty research/creative development.
Department chairs/heads and mentors should monitor equity in service commitments that reduce time for research. This is particularly important for associate professors and for underrepresented faculty (faculty of color, women), who, in addition to high formal service commitments, often perform invisible service such as advising and mentoring students from underrepresented groups.