…Done dirt cheap? Impact vs. funding in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Lethbridge

Robert Sutherland, the chair of Neuroscience at the U of L, put me onto an interesting report yesterday, P. Jarvey and A. Usher, Measuring Academic Research in Canada: Field-Normalized University Rankings 2012 (Toronto: Higher Education Strategy Associates, 2012).

What this shows is that the University of Lethbridge is on the whole a middle-ranked institution when it comes to impact scores and funding success.

In the Natural Sciences, it comes in at 42 (out of 55) in terms of its H-Index score; and 38 (also out of 55) in terms of its funding, giving it a rank of 40 over all.

In the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), its impact is a bit stronger: at 33rd place (out of 61 institutions), it comes in almost exactly in the middle of the pack:

The real surprise, however, is the University’s HSS funding score: 57/61 institutions, or fourth-last place. The only places that did worse were Laurentian, Nipissing, and Bishops. Oh yes, and King’s (NS) which had no funding at all.

This is a startling difference. The gap is far wider than any other University in Canada, as can be seen when the institutions are plotted on a scatter graph:

It also has a very marked impact on our overall ranking in terms of impact and funding. All other institutions with an impact score in the low 40s (e.g. Memorial, UQ-Trois Rivieres, UBC-Okanagan, and Mount Saint Vincent) are also in the middle of the pack in terms of funding. We, on the other hand, come out in the bottom quarter of the pack:

There are two bright spots in this cloud.

The first is that the scores are not reversed. It is easier to hold your head high if you are achieving higher impact for less money than if you are pulling in more money than your impact deserves.

The second is that our relatively poor funding success is such an outlier that it must be amenable to improvement: given that our impact is about the middle of the pack, the problem is not poor quality research, it is that our research is not being showcased in a way that is bringing in the funding other institutions suggest it should achieve. And that is a question of improving grantsmanship and the way we show ourselves to the world.



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