The University of Missouri System (UM; composed of four campuses) knew the time had come for a better way to collect comprehensive information about faculty contributions to the academy as well as collaborations with outside entities such as industry, the local community, and state agencies.
A system fit for a System
To that end, UM went looking for an all-inclusive, coordinated solution to the activity data of over 8,000 faculty members. The solution had to be customized to support the variety of needs over the System, as well as those of all four campuses and the academic units therein (colleges, schools, departments, disciplines, and extension).
More specifically, the solution needed to support the collection of validated CV-based data related to teaching, research, scholarship, creative works, service, and all other types of professional activity in which the faculty engaged. Once collected, the field-based activities and supporting documents would be used and reused to generate any number of outputs for CVs, annual reviews, decision support, collaborator searches, and more.
In 2013, after a rigorous vetting process, UM adopted the Faculty180 faculty activity reporting platform (then operated by DATA180; now part of the Interfolio Faculty Information System) in order to address such needs. After implementation and launch, the product team and strategic-level sponsors realized the solution provided significant benefits for validating and using the data collected.
Here, we’ll consider two such benefits: cleaning up a significant dollar amount in grants data, and fostering networking and collaboration between scholars within the UM System.
Cleaning up $3 billion in grants data
After migrating funding data from its grants offices into Faculty180, UM administrators identified an issue with the accuracy of its inactive grants—those over three years old. Due to recurring communication gaps between the grants offices and faculty members, a significant portion of the funding data was inaccurate. These pervasive inaccuracies contaminated the data normally drawn on for key institutional decisions, and reduced the trust in the information by both faculty and administrators.
As Jana Moore, Senior Project Support Coordinator with the University of Missouri System, summarized the issue: “Faculty thought the grants offices would contact faculty members with updates, and the grants offices thought faculty would contact the grants offices with updates. In reality, nobody was doing either.”
Once the problem was identified, UM committed to a standardized clean-up process for faculty members to access, review, and correct their grant data. The new ability to communicate the affected data between faculty and the grants offices—brought by the System’s adoption of the Faculty180 module—significantly expedited this clean-up process. “This validation process,” Moore noted, “wouldn’t have been possible without making the information available to faculty through our Faculty180 system.”
One UM administrator noted the grants-data clean-up for the 250+ faculty in his division would have taken two years, using normal operating procedures and personnel. However, once the data was in the Faculty180 system, UM was able to clean up the large set of inaccuracies in their grants data within 48 hours. Another key factor in the success of the clean- up, of course, was the swift and coordinated effort by UM administrators.
“Due to the work with our grant offices, we were able to uncover and clean up over $3B (that’s billion with a ‘B’) in outstanding grants that were more than 3 years old. This process wouldn’t have been possible without making this information transparent to faculty.”
Senior Project Support Coordinator
University of Missouri System
In the end, UM was able to correct existing data and to improve its grants-data business processes going forward. Significant results included:
- Grant data corrected and coordinated between systems: $3.0 billion in inactive grant dollars, representing 5,063 grants and including $1.9 billion at the University of Missouri Columbia, were corrected.
- Clean-up time was reduced significantly due to using Faculty180 instead of manual options.
- Usability of faculty data enhanced through:
- Improved business communications and processes
- Improved data transparency and trust in the quality of faculty accomplishments
- Strengthened faculty and administrative buy-in in the System’s faculty data systems
Fostering collaboration and networking
Like every university system, the four institutions making up the UM System represent an enormous reservoir of knowledge, expertise, and potential. However, a consolidated set of data about these assets was simply not accessible or shareable within UM’s academic community. As a result, faculty members possessed limited avenues for finding colleagues with similar or complementary interests for networking opportunities, and for collaborating on grant, research, and creative projects.
Using Faculty180, UM began collecting fielded data that would provide significant benefits for faculty (and their institutions), allowing them to connect, network, and collaborate with colleagues within and between the four UM institutions. Rebecca Edmundson, Faculty Affairs Specialist in the Provost and Academic Affairs Office at University of Missouri-Kansas City (and Faculty180 trainer on campus), noted some key benefits of giving faculty members the ability to search validated faculty data to find colleagues. Here is what she said:
“The first activity I have faculty do is enter their areas of interest, then ask them to search for faculty collaborators on all the campuses using their own keywords. So, one of the faculty members shouts out, “Hey, come look at this!” It seems he had found several faculty on other UM campuses who do computational queuing the- ory (lots of people tag their research as ‘queuing theory’ because they conduct research utilizing queuing theory models, but our faculty were looking for the researchers who develop the actual queuing theory models), and collaborators in this field are extremely difficult to find, so much so that the small group he works with on campus meets every month in an effort to grow their research field and locate new collaborators. He immediately emailed the “Queuing Theory” search matches from the other campuses to invite them to participate in their monthly research meetings! He made more contacts in 5 minutes than the entire group had in several years.
That’s just one story—it happens every time I do a training. Faculty find collabora- tors, chairs find teachers for last minute course stand-ins, etc. It’s amazing!”
UM is finding that such moments, in directly benefiting the faculty members who drive the institution’s mission, go a long way to create faculty buy-in for Faculty180. And the positive impact from such networking and collaboration—on teaching, grant applications, research and publication, and creative works—extends to students, the institution, and society.
Going forward, UM and Interfolio will continue to work together to improve the accuracy and completeness of data collected, and to expand the ability to repurpose the data for new and improved use by all stakeholders.
Founded in 1999, Interfolio is an education technology company based in Washington, DC that offers the first holistic faculty information system to support the full lifecycle of faculty work—from job seeking to professional accomplishment (in teaching, research, and service), to evaluation success (in reviews, tenure, promotion, sabbatical), and beyond. All Interfolio software applications focus on faculty, with workflow tools to support shared governance processes; activity reporting solutions that support accreditation, decision making, and data analytics; and consumer offerings that provide portable, private dossier collection and curation for sharing with academics and others. Working with over 300 clients, Interfolio leads with vision and innovation, always focused on advancing faculty and their institutions. For more information about Interfolio, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org