Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thom Brooks on joint appointments

. . . can be found here at the Times Higher Education. An excerpt:

"[. . .] The merits of these developments may be debated. But there is no disputing that the universities, research funding bodies and the government are all committed to this process, actively encouraging greater collaboration between academic disciplines. Why then are joint appointments virtually absent from the UK sector?

The current system works against such appointments. A prized academic working in two different disciplinary departments would count for less in each than someone working in only one.

For example, such an academic may count as no more than 0.5 staff in each area, which reduces the impact of their work in research assessments. It is far more valuable for a department to keep its professors all to itself than to share them with others.

[. . .] In any case, many academic staff already teach and research in more than one discipline. Joint appointments would recognise the actual contributions that staff are already making.

This method of working has been a great success elsewhere, for example in Canada and the US, in a variety of fields. Professors who have joint appointments are highly prized and their status is often a clear acknowledgement of the breadth of their influence.

Various combinations of joint appointments in business, classics, economics, law, medicine, philosophy, political science and other subjects are far from unusual outside the UK, and make sense: each of these disciplines may benefit from greater interaction with others.

Joint appointments are not the only path to fostering such interaction, but they might help to build more lasting bridges between disciplines than funded research projects. Projects come and go, but such appointments will often last far longer and potentially have a far greater effect on relevant fields of study and the university teaching and research environment.
By failing to offer joint appointments, the UK actually suffers a competitive disadvantage in relation to North American universities. [. . .]"

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