Are University Faculty Reluctant to Ask Outside their Own For Help Fundraising?

Hand-wringing studies on the ability of faculty to secure external financial support have multiplied as universities get antsier about public funding cuts. More than half of the communications departments participating in a survey conducted by scholars at University of Central Florida last year "report[ted] that their university has increased pressure to land grants," recently.

Yet the rate at which researchers are successfully procuring funding "in the communication disciplines may have dropped well below the mark" set eight years previous in another, similar study published in Journalism & Mass Communication Education.

What's the hold-up?

Administrative fist-shaking does little in isolation, the paper finds. A more robust "support system is clearly important" for wrangling extra-departmental cash. They need to reward productive grantspersonship and foster a department-wide "culture where externally funding success is seen as [a] valuable" and worthwhile endeavor.

Past studies have shown that administrators themselves feel "either neutral or dissatisfied with the level of support given to their units’ external grants activities." Corroborating the researchers’ opinion, these administrators argued that their departments lacked "a streamlined 'recognition and reward system' for grant winners." While the universities pressure faculty to improve their grantspersonship, they do not provide the resources to help them learn how.

One solution the article's authors advance in "From 'Publish or Perish'" is to connect communications scholars with "researchers in other disciplines on their campus who are successful in landing grants." Communications faculty, they suggest, could either "partner with hard scientists on their campus," or those working in their own departments in "areas such as health communication" who tend to be more seasoned grantspeople.

But faculty have allies beyond each other on campus, such as university development offices. This fact is conspicuously absent from the paper’s suggestion-making, however. Certainly, some departments are more experienced and successful at fundraising than others. But is there something odd about a lament on faculties' failure to obtain external funding that makes no mention of an office, present on virtually every campus in the nation, dedicated explicitly to this same task?