Reliable Faculty Data

It’s a common but complicated task at your institution: answering a specific inquiry about faculty activities.

Maybe the media has inquired about faculty activities relating to a specific topic, or a grant sponsor wants to know how many papers have resulted from their funding. Regardless of who makes the request, you know coming up with the right answer won’t be easy. 

You’ll have to query your faculty directly or consult your faculty activity system, which faculty may not have updated in months, which then requires you to also follow up to see if faculty have any new information to add. The process will require time, and you may not have high confidence in your final answer.

Emory University campus

How does Emory approach faculty data and how will they use the Interfolio Data Service?

As Bridget Mullaney of the Emory University Provost’s Office put it during a recent Interfolio webinar, “With faculty data inquiries, it would take three weeks to get the wrong answer.” 

Over the years, many other academic administrators have echoed this frustration. They told us that faculty data quickly became out of date after an annual update and described challenges with gathering and reporting data.

That’s why Interfolio decided to create a solution that enables institutions to easily and continually update scholarship data: the Interfolio Data Service (IDS).

Our webinar guests included Interfolio Product Manager Katie James, who oversaw development of IDS, as well as Interfolio Senior Project Manager Lauren Wolk and Emory University’s Bridget Mullaney, in the Office of the Provost, both of whom are helping Emory University to pilot the new module.

Below we reveal a few of the perspectives they shared on the challenges of existing approaches to faculty data and how the new Data Service can help institutions. 

So, before that next data request comes to you, you’ll want to learn just how much easier it could be to provide reliable, accurate faculty data.

The data is out there

Data on your faculty’s activities is scattered across internal systems and external sources, such as PubMed, Google Scholar, government grant websites, and commercial subscription services offered by large companies including Elsevier (Scopus), Clarivate (Web of Science), and Digital Science (Dimensions).

Pulling in data from these sources (or buying pulled data) involves a number of pain points, including the struggle to de-duplicate data, the need to standardize the data’s format, and the challenge of correctly assigning particular activities between scholars with similar names.

Interfolio designed IDS to address these challenges, Katie James explained: “We know how hard it is for schools and individuals to piece together faculty data from multiple sources. So, what the Data Service does is find and import that data across sources without your intervention.” 

Moreover, Interfolio automatically cleans up the data, including de-duplicating it, standardizing the format, and matching it to the right faculty member. 

In addition, because Interfolio handles the data importing on an ongoing basis without needing action from the client, it occurs as new faculty data becomes available, whereas most institutions may only gather faculty data on an annual basis. As a result, the Interfolio Data Service enables institutions to have faculty data that is always up to date.

“Another unique feature of IDS,” Katie said, “is that it allows each faculty member to review their imported data records, as they come in, and thereby validate the data as accurate.” 

Katie added that continually updating faculty data better reflects the dynamic professional lives of faculty members: “Scholars are doing research every day, their publications are ongoing, and your faculty information system has to stay in sync with what they continue producing.”

Of course, because the Data Service feeds into Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting, administrators can use Faculty Activity Reporting to query the pool of up-to-date, accurate data and quickly answer the varied faculty data questions and inquiries that arise.

These capabilities, as our guest from Emory University revealed, enable significant operational improvements.

Emory University goes from homegrown systems to hitting data home runs

Before Emory started using Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting, Bridget Mullaney said, “Compiling a simple report of how many books were published by the college this year involved multiple spreadsheets, multiple email chains, and multiple people. Each unit or school was using a homegrown, taped-together system of spreadsheets and different people who only did certain tasks.

“But now, with just a few clicks, the associate faculty dean can have their report in a few minutes.”

This efficiency, Bridget said, makes a huge difference given how often academic deans need to fulfill faculty data requests.

“People ask a dean all the time, ‘How many books were written by this department in this time span?’ and similar very granular questions,” Bridget explained. “Now we can quickly get trusted answers. And all we have to do is a few clicks, and we can have their report sent via email.”

As an example of just how much time this saves, Bridget added, “I was in a few meetings last week where somebody said that they had four weeks to create three reports. And we did it in a 15-minute Zoom session.”

Not only has this made work easier for administrative staff, but faculty like the new system as well, particularly interdisciplinary faculty who are a part of two different schools. Now, instead of having to enter data twice in two different systems, these faculty members can simply validate their data as it’s auto-imported, and each of their affiliated schools can see the member’s data on the shared platform.

Emory University’s faculty in general are finding the new system easy to use and helpful. 

“We noticed that after only a short time in the system, faculty really got the hang of it,” Bridget said. “They saw the benefits and how easy it was to have all their information in one place.”

Find out more about Interfolio Faculty Activity Reporting and the Data Service

If you’re interested in learning more about Interfolio Data Service, including what external sources it imports data from, you can watch the Announcing the Interfolio Data Service featuring Emory University webinar.

You can also dive deeper into the background and challenges addressed by the Data Service by checking out our eBook Reliable Academic Data: How Higher Education Can Gather and Use Accurate Faculty Information.

We’ll bet watching the webinar or reading the eBook won’t take nearly as long as answering a faculty data inquiry using a homegrown system.