Sunday, September 12, 2010

Avoiding Scurvy: Crewing the Research Ship?

In the era of ERA, what are the major implications for crewing the research organization ship?

After listening to Dr. Dawson one comes away with a few interesting quotes, "its nice to have a ragtag bunch of pirates which can do many different things" or," a desire for people who are interesting with curiosity in topics (he cares about)" and that "many strong discipline researchers are really bad listeners." So some emphasis rests on multi-disciplinary skill-sets at the UniSA Sleep Research Centre. Dr. Pocock's brief interview underscored a desire for an increasing publishing ratio requirement among researchers and a minimum of four published articles per year per head with at least 20% of the total in top ranked journals. A brief description of a few HR related blunders included a rough dismissal process for one and another researcher let go due to a desire to research without publishing. Both Research Centre Managers seek to see results from funded research initiatives.

These coincide with the overall ERA quality assessment system being tested at ARC and leading indicators from the 2009 ERA Trial appear to focus heavily upon the output and quality of research crew members contribute to the pool of new knowledge creation. The quality of research crews in Australia are being measured according to several indicators:

1. Rate of publication: in ranked journals and refereed conference publications.
2. Rate of citation analysis: relative citation impact, distribution of publications & papers.
3. Total volume: of published and research outputs.
4. HERDC Research Outcomes: Total value of grants, including research income and ratios in comparison with discipline.
5. Esteem Ranking: Editorial positions on highly ranked journals, prestigious reference works, events, fellowship awards, competitive prizes, etc.
6. Rate of applied results: Patents, designs, or commercial outcome (as applicable).

Both Drs. Dawson and Pocock emphasize that researchers with curiosity and good social skills are desirable and both also indicated a certain reluctance to fall back entirely on the forensic assessment measures of the ERA in populating their own crews while maintaining some minimum annual results. Dr. Dawson cautions against a strategic management system more useful in developing a corporate "factory of knowledge" model which is ruthless and possibly the antithesis to research cooperation and collaboration necessary to increase quality. Pocock indicates a resistance to growth model which would also be challenging under a strict ERA principle in strategically selecting the best crew members for a research ship.

Perhaps the ERA may reflect upon the "soft skills" evaluative needs of crew members when and if a Myers & Briggs style assessment is inclusive in the quantitative assessment of quality for example bringing forth the rankings of intellectual assets versus liabilities of the researchers in social settings, if teaching then their students' assessments, supervisors, editors, collaborators, if curious then rate of curiosity, if social then rate of social interaction, if listening then aptitude for listening, etc. Due to the extreme difficulty in measuring these qualities or expressing them in quantitative values it appears certain qualities remain unmeasurable and outside the scope of the ERA assessment.

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