Getting Research Documented
Faculty members employed at SFA are expected to participate in research activities that enhance their knowledge and skills with respect to teaching and scholarly activity. So, as a new employee, you should actively engage in developing a research plan early in your career at SFA. This will be important because demands on your time expand quickly. Thus, research time can be integrated with a schedule that includes classes, committees, family, and personal demands. A balanced approach to these professional obligations tends to work best for most faculty. Teaching institutions abound with scholars who are great teachers, good researchers, and willing to serve the University, college, and department. Beware, though, that faculty members committed to only one activity will face reviews that may not support merit, tenure and promotion without a solid teaching, research and service record.
Each year you will be required to submit an annual performance review of your achievements in research, teaching and service, as well as teaching and research goals for the upcoming year. A good strategy to begin early is to track grant proposal submission, working papers, manuscript submissions (seek out peer-reviewed publications whenever possible), revisions and re-submissions, acceptances, and published journal articles, book chapters or books. Also, document conferences attended, paper presentations, and workshops delivered and attended. Completing this thought, (as further elaborated in the annual report section), keep your teaching evaluations, record your service activities and note of everything you do for the University, such as recruitment activities or directing graduate student theses. If you document your performance as the year progresses, it will be less of an issue to meet evaluation deadlines each fall. There is an on-line survey to document these accomplishments that can be accessed all year long.
To begin a research agenda in a new position, a faculty member could explore any lingering potential publications from their dissertation. If you are interested in seeking out new research topics consider the following.
Additionally, consider value in the following sayings: (1) “First you have to get it wrote, before you can get it right” (2)“Write before you are ready, or you won’t write at all” (3) “If you don’t feel that you are in over your head, you aren’t making sufficient progress.”
Hilsen, Linda, Editor. To Improve the Academy: Resources for Student, Faculty, & Institutional Development. Vol. 9. 1990. Workshops on Writing Blocks Increase Proposal Activity. p. 141.
Loebbecke, James K. “The Auditor: An Instructional Novella.” 1999 Prentice-Hall. p. 119
When pursuing research funds be aware that funding from most departments on campus is limited; funds from colleges are modest and generally made available for professional development, field research, and travel. Asking for funding for copies and occasional mail-outs may be within reason for some departments, yet out of the question for others. Scholarly presentations at regional and national conferences may or may not be fully/partially funded, and again, some departments have no travel funds. Keep in mind if the department can not meet expenses for conferences, consider asking your chair to submit your request to other administrative offices on campus that have an interest in faculty development, such as deans’ offices, or the graduate school office.
Another source of funding is the University. Such funding normally requires a more formal proposal that includes a well-defined research question, methodology, and literature review. For example, Research Enhancement Program (A-39) and Research Development Program (A-65) describes university funding of research and the related distribution of research enhancement funds. The first policy states that funding for research projects is available from the University through “mini-grants” and Faculty Research Grants. Mini-grants are for relatively small amounts (usually less than $750) and require only an application letter and the department chair’s endorsement. The letter should describe the research project and the outlet where you intend to publish your work. Funding can take place anytime during the year, but remember that the academic year runs from September to August; therefore, the money that you requested must be expended by August 31. Additionally, the budget for mini-grants may be exhausted or close to exhaustion as summer approaches, so get an application in early if possible. However, most meritorious projects are funded. Faculty Research Grants can cover much larger projects but involve a formal competitive review and long-range plan. After a Faculty Research Grant application is written by a faculty member, it is endorsed by the department chair and reviewed by a college research panel (in some colleges). If your college does not have a college panel, seek out reviews from colleagues. The college panel’s function is to provide constructive criticism, thereby enabling the faculty member to enhance the proposal and increase the likelihood of success in the university competition. If approved at the university level, funds are placed in an account from which the faculty member can draw during the subsequent academic year. The original applications for the faculty research grants are due near the end of January. After the college review you may incorporate comments before the final version is submitted around the beginning of March. If you did not meet the first deadline in January, however, you cannot submit anything for the March deadline.
In addition to the above university-supported grants, faculty who have three years’ full-time experience can apply for Faculty Development Leaves (E-23A). Developmental leave of absence can be approved for field observation, research, study, writing, or other scholarly/creative activities, and can fund the faculty member at full base salary for one long semester or half-time for two.
Externally funded grant opportunities are also available. The Stephen F. Austin State University Office of Research and Sponsored Programs helps inform faculty of external funding opportunities. They provide workshops and information seminars to help faculty build and submit competitive grants. It is advisable to meet with staff members of this office to let them know of your interests and research agenda early upon joining the University faculty so they can help identify potential funding sources. Also, you will be better informed on how to comply with University procedures that must be met to submit grants to external funding sources. In addition, the professional staff can provide guidance in managing funds and documentation for approved projects. Although obtaining grants funds is highly competitive in the University environment, it is well worth the efforts to secure the funds as research projects stimulate teaching, more research and gives the faculty member avenues to enhance their own reputation as well as the University’s image.
Don’t forget, any research grant recipient must make progress on completion of the grant, and the research office or granting agency will demand periodic and final reports concerning such progress; see also the university policy on Effort Reporting and Certification for Sponsored Activities (A-68). Thus, a closing thought, take on only research projects that you can do well.
The Use of Human and Animal Participants and Hazardous Materials
Stephen F. Austin State University requires that any research proposals involving the use of human participants (Human Research Subjects Protection (A-62)), laboratory animals, or hazardous materials (Health and Safety (D-17)) must be accompanied by a memorandum of approval from the chair of the appropriate University committee. These committees are: Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects, Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Environmental Safety and Health/Radiation Committee, Bio-safety Committee, and Public Health Committee.