Universities and colleges are places of higher learning.
That doesn’t just mean for students. Some of the greatest discoveries of the 21st century have been made in staff and student research laboratories. In fact, U.S. universities received almost 70 billion dollars in funding for research in science and humanities last year. Learning doesn’t come just through teaching, it comes through discovery as well.
The problem is that faculty has long stated that they often spend as much time on research as they do on administrative tasks related to their research. This takes time away from other, more fruitful activities. According to an article from Forbes:
A commissioned review of the University of California Los Angeles pointed out that the university spends about a billion dollars a year on research but lacks a “formal, guiding technology strategy for research administration.” In aggregate, administrative inefficiencies impose burdens on researchers. It diverts time and attention from more productive activities; it delays experiments and raises the costs of doing research. There are roughly a million faculty and academic researchers in the U.S. – which means reclaiming even one hour every week from admin by using technology would be worth trillions of dollars annually.
Scientific research in universities contribute to new medicine, breakthroughs in scientific fields, and advents of new technologies (some that could cut down on administrative tasks for researchers). It is true that faculty should be worried about teaching students, but students are involved in this research as well. Not only that, by cutting down the time faculty spends on administrative tasks, it gives them more time for all endeavors – teaching, researching, mentoring and writing scholarly papers.
Forbes mentions a few spots where technology could help unburden faculty when it comes to research:
- Building Research Teams – To build a research team you need to find team members, and this task often falls to faculty. Better matching platforms could help faculty discover students that are willing and qualified to aide in research.
- Enabling Collaboration – Interdisciplinary collaboration can allow researchers to pool resources, conduct peer reviews, and diversify the workforce. Most research papers today feature multiple authors, so faculty are already working together. Sharing data, equipment, and information through collaboration platforms will boost all research efforts.
- Harnessing the Cloud – Cloud-based digital platforms offer a centralized location for data, documents, new findings, peer reviews, and more. It lets faculty track inventory and manage procurement. Faculty can keep track of where things are, what’s happening, and what’s being discovered in other labs. Not only that, researchers from different institutions can work together or check each other’s work much more quickly by having a central location where information and critiques can be stored.
At higher education institutions the student should be the first priority. That doesn’t mean other priorities don’t exist. We rely on colleges and universities to further our understanding of the universe, the planet, medicine, science and more. By cutting down time on administrative tasks that further no learning, we can help faculty make discoveries and teach students.