A characterization and analysis of faculty activity and productivity reporting systems in research universities
Cooper-Fedler, Pamela Ann
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Proper accounting of faculty time is a major requirement of financial accounting for university research. Time-and-effort, or Personnel Activity Reporting (PAR), imposed on universities by the Federal government through the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Circular A-21, established a set of accountability rules for charging faculty salaries to Federally-sponsored research projects. Despite the fact that the faculty and administrators have repeatedly criticized time-based reporting procedures as being inaccurate and invalid methods for computing and measuring faculty work, it has become a dominant measure of faculty work. In contrast, there are no universally accepted and implemented measures for the enumeration of products resulting from faculty work. This study has been an attempt to present a comprehensive picture of a very complex accountability problem currently being faced by the Federal and state governments, institutions of higher education, and their faculty. Financial officers and institutional research officers were surveyed in this study's attempt to characterize the types, procedures related to, and uses of the faculty time-and-effort and productivity reporting systems employed by the American research universities. A sample of faculty from these universities also was surveyed to determine their perceptions of the accuracy and validity of time-based and productivity-based reporting systems and to obtain their recommendations for faculty productivity measures, and were asked to indicate their perceptions of the validity of more than 200 faculty productivity measures in each of the functional areas of instruction, research, service, and administration. PARS were found to be of little internal use to the institutions or to their external sponsors. Institutions that have faculty productivity reporting systems use them predominately for internal activities such as faculty tenure, promotion and merit evaluations, and are not likely to use them as an external measure of accountability. Faculty see little accuracy or validity to time-based reporting systems, and measures of productivity rated as most valid are not always those most commonly cited in the literature. The population of this study was limited to the 200 "research universities" that had the highest levels of total separately budgeted science/engineering research and development expenditures.