Enhancing Institutional Competitiveness: The CERTi Approach to Assessing Faculty Research Development Efforts in Higher Education
In a series of articles, we will present the newest in research administration from the Journal of Research Administration. To read the full JRA, please see here.
Authors: Mazen Aziz, PhD, University of South Carolina
Henry Tran, MPA, PHR, SHRM-CP, PhD, University of South Carolina
Recent economic turmoil has forced higher education institutions (HEI) to consider reducing expenditures in faculty research development areas (FRD). Research development (RD) represents "a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness" (NORDP, 2019, para. 3). Before implementing such cuts, HEI should conduct robust assessments of their efficacy, including whether they are likely to bring in more revenue than they cost to operate. These assessments were critical in the context of governmental divestment in HEI and mounting public pressure against tuition hikes that forced HEI to rely on external sources of funding more heavily (Cronan, 2012) and are even more critical during economically uncertain times. This theoretical paper critically examines existing evaluation methodologies of FRD programs. It builds on the scholarship to propose a new comprehensive faculty-centric evaluation model known as The Comprehensive Evaluation of Return on Talent Investment Model (CERTi).
The paper begins with a robust literature review to understand existing measurement and evaluation methodologies used to assess FRD programs' efficacy. It then presents a new unique approach that combines multiple evaluation frameworks from varying scientific disciplines into a comprehensive approach to evaluation that advances theory on adult professional development (PD) in a higher education setting. This holistic assessment approach relies both on macro and micro levels by utilizing an overarching (Macro-level) adult-learner faculty-centric theoretical framework that incorporates using 1) qualitative, 2) quantitative, and 3) economic evaluations (Micro-Level) to jointly assess RD efforts at HEI. Specifically, it begins with Kirkpatrick (1994) seminal Human Resource Development (HRD) framework. It then includes Evans (2011) (RD) conceptual framework that elucidates what can be learned from implementing FRD programs to improve their delivery and maximize their potential effectiveness. Finally, it utilizes principles of economic evaluations (i.e., CBA-Cost-Benefit Analysis) to measure FRD program ROI. To demonstrate the model's utility, we present a case study of an FRD program for grant acquisition to illustrate the applicability of the evaluative framework for practice and scholarship. As HEI face an era of declining public financial support, an atmosphere wrought by accountability demands, and increased requests for financial ROI, CERTi's approach is ever more critical to evaluating FRD programs' efficacy and advancing scholarship.
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