Collaborative research and the scholarship of engagement: challenges for academic researchers

Tapp-Neville, Rose Marie (2015) Collaborative research and the scholarship of engagement: challenges for academic researchers. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The purpose of this qualitative, interpretive study was to explore the challenges associated with collaborative research and the scholarship of engagement particularly for academic researchers, to determine the value placed on collaborative research by both academics and community partners, and to investigate how community-university partnerships can be sustained. Academic researchers and community partners from a Community University Research Alliance (CURA) project in a Faculty of Education at a Canadian university, a CURA fellow graduate student, a representative from a knowledge mobilization unit at a university, and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) official were included in the study population. Sixteen interviews in total were conducted and analyzed. The findings of this study suggest that collaborative research is challenging work. Administrative, relationship-related, cultural, and ethical challenges were highlighted. Administratively, it can be very difficult to manage a partnership with multiple projects, and its players having varying levels of understanding of collaborative research. One of the greatest administrative challenges is dealing with the changeover of players, and engaging participants who come to the project later. Clarity of expectations can be challenging since even when one attempts to develop protocols, it can be difficult to predict all issues that may arise. This study demonstrates that academics and community partners do not have a good understanding of each other’s cultural realities which can be the source of frustration when individuals do not understand why the other partner is behaving in a certain manner. Dealing with findings that may not be favourable to the community partner creates ethical challenges. This study demonstrates that the value of collaborative research depends on the perspective of the participant. Some academic researchers and community partners welcome the opportunity to work together in the co-creation of knowledge since they recognize that a more enriched product can be the end result. Other university researchers, holding steadfast to more traditional research, sometimes only engage in collaborative work to gain access to funding, and very quickly resort to more traditional methodologies. For some community partners, the research has little value to guide practice. Among factors highlighted for contributing to the potential success of collaborative partnerships, the level of participant buy-in is noted as having a definite effect. Minimizing the number of partnerships and allowing more than five years may be needed to grow sustainable partnerships. Looking for the “right fit” between partners where interests align could help. Knowledge mobilization units could be beneficial to help connect partners. The creation of memorandums of understanding, advisory committees, and a project manager position are highly recommended. Fostering strong leadership, incorporating succession planning, and the need for ongoing dialogue to help engage participants and create ownership are important. Time release supports for both academics and community partners, and university support through promotion and tenure practices that reward collaborative research involvement can help sustain community-university partnerships.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 11620
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 206-219).
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: September 2015
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Education, Higher--Research; Community and college; Academic-industrial collaboration

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