Taking Charge — Episode 4

“Ok, what is the upside of the subsidy? I think I know, but I want your assessment, George,” Marie opens.

“Faculty members publish journal articles, that get cited, and over time increase their h-index,” George responds.

“An h-index of N means that you have N or more articles cited at least N times.  Right?”

“Yes.  The greater your number of citations and the higher your h-index, the greater the impact you are having on other researchers.”

“What does that translate into for us?” Marie asks.

“It has been shown that a linear combination of number of articles published, number of citations, and h-index, summed across all your faculty members, is a strong surrogate for the your university’s ranking.”

“That makes sense.  When I was a voter for US News & World Report rankings, I always based my ratings on who I knew and what I thought of their research at each university,” Marie observes.

“The rankings matter.  Students tend to seek the highest ranked university that they can afford.  As the leader of Beresford, this presents you with a key strategic tradeoff.”

“Brand value versus budget?”

“Exactly.  You can decrease tuition by lowering faculty costs by hiring more non-tenure track faculty, whose teaching loads are higher and salaries are lower.  But, such faculty members do not publish and gain citations.  So, your brand value will suffer.”

“Of course, it will not suffer immediately, so I could create surpluses now, and pay the price later.”

“You certainly could do this, but I have a better idea,” George responds, and asks Brad and Mary to join the conversation the next day.

“Brad and Mary have performed an analysis of BIT faculty members in terms of contributions to brand value, as we defined it in our last discussion,” George opens.

“I am anxious to see your results,” Marie responds.

“The overall result is that 20% of your tenure-track faculty members are contributing 80% of the brand value,” Mary reports.

“The old 20-80 rule, so not surprising.”

“Yes but given that only 50% of Beresford’s 200 faculty members are tenure-track, we are talking about only 20 people and, in fact, it is 17 people,” Brad adds.

“What are all the rest doing?” Marie asks.

“They are working harder and harder to achieve less and less success,” George interjects.

How so?”

“The demand for sponsored research monies and publication in top outlets has been strongly increasing for quite some time.  Hence, the probabilities of success keep falling.  So, our faculty members write more proposals, most of which are declined,” George summarizes.

“What about the 17 faculty members you just mentioned?”

“They are doing quite well.  The program managers at agencies and editors at the top journals know them and respect them.”

“Perhaps we should add a few stars to the 20% and have the 80% do more teaching.” Marie observes.

“Makes sense to me,” George remarks. “We keep investing $500,000 in assistant professors and, if we are lucky, one in five makes it to the 20%.”

“Or one in five becomes a strong player and is wooed away by our competitors.”

“The data support that conclusion,” Mary notes.

“Ok.  We will shift our focus to hiring a few proven stars and away from so many junior faculty members.  I will meet with the Provost and Deans to discuss this.”

“That should be an interesting discussion,” George observes.

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