Who We Are
Waterford Institute of Technology is one of Ireland’s highest performing higher education institutions when it comes to research. The research community is supported by the Institute’s RSU (Research Support Unit), a unit that facilitates, guides and assists with the cultivation, management and growth of research within WIT. The RSU’s mission in particular is to provide timely and accurate information, services and advice to support and inform the effective and efficient management of funded research activity at the Institute.
What We Did
WIT Research Connexions is a research support scheme comprising ten funding pathways to enable and support research activity across the Schools of the Institute. The scheme provides the WIT academic and research community the opportunity to apply for funding to enhance research activity, promote research networking and connections, increase competitively won research funding, increase the level of dissemination and public engagement, increase the number of quality peer-reviewed publications and encourages and supports open access.
The Connexions scheme operates through the development of a range of time buy-out options and of various funded roles within Schools. The scheme operates within existing staff contracts but re-visions workload allocation practice to ensure the talents of faculty are channelled into effort that will enhance the professional profile of individuals and bring benefit to the Institute.
Amongst the range of support initiatives, Connexions allows for the buying out of time to prepare and write external research funding/grant applications. This is known as the WIT Research Connexions Grant Preparation Support Scheme (GPSS). Under the scheme, full-time academic staff apply for up to five hours relief from teaching on their timetable per week over a semester (12 weeks) for preparation of a national or international competitive funded research proposal exceeding €80,000 in value to the Institute. A successful award involves the allocation of funding to the relevant Department to fund the replacement teaching hours during the semester.
A pilot of the GPSS scheme has resulted in the generation of considerable funding for the Institute as well as opportunities for the professional development of staff and further enhancement of the WIT research profile. In summary, for an investment of €33,261 (teaching relief cost), the return was research grants worth a total of €1,636,300 (a 49 fold return) and the overhead contribution of those grants was €292,896 (a 9 fold return).
The scheme has the added benefit to the Institute of establishing a more robust methodology for validating and accounting for research effort, notwithstanding the inbuilt limitations of the standard academic contract. Connexions highlights the benefits of a more focused and targeted approach to investment, underlining, in this respect, the real value of a strategic approach to resource allocation.
What We Learned
The project has allowed the Institute develop a more robust methodology to validate research activity formally through the institutional timetable system (and thus giving certain activities associated with research, such as grant writing, formal recognition within the faculty contract), critical for building a positive research culture. Linking the time allocation to high-value funding calls greatly incentivises faculty to pursue those grant applications; as such the scheme is a useful mechanism to encourage beginning researchers to apply for funding, especially in areas where this is not the usual practice. The scheme has been helpful in building a larger career structure for researchers and faculty. Finally, the scheme has positive impact on encouraging researchers to pursue other funding opportunities even beyond the grant application for which the hours are allocated.