The College has traditionally identified itself within the Christian community of Melbourne as an independent Higher Education Provider focusing on a diversified array of undergraduate courses. This view has been consistent with the size and scope of the institution in its formative stages of development. However, in more recent years the College has introduced post-graduate courses such as Masters degrees. The importance of this is twofold. First, it demonstrates the growing maturity and sophistication of the institution. Second, it affirms emerging economic trends demonstrating a growth in the up-take of post-graduate degrees. Alongside this positive trajectory the College is also in relationship with Eastern University (USA). Together these facts demonstrate that the College is deepening in its understanding of its mission to church, society and marketplace.
A practical reality of increased institutional sophistication is that the College must now renegotiate its understanding of the teaching/research nexus. Importantly, the institution already recognises the valuable contribution research makes to quality teaching. In addition, some courses already include research-related experiences. However, as the College increases its focus on post-graduate courses it behoves the institution to focus more assertively on research experiences. As such, faculty members will have to act as research supervisors thus becoming active researchers as a consequence.
This document is designed to provide a framework through which students, faculty, administration staff and College leadership can view research. The ‘lens’ suggested herein is designed to be God honouring, institutionally appropriate and comply with relevant legislation.
1. Presents a definition for ‘research’
2. Defines those characteristics which exemplify excellence in research
3. Demonstrates how research is to be integrated into the mission of the College
4. Clarifies responsibility for research.
This framework applies to:
1. Senior management of the College
2. Members of institutional committees which oversee aspects of research-related matters and members of committees external to the College who assist in research-related matters
3. Administrative staff who assist the College in research-related matters
4. Faculty members
5. External academics who are asked by the College to assist in research-related matters
6. Undergraduate and post-graduate students who are undertaking research-related activities
7. Members of the College and of the public who may act as participants in research projects.
Definition of Research
Scholarship is not the same as research although effective research relies on good scholarship. Nor is research one activity. As such, research is often difficult to define and treated slightly differently by various organisations, academic disciplines and researchers. Nevertheless, the Federal Government defines research in the broadest terms by stating it to be:
… the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings. This could include synthesis and analysis of previous research to the extent that it leads to new and creative outcomes.
Various Australian universities then contend that it comprises “creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humanity, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications.” (http://www.canberra.edu.au/ucresearch/dest-definition; http://www.utas.edu.au/research-admin/funding/applying-for-funding/defining-research)
More succinctly the US Federal Government defines it as “a systematic investigation, including development, testing and evaluation, designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge [§45CFR46.102(d)].” (http://rgs.usu.edu/irb/investigator-handbook/chapter-2-defining-research).
Distilling the common themes above into a definition appropriate to the context of the College the term research is stated to mean: A God honouring creative, but logical, process in which an established body of knowledge is engaged with and enlarged. It is therefore implied that research involves a defined question, an assemblage of knowledge, a method of analysis and the delivery of an outcome which can be independently scrutinised.
This definition applies equally well across disciplines and makes no distinction between basic and applied research thus upholding both academic freedom and providing maximum opportunities for engagement by the College faculty and students.
Excellence in research
Within its mission, and as appropriate to its resources, the College is committed to excellence in research. This is defined to be consistent with the following characteristics:
1. Research which is compliant with Occupational Health and Safety legislation
2. Research which is conducted in an ethical manner as defined by the NH&MRC and described in legislation
3. Research that is conducted with honesty/integrity in matters of data collection and analysis
4. Research that can withstand the scrutiny of experts in the field.
The College is a Christian independent Higher Education Provider with a positive institutional trajectory. Building on an established identity as an institution that values high quality teaching the College already recognises the important role that research plays in the development of its faculty and the teaching of its students. However, as the College grows in sophistication the teaching/research nexus also must adapt. Therefore the teaching/research nexus may be defined more fully as having the following attributes:
- Teachers who are informed by the most relevant research with respect to their discipline and pedagogical approach
- Teachers who provide opportunities for their students to engage the most relevant research, develop research skills and perform research as appropriate to the course being undertaken
- Teachers who recognise that, as academics, they work in a multi-faceted environment. According to training, position description and workloads this will variously place faculty in the dual roles of teacher/researcher.
Responsibility for research
Research is multi-faceted. It exists within a broad academic culture, is held within an institutional structure, is conducted by discrete research groups and often uses members of the public as participants. As such, responsibility for research is diffuse. Nevertheless key stakeholders can be assigned reasonable obligations appropriate to their role.
For its part the College recognises its significant obligations to research-active faculty and students. To all are owed a safe workplace, the creation of appropriate policy/procedures/systems to expedite workflow, the provision of appropriate training, the provision of appropriate resourcing for research projects and an appropriate workload.
The College owes specific obligations to post-graduate research students related to the successful completion of their research projects. Foremost, the College will ensure research projects are appropriately structured so as to be consistent with its course accreditations and the AQF. In this way graduating students will be in a good position to make appropriate use of their newly learnt skills. At the commencement of a research project the College recognises its obligations to provide post-graduate students with expert supervision. During the research project the College will seek to ascertain if each post-graduate student has made adequate progress and so indicate whether a successful completion is likely. If not the case, the College will work with the student to assist them to remedy their lack of progress. The College also recognises its obligation to have a rigorous, fair and speedy examination procedure for post-graduate research students. Finally, the College is obligated to have in place grievance procedures for post-graduate students specifically related to the conduct of their research supervisor, or in cases where a research report (eg thesis) is failed.
The Director of Research is responsible for instituting a culture of research within the College. This includes, but is not limited to, seeing that policies/procedures/systems are functioning well as they apply to research-related activities.
The primary responsibility for a research project resides with the faculty member who identifies as the Chief Investigator or Research Supervisor. They are in the best position to evaluate and manage the specific issues and risks of the project. Their obligations include project feasibility, funding if external sources are required, ethics, risk management, safety, project design, methods of analysis and reporting to internal/external stakeholders as necessary.
A research supervisor has specific obligations to a post-graduate student undertaking a research project. For example, supervision of a project only when they are considered expert. A research supervisor is to assist the student to grow into an independent researcher, to assist the student to define the boundaries of their project, to meet regularly with the research student (typically weekly) throughout the duration of the project, to assist the research student to take remedial action if required prior to the end of the project, to assist the research student in the drafting of their research report (eg thesis) and to provide examiners who are expert and rigorous in their assessments.
Chief Investigators (eg Research Supervisors) will work with necessary committees to make sure research projects comply with appropriate community standards and legislation. The role of a Human Research Ethics Committee is to evaluate a research project for its compliance with NH&MRC standards for ethical research and legislative compliance. Once the committee gives approval for the project to commence the project, as described, is deemed to be compliant. In addition, Chief Investigators (eg Research Supervisors) should also evaluate occupational health and safety risks to project stakeholders. This may require them to work with the institution’s Occupational Health and Safety Committee.
Given that post-graduate students typically work independently of their research supervisor they too have obligations in the proper conduct of research. A research student is to be familiar with relevant legislation and guidelines for the proper conduct of research. A research student is to advocate for themselves with their research supervisor, or within the College, so as to be equipped with the necessary skills and resources to complete their project successfully. They are to report any breeches of ethics or safety immediately to their research supervisor. To act with integrity at all times during data collection, analysis and reporting of results. A research student is to comply with the reasonable expectations of their supervisor in all aspects of their project and its reporting. Similarly, they are to regularly attend supervisory meetings having prepared work to discuss. Finally, a research student is to comply with the terms of their candidature including deadlines.
Finally, participants are also active members of any research project. They too have obligations. Foremost, each participant’s obligation is to only participate in the research having satisfied themself that they have given their informed consent. Participants have an obligation to themselves to withdraw from participation if they believe they may be at risk. Participants are also responsible for raising any grievances they may have with the Chief Investigator or Research Supervisor in a prompt manner.