Background & Need
The landscape of higher education is rapidly changing.1 There is a shifting focus among universities towards “learning tracks related to innovation, design thinking and entrepreneurship.”2 The positive impact of industry connections, patents and commercialization activities for university faculty has been documented to:
(a) Provide additional funding opportunities for research;
(b) Increase research productivity and student success;
(c) Expand recognition;
(d) Provide tangible societal benefit from the scientific research.3
More and more institutions are integrating I&E in combination with economic development as a third mission within their strategic priorities. As an example of I&E engagement, over 100 colleges and universities now engage in the NSF National Innovation Network.
Despite these endeavors, the commensurate changes in the P&T guidelines of university faculty has not occurred in a systematic way nationally to recognize these “non-traditional” I&E components and foci as valued parts of a faculty member’s duties.
That said, most universities within the United States (and around the globe) have not evolved to incorporate these I&E priorities within the fabric of their P&T guidelines.4 Consequently, faculty are left in the uncomfortable position of balancing their own interests in commercializing their research with the lack of explicit value assigned to I&E within the criterion for P&T to be utilized during peer review and the perceived conflicting high level I&E priorities presented by their institution’s strategic plans.5 For the vast majority of universities, a fundamental expansion is needed in the P&T criterion (for teaching, research, advising and service) to inclusively capture the value of I&E endeavors.