Evaluating the impact of research produced by a mission-directed emergent university.

Author:Ivey, Paul W.

Introduction and Contextualization

Brief History of UTech

The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), succeeded the Jamaica Institute of Technology (JTI), which was established in 1958 and re-branded as the College of Arts, Science, and Technology (CAST) in 1959. On September 1, 1995, the Jamaican Parliament accorded CAST university status under its current name, the University of Technology, Jamaica (Sangster, 2010). The mission of the University of Technology, Jamaica is: "To stimulate positive change in Caribbean society through the provision of high quality learning and research opportunities and service to our communities" University of Technology, Jamaica, Student Handbook, 2012-2013, p.1). UTech is viewed as Jamaica's National University, with a student population of more than 12,000 pursuing more than 50 programmes at certificate, diploma and undergraduate and graduate degree levels through three Colleges and five Faculties. The history of UTech and the contributions of its staff and students are intimately connected with the social and economic development of Jamaica.

UTech's Research and Innovation Management Ecosystem

It is generally agreed that research output is one of the key indicators that sets a university apart from other post-secondary institutions (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2004). Also, research is central to the very appealing idea of the university as an autonomous entity with the freedom to make its own rules (Lemann, 2014). On being accorded university status, it was important for the newly-created University of Technology, Jamaica to establish and implement a coherent research agenda and a supporting ecosystem of research management. Accordingly, the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (ORGS) was initially established (Onyefulu & Ogunrinade, 2005).

However, in 2007 with the appointment of a new president who set about establishing research and graduate studies as major thrusts at the institution, the ORGS was replaced by the School of Graduate Studies, Research, and Entrepreneurship (SGSRE) as the unit responsible for Research and Innovation Management (RIM) at UTech.

Two imperatives motivated the change from the ORGS to the SGSRE. One, an understanding that "research management" comprises a distinct suite of activities separate from the conduct of research itself (Association of Commonwealth Universities [ACU], 2004). And two, the fact that university-based research has come to be seen not merely as the catalyst of economic growth, but a vital part of the research-innovation ecosystem. Indeed, the concept of the "knowledge economy" based on the application of scientific knowledge as the key source of economic and political power, and social and individual prosperity is now one of the main paradigms across the world. This correlation is strongly promoted by the OECD, the World Bank, UNESCO, and the European Union, among others, and by many national governments (Hazelkorn, 2012).

Key Institutional Research-Related Initiatives

Directed by its mission, "To stimulate positive change in Caribbean Society through the provision of high quality learning and research opportunities and service to our communities," key institutional research-related initiatives are included in UTech's Strategic Plan (Table 1).

In addition, through a consultative process led by the SGSRJE, "research focus areas" have been identified reflecting the perceived strengths of the university that may be applied to address significant social and economic problems nationally (Table 2).

The SGSRE has been designated "owner and driver" of UTech's strategic research-related initiatives and is required to provide performance status reports on them at monthly meetings of the university's executive management committee. Supporting the work of the SGSRE are College/Faculty Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Coordinators (C/FGSRECs) serving as the critical link between the SGSRE and the various academic units within the university (University of Technology, Jamaica, Research Policy, 2009, p.3; School of Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship, 2014).

Research Management Support for Staff

Pre- and Post-Award Support Services

Recognizing the importance of research to its legitimacy as a university and the benefits that will accrue to its "proximate stakeholders" (i.e. primarily the people of Jamaica) from its research findings if it remains faithful to its mission, UTech through the SGSRE has implemented several initiatives and provides a suite of pre- and post-award support services aimed at promoting and encouraging staff involvement in research (Table 3).

Internal Research Grant, Research Award, and Research Journal

The SGSRE also manages a competitive, internal research grant fund--the Research Development Fund (RDF). The RDF is an institutional fund, which was originally established in 1998 to stimulate a research culture and build the University's research capacity. The fund has been revised a number of times since its inception to respond to the growing needs of staff, and in keeping with the University's research agenda. The RDF provides funding for the following activities:

  1. Research projects.

  2. Publication fees for books, book chapters, and peer-reviewed journal papers.

  3. Research capacity-building activities.

  4. Protection of intellectual property.

    In addition, the SGSRE is the secretariat with responsibility for selecting annually the awardee for a major cash incentive, the President's Research Initiative Award (PRIA), which is the university's most prestigious award. The purpose of the award is to stimulate research and scholarly activities by encouraging and supporting individuals who demonstrate exceptional ability through their scholarly activities, research publications, research income generation and grants secured, creative research activity and other research outputs. Since its establishment, 11 members of staff have received the PRIA.

    Action is also taken by the SGSRE on an on-going basis to improve the support provided to staff, to encourage research activity among them. So, for example in 2011, the scope of activities eligible for RDF funding was expanded to include covering the costs of staff members' papers accepted for publication by peer-reviewed journals. Also, in the same year the SGSRE re-launched the University's Journal of Arts Science and Technology (JAST), which publishes peer-reviewed papers in the areas covered by the three colleges, five faculties and 18 schools of the university. JAST is thus a medium through which staff members may publish the results of their research, alongside other researchers in other institutions and countries.

    Research and Technology Day

    The SGSRE is also the chief organizer of UTech's annual Research and Technology Day, which provides an opportunity for the university to display its research work and capabilities to stakeholders. The event facilitates interaction between the university and its various publics. In so doing, the university not only showcases the research work of its researchers, which is of value to the society, but also seeks to develop strong linkages with industry, academia, and with government. And the most recent initiative under consideration is a proposed re-organization of the SGSRE for greater effectiveness (Ivey, Streete, Henry & Oliver, 2012; Ivey, Potopsingh, Henry & Oliver, 2013; School of Graduate Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship, 2014).

    Engagement with the Global Research Management Network

    Beyond the provision of support services to staff researchers, the University of Technology, Jamaica, through the SGSRE, has also engaged with the Global Research Management Network (GRMN), which is managed by the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU) and is "dedicated to the development of international collaboration amongst the research management community" (Research Global, 2010, p.3).

    In 2009, the University of Technology, Jamaica became the Caribbean partner on the EU/ ACP-funded Science and Technology project, "The Improvement of Research & Innovation Management Capacity in Africa and the Caribbean for the Successful Stimulation and Dissemination of Research Results (RIMI4AC)." The RIMI4AC project, which ended in November 2013, was funded at 2.6 million [euro] under the Science and Technology Programme of the ACP with support from the European Union. The specific objective of this project was to strengthen the capacity of research institutions in the regions for sustainability, to effectively...

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