Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Research Council Satisfaction Survey: an idea whose time has come?

In the UK, there is the National Student Survey (or NSS). The NSS is a questionnaire that all undergraduates take during their final year. They are asked a wide range of set questions and invariably these are used to compile various league tables (often based around the scores given for "overall satisfaction").

There has been several controversies surrounding the relationship between research councils and the wider acacdemic community. Perhaps now is the time to introduce a similar survey that measures the satisfaction of academics regarding the research councils.

Oh, but wait (I can almost hear you say). Won't this give a platform for colleagues to vent anger over unsuccessful funding bids? Our reply: yes, but no more than the NSS gives a similar platform for students to vent over their marks and overall experience. If the NSS can still be an important tool in one area, then why shouldn't a similar survey of academics about research councils be important as well?

The NSS has led to some problems, but it has also done much good. I similarly believe that a survey of academic satisfaction with research councils -- that is anonymous and annual -- would do much similar good. The positive possibilities are obvious. Besides, we keep hearing about how we should justify public expenditures, etc. and extending democracy. This move would make good sense.

So why don't we have such a survey then? It's time to start.

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