Research as principal criterion of faculty recruitment

Flor Lacanilao
Retired professor of marine science, UP Diliman

(An earlier version of this piece was previously sent to a former UP colleague.)

The relationship between research productivity and teaching effectiveness has long been established. Studies have shown that (a) the two are positively correlated — teaching effectiveness benefits from research productivity, (b) research and teaching as complementary activities is central to the idea of the modern university, and (c) these two activities are so mutually reinforcing that they must coexist in the same institutions.

Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg, president emeritus of The Rockefeller University, says, “Research is no longer an ancillary function of the university; it is the principal criterion of recruitment to our major universities.” It is also the most objective and reliable criterion for faculty promotion. Assistant professors are hired without teaching experience.

In our hiring practice, however, teaching remains the principal criterion, when there is hardly an established measure of teaching performance. We consider length of teaching experience important, without really knowing that one may have been a bad teacher.

This lack of emphasis on research is the reason why we don’t make it in university rankings if indicators for research performance are used. In university rankings done by a leading Chinese university (2003-2006) using such indicators, for example, none from the Philippines has yet made the top 100 in the Asia Pacific or in the world’s top 500 (Scientometrics 68:135-150, 2006. Also posted at http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/ranking2006.htm).

Another common practice at our universities is to choose the needed field of specialization over research track record. Overlooked is the scientist’s creativity and ability to teach a related undergraduate course, as long as this is within the same major field (e.g., biology). Some scientists even change fields to maintain their creativity.

Darwin, for example, worked on unrelated disciplines — including genetics, psychology, geology, taxonomy, and ecology — to continue being productive. He wrote books on Origin of coral atolls, Geology of South Africa, Pollination of orchids, Ecology of earthworms, Evolution, Human emotions, Taxonomy of barnacles, and Movement in plants.

Your predecessor made the first step toward improving your department in hiring two well-published PhDs. I think they are among the best published members not only of your faculty but that of the entire college. There are more of their kind out there who may be willing to teach at UP. I suggest you don’t wait for applicants; actively search for them.

Now that UP is rewarding those who publish in int. refereed journals, making research the chief criterion of hiring will meet the approval of your staff. I think you should avoid hiring a PhD without primary publications in int. refereed journals.