This past spring Vice Provost for Faculty Development Chris Brown led a working group that explored what it means to evaluate research performance. The group was also given the specific charge of evaluating our continued use of Academic Analytics given that our contract ends shortly and we wanted input for making our decision about renewing the contract. The group was broad and included faculty, staff, and administrators from across campus as well as governance leadership from Faculty and University Senates.
In general, the report emphasized the importance of ensuring the excellence and diversity of faculty research is recognized in the tools we use, and it stressed that no single tool alone can accomplish that goal. Specific to Academic Analytics, the report listed some concerns about limitations in Academic Analytics for some disciplines, and indicated the potential threats of using it without awareness of its limitations and as a sole source of data. At the same time, there was considerable support for it being one of several tools available, particularly as a resource for units to harness under our new budget model. Many also appreciated the Faculty Insight tool, which is a new resource in Academic Analytics that can be used by faculty to help them chart their impact as a researcher and find new opportunities for research advancement, including a list of relevant grant opportunities.
Based on the report and input from multiple stakeholders on campus, Chancellor Girod and I believe there is value in Academic Analytics and plan to renew the contract, including the new Faculty Insight tool. It will help us better support our aspirations and help faculty find new areas of opportunity.
Because of past conversations, it’s important that faculty are aware of and understand the platform and the improved services and changing conditions that make Academic Analytics a better tool for our time and our situation.
Academic Analytics will allow the university to identify and harness opportunities that will play a role in the future budget allocation process as well as in strategic endeavors that the university and faculty members expect to pursue. Some of these improvements are:
- An expanded license that allows faculty members to see information compiled on their individual professional career and will put faculty members in control of their scholarly profile.
- Faculty will also be able to look at collaboration networks that can be invaluable sources of recommendation letters and external reviewers.
- It is expected that future upgrades will allow faculty to easily search for information on funding opportunities for which they may qualify.
As the university transitions to a new budget model that focuses on priorities and encourages positive outcomes, chairs and deans will need powerful tools to demonstrate their unit’s impact. The benchmarking capabilities of Academic Analytics will only be available to chairs and deans, although it will be critical to their ability to tell the story of their unit’s impact. Many of these outcomes are also valued by the Association of American Universities.
In line with the Research Metrics Working Group’s report and recommendations, the university has plans to create a website portal for faculty use that would consolidate a list of research tracking tools currently available at KU and provide statements on the intended purpose and proper use of each. The portal would also offer mechanisms that allow faculty to verify the accuracy of their information in Academic Analytics.
Looking ahead, there also is a strong possibility our analytics professionals will be able to integrate the information in Academic Analytics with that available in Faculty PRO, substantially easing the burden of entering items into PRO.
The 4–year contract will be comparable to our current contact with the exception of an increase in cost with the addition of the Faculty Insight tool. The contract is expected to be signed this month and your input is welcome through Sept. 13, either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or through the anonymous feedback form on the Provost Office website.
Carl Lejuez Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor