much as or more than the investigator’s credentials. They felt that the use of “productivity” metrics (the absolute amount accomplished for a given stage of an investigator’s career), rather than “efficiency” metrics (the amount accomplished per unit of research funding) also invariably favored researchers from research universities.
The difficulty of overcoming negative branding peppered ongoing discussions at the workshop. For example, one Historically Black College or University (HBCU) researcher spoke of her experience ghost-writing proposals for a more prominent institution. Those proposals were all funded, yet similar proposals written under her own institution’s name were not funded. Another HBCU researcher spoke of the very different social reception she received when introducing herself as being from Georgetown University (one of her affiliations) versus The University of the District of Columbia (another of her affiliations).
Many participants felt that faculty at lesser-known institutions may experience the type of subtle prejudice and implicit bias described in the National Academies’ Beyond Bias and Barriers report.1 For example, some participants commented on the disparity between the proposal success rate of these institutions and the success rate of more well-known research institutions vis-a-vis federal agencies that fund research.
While negative branding was described variously as annoying, discouraging, and—from time to time—patently unfair, the most concrete, insoluble problem faced by ERI researchers was identified frequently as simply the lack of time to do research. Terrence Johnson (chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Tennessee State University) and Arlene Cole-Rhodes (associate professor of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Morgan State University) described this problem. They emphasized that teaching loads at ERIs were high, typically 3 to 4 courses a semester—about twice or three times the teaching load of a typical faculty member at a research university. Moreover, because ERIs try to ensure the greatest possible access to courses for students, classes were often taught during the day and evenings both, and included both Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday slots. This meant there were no blocks of uninterrupted time during which to perform research.
The Johnson and Cole-Rhodes presentations pointed out that, in addition, many ERIs require their faculty to take on very serious and