The Crago –Kirk report

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How will the U of R respond?

How will the U of R respond?

New report offers suggestions to increase U of R research output

Article: Michael Chmielewski – Editor-in-Chief

[dropcaps round=”no”]A [/dropcaps]report conducted on Sept. 12-14, 2013 on research at the University of Regina has been called scathing, hard-hitting, and snarky. It seems to call for a change in the research culture at the University. The “Consultation Report on Research Administration at the University of Regina,” or the Crago-Kirk report, “addresses a variety of aspects of university administration pertinent to research conducted at the University of Regina.”

Martha Crago, the Vice-President Research at Dalhousie University, and Martin Kirk, UBC’s Director of Office of research services and the President of the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators, conducted the report. U of R President Vianne Timmons had asked the pair to conduct the report.

David Malloy is the VPR (Vice-President Research) at the U of R. He explained that this report “was a call made by the President to these two individuals to have them come in and give us some good advice.”

The two consulted University Executives, Deans, Associate Deans (Research), Directors of Research Chairs, Researchers, and others to make multiple recommendations. These include changes in leadership, supporting a world-class enterprise, and VPR discretionary funding.

Malloy is responsible for making recommendations for the research enterprise. Malloy took the interim position when the former VPR left, at the request of President Timmons. His contract ends June 30, 2015. One of the proposed recommendations from the report is that “considerable turn-over” at positions like the VPR have caused a “lack of continuity in leadership and a lack of long-term stable strategic planning at both the university and office levels.” The report advises that “[p]rofessional services should be used to conduct the searches” nationally and internationally. Malloy said that there will be a “national search for that position this coming fall,” which is fall 2014, to find a permanent replacement for him by 2015.

Towards its conclusion the report makes an interesting allegation towards the VPR. “The VPR has a certain amount of discretionary funding for research that has been allocated in a manner that is perceived to be unfair and non-transparent.” The report’s solution to this, leaves a lot to be asked, because it doesn’t provide any answers or recommendations to how, or any more information than the following: “ [t]he process of allocation of discretionary funding from the VPR is transparent and strategic.”

Malloy completely ruled this out. He said that the recommendation “means, or someone is perceiving, that discretionary funding is given out in a preferential basis, which isn’t true. I’m ruling it out.”

Some of the recommendations of the report won’t be carried out, says Malloy, due to funding. “There’s quite a hefty price tag to this.”

“It would be impossible for us to implement all of these in exactly the way the Crago-Kirk report has recommended.”

One of these problematic aspects of the report is to guarantee a “minimum graduate student stipend and provide funding for top-up.” A stipend is essentially a salary.

“Financially troublesome,” says Malloy, “is the grad studies stipends. We’ve estimated that’s about a 10 million dollar annual hit on the university budget which we clearly can’t afford.”

Malloy did emphasize that the university is trying to retain grad students by enhancing the stipend somehow, which he says is being worked on in conjunction with the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Department Head and Professor of Biology Mark Brigham emphasized that graduate students are key for a research institution. The U of R does not seem to have that culture.

“I’ve felt for a long time that this institution does not appropriately support graduate students. Never has.” He felt that this institution has a hard time attracting or retaining students for graduate studies because other universities frankly offer them more, and have a research culture more attuned to graduate studies.

“I think it has always been this, and I’ve been here for 23 years, and it was a bone of contention when I first arrived, and it’s still a bone of contention.” He strongly believes that action must be taken to solve this contentious point.

He also identified that, as does the report, that there seems to be a trade-off between undergraduate education and research at the U of R. The report indicates, from the people it interviewed, that “there is a strong sense among research professoriate and research faculty administration that although the University talks of being a research university, there is more focus on increasing the number of undergraduates than on supporting research.”

Brigham, speaking to his own opinion, said, “the report, in my view, basically says that in some areas of the institution, there is not enough research focus, and it is much more directed toward teaching.” Acknowledging that research at the university needs to be improved, he also stressed that teaching is very important too.

Professor Brigham is also the chair of the Council Committee on Research, although he wanted to emphasize that these thoughts are his own, and not representative of the committee

Although not involved in the report, neither being interview for it nor being part of any committee, Physics Professor George Lolos has taken a very keen interest in the Crago-Kirk report.

“I think the report gave a fairly accurate, but not very detailed, but fairly accurate picture of the state of affairs of research at the U of R”. Lolos also believes that the report’s “emphasis is that there’s a lack of research culture at the decision making part of the University.”

Lolos did not want to place the blame squarely on the current administration, though it is “ a perennial problem, this is not a new phenomenon.” He also believes that the U of R needs to pick a path, and if it wants to be a “teaching college, that’s fine, but they have to say so.”

Money also came up as an issue, and an ambiguous administration. “The administration is not interested in research, especially if it’s going to cost money to make money, or if they think they are actually encouraging research, they don’t know what research is.”

The eleven-page report also deals with leadership, office morale, “Commercialization, Technology Transfer, Industry Partnerships and the Industry Liaison Office, supporting a world class research enterprise, the recent Provincial Auditor’s report, a research and compliance tracking system, centres and institutes, industry partnership management, metrics, research policies, and communication.

The Crago-Kirk report is available for the public to view on the University of Regina’s website by searching those key words.

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