Carrot or stick; how to get faculty to follow deadlines, which way works best? how to get what you need when you need it

The phrase “carrot or stick” is a metaphor for the use of a reward or a punishment to induce a desired behavior. It is based on the idea that a reluctant horse might be convinced to start walking by dangling a carrot or by thumping it with a stick. It comes down to motivation.

We all have various ways of motivating research faculty—deadlines, priority-lanes for early submissions, leadership support, or internal funding packages. A study from Missouri State University found that the strongest predictors of research productivity were more time to complete research (effort) and a diminished teaching load—which together equal, simply, more time to conduct research.

According to this study, the factors correlated most strongly with research productivity:

  • Rank
  • Research time
  • Effort
  • Value
  • Research-related advising
  • Departmental support
  • Self-efficacy for research
  • Intrinsic motivation for research

None of these, in and of themselves, is very startling—almost any faculty member will tell you this exact list. Many of us feel that most of these factors are out of our hands—and you’d be right, to a point. We cannot influence faculty rank, time or effort allowed to devote to research. And we certainly cannot easily change someone’s will, desire, or perceived value of doing research. But, we can influence the bottom half of this list.

What are you doing to help research-related advising efforts? How are you helping with departmental “front-line” support? How can you help change institutional culture and perceived value of research? Consider the following suggestions to help motivate your faculty to do more research:

  • Come up with a rewards system for effort invested, not just immediate (or short-term) measures of productivity. For example, do you reward folks for grants-awarded? Consider a smaller, but equally visible, award for grants submitted as well.
  • Reward diverse collaborative projects between different departments or faculty members of different ranks.
  • Invest time in learning freely available training and professional development technology and/or tools, and pass along the knowledge!
  • Suggest a policy to your leadership that would keep teaching loads to a minimum when high research productivity is expected.

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