School research strategy 2011-2014
The School of Social Sciences & Law was commended for its research activity in the School Review report (2009), which noted that “the research profile of the School is very strong”. The School Review panel recommended that a written research strategy should be formulated for the School. Recommendations 7 and 8 stated:
“While there is an implicit research strategy, the Panel considers that the School would benefit greatly from making research strategy explicit and therefore formally embedded in the School.
The School Management Team should include an explicit brief focusing on research leadership with the objective of promoting and further embedding the School’s research strategy and building research capacity.”
The School’s mission  includes a research and scholarly activity agenda. This Research Strategy 2011-2014 document shall guide the research and scholarly activity of the School and its staff until the School Review scheduled for 2014.
DIT Strategic Plan
The DIT Strategic Plan 2010-2012 identifies six key areas of activity for the Institute: Learning, Research, Engagement, Student Services, People, and Organisation Development. Six research themes are identified, including ‘social, economic and business development’, which reflects the research activity in the School of Social Sciences and Law.
DIT Strategy for Research
The DIT Strategy for Research 2007-2011 specifies priority research objectives, including:
- Generate increases in DIT’s research activity and funding
- Ensure research and scholarship positively impacts and underpins DIT’s teaching and learning mission.
The Strategy further states:
“Good research depends on individuals with high motivation who are eager to undertake investigation and to interact with others. However, studies also show that individual aspirations are critically influenced by working environment … DIT will continue to build a supportive research culture and environment as the intellectual and physical seed-bed for sustainable and productive research. Fundamental characteristics of a good research culture and environment include a strong synergy between teaching and research, the promotion of collegiality, collaboration and interdisciplinary activity and appropriate reward, recruitment and other human resource policies.”
The Strategy details the responsibilities of Heads of School to promote a research culture:
“The role of each Head of School in the development of research at DIT is vital. A Head of School is required to demonstrate leadership in research and it is important that each gains and maintains a reputation for excellence in their discipline. Heads of School need to ensure that their respective academic staff are actively engaged in research. This not only forms a fundamental part of the academic contract but engagement is essential to ensure that they remain contemporaneous.”
Research in DIT occurs within the context of staff contracts that require 16-18 contact hours per week during the 24 teaching weeks of the year. It is not surprising that ‘Issues around teaching contract and teaching load’ was the first issue identified in the 2008 ‘Challenges to Research in DIT’ report. The report recommended ‘Not all staff are able or willing to be involved in research. Where this is the case, the individual strengths of those staff should be identified and these strengths deployed in such a way as to maximize their impact on non-research areas while freeing up research active staff to engage in research’.
The DIT Strategy for Research notes “All staff are expected to engage in scholarship and in the case of staff teaching on degree and postgraduate programmes, research is of particular importance” (p. 6). The Institute’s objective is to increase the number of active researchers from 35% to 45% of relevant staff (defined as those teaching on Level 8 programmes or higher).
Current research and scholarly activity
As noted by the School Review Panel, there currently exists a strong research culture within the School. This is evidenced by the quality and range of research publications (displayed at www.dit.ie/socialscienceslaw/research/socialsciences/staffoutput/ and www.dit.ie/socialscienceslaw/research/law/).
Further indicators of the School’s research culture are the annual seminar series of guest lectures on research and scholarly activity, and the recently formed ‘writing group’ which provides a structured collegiate space for colleagues to gather and write. A formal mentoring scheme for junior staff is not in place, but informal assistance takes place at all levels of staff in terms of opportunities, proof reading and advice.
Researchers in the School have collaborated with colleagues nationally and internationally across a range of disciplines.
The Centre for Social and Educational Research (CSER)
The CSER is a research centre that was established in the School in 1997. It aims to impact on social and educational policies and practices through the provision of quality research data. The CSER has a well-established track record of research in the five classified research themes: Juvenile Crime and Youth Justice; Media, Technologies and Civil Society; Early Childhood Care and Education; Higher Education Policy Research (HEPRU); and Social Care (www.cser.ie). The Centre has a strong track record of competing for externally funded research projects and offers a support structure for School staff to prepare research tender documentation, and help in the administration of successful projects.
There are multiple motivations for engaging in research and scholarly activity:
- Personal satisfaction
- Career advancement
- Research is central to the DIT mission and academics’ contracts
- Research enriches teaching
- Research contributes to discipline knowledge and societal good
Each of these motivations is recognized and valued by the School.
What constitutes research and scholarly activity ‘outputs’?
Research and scholarly outputs in the social sciences and law can take many forms including (but certainly not limited to) peer-reviewed journal articles. Other valued outputs include books (text books and monographs), book chapters and reports. Particularly in the area of social policy and the law, staff involvement in policy debates and publications may be classified as both a ‘contribution to community/society’ and as scholarly activity.
The School is mindful of the dominance of peer-review journal articles and related citation indices in institutional research reviews in the UK and elsewhere but argues that wider KPIs (Key performance indicators) are required in our fields of research (see Royal Irish Academy, 2011). Consequently, the School of Social Sciences and Law highly values peer-reviewed publications achieved by staff, but not to the exclusion of other forms of scholarly output.
School objectives and commitments
The School wishes to promote a culture of research and the production of high quality research outputs. Research active staff will be facilitated by the allocation of approved allowances and time-tabling flexibility. Attendance at national and international conferences will be funded, insofar as possible. Research management, administration and budgeting support is available both locally, in the Centre for Social and Educational Research (CSER), and centrally, in the Research Support Unit, DRE. The School research strategy is made up of the following commitments and objectives:
- Proportion of research active staff: Staff will engage in varying degrees of research activity at different times. Given our staff profile, discipline areas and programme levels, the School of Social Sciences and Law expects that 50% + of academic staff shall be research active.
- Number of publications: As per the DIT Strategy for Research 2007-2011, the School aspires to increase peer-reviewed publications to an average of 1.5 per year for each active researcher.
- Funding and Research tenders: The School aims to increase the level of research funding, primarily by competing for external funds. Research tenders should be submitted via the Centre for Social and Educational Research (CSER). Resultant research reports shall be, wherever possible, considered for additional work towards submission for peer-review in academic journals.
- Collaboration: Staff are encouraged to build on existing links and further initiate and develop collaborations with other researchers nationally and internationally.
- School research and scholarly activity committee: This Committee shall be chaired by the School representative on the College Research Committee. It shall meet at least once a semester. See Appendix 2 for Terms of Reference.
- Research and scholarly activity directory: Details of research publications shall be posted on the staff output pages of the School website. In addition, this information shall be updated regularly on individual staff members’ webpages. Where copyright permits all staff shall upload the full-text of their publications to Arrow, the Institute’s repository, as per the Institute's Open Access Self-Archiving Policy (arrow.dit.ie/mandate.html). Similarly, the ‘completed’ and 'ongoing projects’ pages of the CSER website shall be regularly updated.
- Taught MA programmes: High quality theses on our taught MA programmes are often suitable for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Supervisors are encouraged to work with selected students towards this end, and should be guided by the authorship policy vis-à-vis student theses (see appendix 1), where appropriate.
- Staff doctoral studies: The numbers of academic staff with doctorates has grown significantly in recent years. The School shall continue to encourage and facilitate staff who pursue doctoral studies related to the School’s discipline areas.
- PhDs: Our goal is for the School to be an attractive place to pursue MPhil and PhD research projects, with excellent facilities and supervision. In line with DIT and national developments, we shall explore the option of a structured doctorate programme.
Summary of research metrics
- 50% + of staff to be research active
- 80% of staff to be qualified to doctoral level
- To increase the number of registered PhD students to 25
- To increase number of research outputs to an average of 1.5 peer reviewed outputs per year per research active member of staff.
- To increase staff involvement in competitive research tendering applications.
Challenges to Research in DIT (2008).
Dublin Institute of Technology. (2007). DIT Strategy for Research 2007-2011. http://www.dit.ie/media/documents/research/Research%20Strategy%202007-2011.pdf
Dublin Institute of Technology. (2010). DIT Strategic Plan 2010-2012. http://www.dit.ie/media/documents/aboutdit/president/StrategicPlan20102012ApprovedbyGoverningBody29Apr10.pdf
Royal Irish Academy (2011). The appropriateness of Key performance indicators to research in arts and humanities disciplines: Ireland’s contribution to the European debate. Dublin: Royal Irish Academy. http://www.ria.ie/getmedia/2d1c1172-fc9d-4492-aa3b-97581f10c035/Key-Performance-Indicators-2011-Full-PDF.pdf.aspx
School Review Report, School of Social Sciences and Law (2009). http://www.dit.ie/media/documents/academicregistrar/academicregistrar/validationreviewreports/allreports2009/
Appendix 1: Authorship policy vis-à-vis student theses
- The student shall generally be the principal (first named) author.
- The substantial intellectual contribution of the supervisor should be acknowledged by listing him/her as an author.
- During the writing process student and supervisor will collaborate and agree on the final version to be submitted for consideration for publication.
- These arrangements should also apply to Conference presentations/proceedings.
- If work is published from a dissertation, it should be acknowledged that the work was undertaken while studying at DIT.
- Any exception to these arrangements should be discussed and agreed within the supervision relationship.
Appendix 2: Terms of Reference for School Research and Scholarly Activity Committee
- To promote high-quality research across the School
- To act as a conduit between the College of Arts and Tourism Postgraduate Studies and Research Committee and the School of Social Sciences and Law with regard to research strategy, policies and developments.
- To improve communication about research issues within the School; and raise awareness of local/national/international research issues and developments relevant to the research interests of School staff
- Advise on guidelines and procedures to assist in the allocation of resources for research and postgraduate education;
- Monitor Institute and national developments in structured doctorates and advise the Head of School accordingly
- To periodically review the School Research Strategy document
- To consider and promote means of maximising research and research outputs through PhD studentships.
- To advise the Head of School on issues relevant to the remit of the Group.
 “Our Mission is to strive for excellence in teaching, learning, research and practice across the social sciences and law; to provide a collegial environment for colleagues and students; to support students in reaching their full potential; and to engage actively with the wider community.”