The draft of 2020 Vision: The 2013 Brock Strategic Research Plan - a document that sets out the vision and priorities for research - is scheduled for release by the end of September.
Consultations for the plan began last fall with two town hall meetings and have since gathered information many ways, including an on-line survey in which everyone is encouraged to answer four questions about the direction of research at Brock.
Vice-President Research (VPR) Gary Libben and Associate VPRs Joffre Mercier and Kevin Kee sat down with the Brock News to discuss the feedback they’ve gathered so far.
TBN: What has the consultation process looked like to date?
VPR/A-VPRs: We cast as broad a net as possible, gathering information in multiple formats. We had one-on-one meetings with faculty members, department heads, chairs and directors of programs, associate deans, senior administrative teams in each faculty and the deans of every faculty, as well as holding town hall meetings. We took detailed notes at all these meetings.
We asked chairs and directors to confer with their departments, so when we met with the chairs and directors, we heard summaries of what many people told them. We also received emails from individual faculty members independent of these group meetings. We summarized comments from all these sources.
TBN: What feedback have you received?
VPR/A-VPRs: The number one thing everyone recognizes is the increasing difficulty in obtaining Tri-Council funding because of changes that have happened over the last five years or more. There is a desire to receive more feedback from colleagues on research grant applications.
No. 2 is workload. Many feel there’s a lack of time to write competitive proposals, interact with students, teach, gather data, write papers and carry out other duties expected of our researchers.
Thirdly, because of the nature of our transdisciplinary research, collaboration and group grants are encouraged, but many faculty are also telling us don’t forget the goals and needs of the individual researcher. Faculties, too, sometimes have unique needs that have to be addressed.
TBN: How have you been using the feedback you’ve received so far, and how can you use this feedback in future?
VPR/A-VPRs: What we gather will form the bedrock of the plan. For example, before I (Joffre Mercier) composed my section of the document, I went through all the comments that I had and summarized and catalogued the comments.
I selected the ones that spoke to the issues I was looking at. I copied and pasted those onto the document as part of my outline so that I could see to it that I addressed all of those comments in the part that I was writing.
Also, the feedback presents an opportunity for the Office of Research Services (ORS) to streamline operations so that the researchers’ time is freed up to do other things.
TBN: What are the elements of a strong, effective Strategic Research Plan?
VPR/A-VPRs: A good plan is one in which we have clearly identified the needs of our research community and where we set appropriate, attainable, concrete benchmarks to help researchers achieve their goals.
Through these consultations, we’re getting to know what researchers’ plans are, what their needs are and how to address these needs effectively so that our research output not only stays strong but gets better and our funding improves so that faculty can do the work they need to do.
The overall strategic research plan deals not just with research but with pedagogy. The research that we do is related to our teaching, and the teaching that we do is related to our research.
The plan has to be written in very clear language. The bottom line is, we’re here to help. If the researchers at Brock see themselves and their aspirations in the plan, it’s a good one.