VCU Libraries’ Quest-funded project shares initial results

May 3, 2022
A participant in the Presidential Research Quest Fund explains their poster and work.

A VCU Libraries-led project that received a Presidential Research Quest Fund in 2021 has completed the initial data collection phase and has begun sharing initial results. 

The project, “Investigation into the Impact of Promotion and Tenure on Engagement within Open Practices at the School of Education,” aims to investigate the influence of factors, including promotion and tenure, on faculty engagement with open practices in their teaching and scholarship at the VCU School of Education.

This interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaboration is led by Open Educational Resources Librarian Jessica Kirschner and includes Sergio Chaparro, Ph.D., behavioral and social sciences research librarian, Hillary Miller, scholarly communications librarian, in partnership with Jose Alcaine, Ph.D., director of research services and affiliate assistant professor in the School of Education. The team is also supported by Graduate Research Assistant Preeti Kamat and Research Data Librarian Nina Exner, Ph.D.

The study began with a survey of all School of Education faculty in October 2021. With a 13 percent response rate, the survey began showing insights into how faculty perceive open practices, such as publishing in an open access journal or producing Open Educational Resources, especially in relation to their peers’ activities and promotion and tenure. 

“We are encouraged by the results we received for our initial survey,” Kirschner said. “While we are still working through in-depth analysis, it appears that the faculty do support the concept of open and look to their peers and promotion and tenure policies for guidance for their actions. We’re looking to explore the conflict between these two trends, and hope to learn more as we expand to the second, qualitative phase of the study.”

While the research team plans and conducts focus groups and interviews to expand their research, they have begun sharing the initial results around VCU and the state. Kamat recently shared a poster at both the School of Education Research Colloquium and the Graduate Research Symposium, while Kirschner presented to fellow librarians at the Virginia Scholarly Communication Interest Group winter meeting. 

“It was exciting to be able to share our project and preliminary results with the VCU community,” said Kamat. “Both the poster presentations were well received by several students and faculty members at the School of Education and other departments across the VCU community. Some administrators expressed interest in the topic and its potential for informing promotion and tenure policies. Other faculty identified with the underlying problem of balancing access and high impact for their article publications and expressed hope at the potential significant impact of the project on tenure and faculty decisions. I am personally thankful for this opportunity to assist in a research project that may result in informing the academic policies of VCU as well as for reshaping policies of the US higher education system as a whole." 

Both presentations are available in Scholars Compass, VCU’s Institutional Repository: 

Open practices involve the use, creation and dissemination of scholarship and teaching materials that are free to access, including publishing an open access article and customizing or creating an open educational resource (OER). Open access materials are freely accessible, sharing scholarship broadly and therefore providing sound stewardship of public and private philanthropic dollars. OER, or free and openly-licensed course materials, also directly impact students, who save money in textbook costs.

While faculty engagement with open practices is increasing, some barriers to widespread participation remain. One barrier is how these practices are or are not valued within promotion and tenure policies and procedures. The research team seeks to identify those barriers in an effort to increase faculty engagement, grow related VCU Libraries services, and enable VCU to fully realize the benefits of open practices to advance learning, innovation, discovery and translation of knowledge into real-world impact. Such benefits align with VCU's Quest 2025: Together We Transform plan and the initiatives of the newly launched One VCU Strategic Research Priorities Plan, a priority of the Presidential Research Quest Fund.


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