Faculty survey finds concern about research funding

By SUSAN JONES        

A survey in November of Pitt faculty on the Oakland campus showed concern about funding for research projects has increased since a similar survey in May, but fears about access to personal protective equipment have gone down.

Nearly 2,000 faculty members responded to all or part of the survey between Nov. 2 to 15. Of those, 53 percent said they are very or extremely concerned with the ability to address funding impacts on their current sponsored projects, up from 48 percent in the May survey.

Of the 72 percent of faculty who said their research or scholarly work is currently active, 70 percent said it was being conducted remotely. In May, 41 percent said they were very or extremely concerned with the access to PPE for laboratory activities, but now more than 70 percent said they were satisfied or very satisfied with access to PPE.

Other research concerns have continued over the past six months, including:

  • 41 percent are very or extremely concerned with the ability to prepare competitive proposal submissions; the same number as in May.

  • 37 percent are very or extremely concerned with the ability to resume collaborations, domestic or international.

Teaching challenges

Most Pitt faculty (more than 80 percent) who took the surveys in May and November said they received timely updates and informative communications about COVID-19. But in the November survey, 68 percent said they received timely updates to support their teaching efforts.

Access to the internet, reliable communication tools and digital devices were not issues for more than 85 percent of the respondents, both in May and November. But there were other teaching challenges. The numbers below are from the November survey and roughly mirror the numbers from May.

  • 62 percent found it somewhat/very difficult to understand how to best assess student learning in the remote environment

  • 55 percent found it somewhat/very difficult to translate their lessons to the remote environment

  • 72 percent found it somewhat/very difficult to get to know their students

  • 62 percent found it somewhat/very difficult to get students to adequately participate and respond

On a related note, 97.5 percent of faculty said that Zoom worked “very or somewhat well,” and 94.4 percent said the web conferencing tools worked “very or somewhat well.” 

Provost Ann Cudd said in a message to faculty and students last week, “To me, this shows that, even in far from ideal conditions, we are finding and mastering the best available tools at our disposal.”

Student responses

A similar survey found some big differences between undergraduates and graduate/professional practice students.

Only 36 percent of undergrads said they were satisfied/very satisfied with remote learning for the fall semester, while 68 percent of grad students did.

Both groups had issues with the self-care day that the University scheduled on Oct. 14 — 38 percent of undergrads and 46 percent of graduate students said they were not at all able to focus on themselves on the self-care day.

There are two self-care days planned for the spring — Feb. 23 and March 24. Pitt officials have said they plan to stress to faculty members that the days need to be open ones for students without assignments hanging over them.

“I encourage instructors to keep those dates in mind when thinking about exams and assignments — and to keep these days open to take a well-earned pause,” Cudd said in her message. “These breaks, especially in the condensed environment the pandemic has forced, are extremely important to help maximize both mental and physical health for all.”

Find details on the student surveys here.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 724-244-4042.


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