Report by Melissa Blankstein
The Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey has tracked the changing research, teaching, and publishing practices of faculty members within higher education triennially since early digital transformation at the turn of the century. This project has aimed to provide actionable findings to help colleges and universities, among other relevant stakeholders such as academic libraries, learned societies, and scholarly publishers, make evidence-based decisions for their planning and strategy.
Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and its numerous impacts to many different facets of higher education, this eighth cycle of the survey once again queried faculty nationally on topics such as scholarly discovery and access, data management, research dissemination, and the value of the library. We also added new questions on key areas of interest, including equitable and holistic teaching practices, instructional support, perspectives on scholarly outputs and open access models, as well as on faculty capacity and evaluation. Our key findings below highlight the most notable results from the 2021 US Faculty Survey.
- Faculty are according less importance to a journal’s impact factor when deciding where to publish their scholarly research. Despite this decrease, faculty members continue to emphasize the importance of characteristics that have historically been most highly valued that help contribute towards favorable scholarly incentives, such as a journal’s content area and high readership.
- While faculty members continue to view the library’s most important function to be that of buyer of scholarly resources, they consider the library’s role in providing direct support to students as essential. This includes the library’s provision of access to technology and informal learning spaces. Faculty members continue to endorse the role of the library primarily as a buyer of scholarly resources needed for their research and teaching and generally as a primary support for student learning.
- Faculty members continue to be interested in an open access publication model and see their library as key in financially supporting open access infrastructure. Faculty members want the library’s involvement in financially supporting an open access system and are specifically open to their college or university library investing in open journal platforms and infrastructure to do so.
- Very few faculty members believe there are adequate processes in place to protect against research fraud, and there is widespread support for additional efforts to ensure research integrity. While the majority of respondents do not believe that fraud is growing, they are not sanguine. There is strong support for dataset deposit, disclosure of funding sources, and registering research questions prior to analysis.
- The disruptions of recent years have yielded a substantial increase in the use and creation of open educational resources (OER), textbooks, course modules, and video lectures. Despite increased creation and usage of OER, faculty are less interested in creating and using them for their courses as incentives for integrating OER into instructional approaches have not changed since 2018.
- In the aggregate, the importance of the monograph has declined. The print monograph is decreasing in importance across all disciplines. Among humanists, a growing share compared with 2018 indicated that electronic monographs are important for their teaching and research.
- Notwithstanding the disruptions of recent years, faculty members report that attending conferences and workshops remains the most important way they keep up to date with their current field. With conferences transferring to digital options during the global pandemic, they remain just as relevant to keep up with scholarly information.
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