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Reporting Research and Scholarship

The dean's Connections column for March 2008

Dean's Message, March 2008

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One of the initiatives Jackie Stefkovich is pursuing in her new role as associate dean for graduate studies, research, and faculty development involves refining what we are doing to make the accomplishments of our faculty and staff more visible to the external public, particularly prospective students. This is an area that cuts across various parts of the College, including the College Relations Office, the Education Technology Center, and our Human Resources Office. Jackie is working closely with Suzanne Wayne, Kyle Peck, Dave Cochrane, Jerry Henry, and Karen Mogle to take stock of where we are and to develop a new set of systems that will be simultaneously less burdensome and more effective at reaching our intended audiences.

There are two major pieces to the puzzle: (a) the research and scholarship database and (b) the faculty and staff directory.  The research and scholarship database is now working very well. We are no longer losing data or experiencing similar problems from the past. The problem with the existing database is that it is very uneven. Some but not all faculty members have been keeping their entries up-to-date. In some cases the entries are either non-existent or very incomplete. You may recall that the goal has been to go back only a few years, but even this has not been done consistently across the College. If you are curious about what the database looks like, please visit https://www.ed.psu.edu/ResAndSchol/search.asp.

We could decide to hammer the “keep your entry up-to-date” theme harder and take steps to achieve a more complete record, but this does not seem to be a good option since it will always be a struggle to keep things up to date. What we want to avoid is putting into public space a database that is seriously incomplete. This is the situation we are in now, and it is a problem for us since we are inadvertently sending the message that some of our faculty members are not very productive. This, of course, is a truly unfortunate and quite ironic message, since the truth is quite the opposite.

The other piece of the puzzle is the faculty and staff directory, which is accessed from a button on the top banner of the College’s new Web page. Currently, the directory provides a sketch of each member of the faculty and staff, along with links to the individual’s department and program affiliation and in some cases the research database. For some individuals, it also links to a personal Web site.

In the future, we plan to also provide access to the curriculum vitae where this is appropriate. Our assumption is that faculty members all keep their CVs up to date. A simple solution is to take advantage of these ongoing and self-motivated efforts. In this new initiative, each faculty member will be asked annually to provide an electronic copy of his or her CV to the College Relations office, which will post the CV on the faculty and staff directory.

We also think the search function on the research and scholarship database has the potential to be very valuable. Currently, it is hampered by the incompleteness of the database. One idea Jackie is exploring would involve asking faculty members to self-identify a number of areas of interest that they would like to be connected with and make the search function capable of popping up the names and brief descriptions of everyone who identifies a particular interest. Thus, if someone goes to the new research and scholarship database, they could easily find the list of descriptors, click on one (an example would be early childhood education), and there would appear the names of the dozen or so faculty members in the College who identify with this area of expertise along with a one-line list of more specific interests. Each of these names would be linked to the faculty and staff directory entry for that faculty member, which would provide a more detailed biographical sketch, a picture, and links to the person’s department, program, and curriculum vitae.

With an approach like this, we would be bringing together a revised research and scholarship database with an improved directory, and we would relieve everyone of having to enter each new publication or activity. We would be relying on the faculty to keep their CVs up to date, and we would not be telling people what format to use. Rather, we would simply accept their file and periodically collect an updated version. 

We have been discussing these ideas within the Faculty Council and the Advisory Committee, and we welcome any comments you might care to make. Please direct these to Jackie Stefkovich or to me, and we will add your thoughts to the mix. 

We have the opportunity here to create a more streamlined source of information that we know is very important to the external world. Reporters as well as prospective (and also current) students want to know about the faculty’s areas of expertise, and we need to find ways to convey up-to-date information in as clear and simple a way as possible. It is an important issue for us as a College, and I welcome your input.



David H. Monk