Five Tips for Communicating About Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity at Lindenwood
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Michael Leary, PhD CIP
We spent the last year talking to faculty, staff, and students about their experience of barriers to research and scholarship at Lindenwood University. In talking with students in focus groups about their undergraduate or graduate work, we encountered a number of common themes. Among these themes, students were quick to share that while they had come to Lindenwood because of its reputation as a quality teaching institution with engaged faculty, they had not expected to have life-changing experiences in the context of high impact projects involving research, scholarship, and creative work.
They may have had a sense for the value and importance of their degree, but their vocational light bulb did not really go off until they could put all this knowledge into practice, under the guidance of a faculty member mentoring them through these projects. Through these experiences, students could begin to see their next step and were inspired to think in new ways about their career and educational goals.
We also learned during these focus groups and structured interviews with faculty, staff, and students that one of the biggest barriers in the life of research and scholarship at Lindenwood is in the area of communication. These responses have moved us to explore a bit, to learn from problem solving in other environments, and to think through ways recent scholarship on organizational and strategic communication could shape the way we share information and experiences at Lindenwood.
What can we do?
We are going to be engaging many of these ideas in different workshops for faculty and students over the next few semesters. To get us started, here are five themes for communicating better in this area:
1. Emphasize Integrity: A paradigm shift has been taking hold in corporate environments shifting from systems of compliance to cultures of integrity. In setting a high bar for ethical research and scholarship, the tendency is to grow layers of policy, applications, and difficult review processes. If the aim is to cultivate the values of ethical research, trust, and empathy-driven curiosity, then communicating through a model of integrity will better meet these goals. We are reframing our important institutional ethics and compliance considerations through this “just culture” lens. Lynn S. Pain described this shift well: “When integrated into the day-to-day operations of an organization, such strategies can help prevent damaging ethical lapses while tapping into powerful human impulses for moral thought and action.” In the Office for Research & Compliance, we can:
a. Emphasize conversation and consultation, instead of relying only on written, online
guidance for ethical research design and regulatory compliance.
b. Focus on education and personal mentoring as part of the overall research,
compliance, and funding experience.
2. Tell the Story: Research on values, decisions, and innovation in organizations indicates that having a clear sense for the vision and aims of an institution are essential in shaping our work. In In Faculty interviews and focus groups with students, this was also a common theme, in that inspiring undergraduate and graduate experiences are connected to a broader sense of institutional mission, regional history, and benefit to society. Telling this story involves understanding how the aims of Lindenwood University overlaps with the needs of our regional and community partners, and letting this connection drive new ideas and student experiences. As faculty and staff, we can:
a. Connect courses and assignments with the scholarly and creative heritage of
Lindenwood, helping students see how their work is part of our broader interest in
ethical, quality, community-engaged scholarship.
b. Expand our ability to share projects and successes in social media, open access
platforms, and spaces of cultural or civic interest.
3. Stay Engaged: It is important for faculty, staff, and students to participate in conversations we have around the ethics, safety, and feasibility of emerging fields of research and scholarship. At Lindenwood, we have a number of faculty and student research advisory groups and committees monitoring different ethical and regulatory domains. This will remain a unique feature of the Lindenwood experience, and we will continue to find new ways to ensure we are communicating in person, hearing from our experts, and staying current. As faculty and staff, we can:
a. Connect with the new LU Innovation Hub digest to stay current with Lindenwood
resources and events.
b. Join an advisory group, become a Faculty or Staff Mentor, or recommend students
that would contribute well in our policy conversations.
c. Attend upcoming workshops on new policy and resources for communication in
research, scholarship, and creative activity.
4. Encounter Diversity: One of the most difficult barriers to communication lies in the different needs, assumptions, and experiences we bring to conversations about research, design, evaluation, and innovation. This barrier, however, can quickly become an asset when we become more adept at articulating our perspectives, understanding expectations, and letting this shape unique collaborations at Lindenwood. As faculty and staff, we can:
a. Participate in Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Office for Institutional
Effectiveness initiatives, which offer professional development and skill building in
b. Attend upcoming panel sessions on diversity issues in research, data, innovation,
and public health.
5. Show Your Work: In our recent focus groups, students described seeing faculty and staff conducting research, scholarship, and creative activity as “leading by example.” This is our most effective way of communicating the importance of these experiences across our institution. Any effective enhancement in this area begins with supporting the work of evaluation and discovery, and continuing to build the range of available options. As faculty and staff, we can:
a. Talk to the Office for Research & Compliance about developing strategic plan for your
research programs or student research experiences.
b. Connect to current resources through upcoming workshops in partnership with the
Lindenwood Library on Creative Commons licensing, Open Access and Intellectual
Property, Dissemination and Implementation, and sharing research, data, and evaluation tools with students in traditional and remote environments.
Michael Leary is the Director of the Office for Research and Compliance at Lindenwood University, which supports ethical and innovative research initiatives and funding for faculty, staff, and students. Prior to joining Lindenwood, he has worked in human subjects research ethics administration, research startup and regulatory consultation, and served as faculty in ethics and historical studies at various institutions.