Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The many quiet tensions: Perceptions of the broader impacts criterion held by NSF career award holders at very high research institutions of higher education
by Hallinen, Judith R., Ed.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2014, 161; 3635744
Abstract (Summary)

This research explores the intersection of several truths: 1) American research universities are complex organizations with long-standing traditions that guide faculty behavior. 2) For the US to remain competitive in the global economy, education systems must prepare a diverse STEM workforce to conduct innovative research and development activities. Educators, students, and all citizens must understand the importance of and pathway to STEM careers. 3) Faculty rely on external funds to support their research. 4) The US government distributes tax dollars to support university research activities. The National Science Foundation (NSF) allocates the second largest percentage of federal research funds. 5) The NSF proposal review process includes Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts Criteria, through which faculty must address areas of national need.

These realities are merged in the experiences of new faculty in engineering colleges at research universities in the United States. Junior faculty members who hold a prestigious NSF Faculty Early Career Development or CAREER award frequently struggle to develop a broader impacts strategy that satisfies the expectations of NSF and the expectations of their university. This work examined broader impacts from three perspectives: CAREER awardees from four institutions, faculty and staff who assist awardees with broader impacts planning and implementation, and current and former NSF officials who clarified the Agency's intent in maintaining broader impacts as a factor in distributing funds. The findings revealed many tensions or inconsistencies. Broader impacts is described as "annunciating existing behavior" or as a mechanism to "change the mindset" of faculty. Faculty perceptions, attitudes and behaviors are shaped by messages, often conflicting, that are sent by NSF and colleagues. CAREER holders had positive opinions of broader impacts but provided many different explanations of the intent. Their combined comments suggest changes that could ease tensions related to broader impacts work. Although the goal of broader impacts was not to change universities, this is a consequence as institutions have created mechanisms to support broader impacts work. Faculty noted broader impacts activities are not necessarily considered in promotion and tenure decisions, suggesting that changes represent resource-dependence responses and not true transformation of university traditions and expected behaviors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Zemsky, Robert
Commitee: Armacost, Mary-Linda, Nair, Indira
School: University of Pennsylvania
Department: Higher Education Management
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 76/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Higher Education Administration, Public policy, Higher education
Keywords: Broader impacts criterion, Faculty attitudes, Federal funding, NSF merit review criteria, Research university, University community partnerships
Publication Number: 3635744
ISBN: 978-1-321-17062-7
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