Supporting Faculty Research with Information Technology
Historically, higher education faculty engage in some combination of teaching, service, and research. How one's time is distributed across these three roles or functions can vary considerably by a number of factors including institution type, field of expertise, career stage, and personal interest. Given that the success of students is central to the mission of any institution, much of the prevailing attention higher education IT gives to faculty focuses on the role of technology in teaching, learning, and supporting students. As a result, we often pay far too little attention to the role of technology in faculty research. We hope this report serves as a modest correction of this omission by providing institutional leaders with a better understanding of the IT experiences and needs of their faculty who engage in research or seek to expand their research capabilities.
First, we present results from the 2017 ECAR faculty survey1 on the technology support and services they receive from their institution for their research needs. We asked faculty about how their institution responded to their data management needs; the support they received from IT staff; and institutional support for computational resources, such as hardware and software for analysis. We also assessed research technology support and services by institution type, such as research-intensive institutions (e.g., doctorate-granting) or less intensive research institutions (e.g., associate-degree-granting). This assessment provides insight into whether faculty who need the most technological support for their research are indeed receiving it.
Second, we present findings from open-ended responses from this same survey that asked faculty what their institution could do with technology to support their faculty research role. These open-ended responses allowed faculty to provide, in their own words, a depth of response that offers insight into their most pressing IT needs. We present these findings based on the categories of responses and offer illustrative quotes from faculty responses reflective of these categories.
Third, we present findings from faculty who conduct research at data-intensive institutions and their assessment of institutional technology support for their research. These findings include faculty assessments of whether they receive appropriate IT support for their data-intensive research. Finally, we conclude this report with recommendations on how institutions can better leverage IT to support faculty research.
- Faculty are generally positive about their institution’s support for research, but faculty at master’s institutions tend to be less positive about research support they receive than faculty at other types of institutions.
- Faculty most frequently reported that their institution could better support their research by increasing access to analytic software, providing reliable real-time support for their technology needs, and affording access to specialized IT staff who could assist with their discipline-specific technology needs for conducting research. Other categories of need faculty identified include access to training and workshops, cloud storage, journal databases, and specialized hardware.
- Among faculty engaged in data-intensive research, adequate bandwidth, data storage, and computational resources to conduct their research are areas of need in which a majority expressed their agreement. About two-fifths of these faculty said that their research data are stored in the cloud, and about half said that IT professionals are not proactive in responding to research computing needs.
Many thanks are due to the EDUCAUSE staff who made this report possible. Specifically, we want to acknowledge the contributions of Susan Grajek, Mark McCormack, and Karen Wetzel for their thoughtful and thorough feedback on multiple drafts of this report. Additionally, we want to acknowledge the statistical support we received from Ben Shulman and the data visualization contributions of Kate Roesch. Thanks also go to Jamie Reeves for overseeing the project timeline. Gregory Dobbin expertly provided editorial reviews.
We also extend a special thank you to Michael D. Erickson (Colorado School of Mines) for lending his expertise on the subject of research computing to the finalization of this report.
Lastly, we want to thank the 13,451 faculty respondents who completed the 2017 EDUCAUSE Technology Research in the Academic Community (ETRAC) Faculty Survey. Without the data they provided, this and other ECAR reports on faculty and information technology would not be possible.
Joseph D. Galanek and D. Christopher Brooks. Supporting Faculty Research with Information Technology. Research report. Louisville, CO: ECAR, June 2018.
In the 2017 faculty study, 13,451 respondents from 157 institutions in 7 countries (including the United States) and 37 US states participated in the research. The quantitative findings in the ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2017 report were developed using the 11,141 survey responses from faculty at 131 US institutions. See Jeffrey Pomerantz and D. Christopher Brooks, ECAR Study of Faculty and Information Technology, 2017, research report (Louisville, CO: ECAR, October 2017) for more information.↩︎