Faculty activity reports move online

Faculty members can now submit their annual reports on their professional accomplishments this winter with only a few simple clicks and keystrokes.

In a Jan. 3 memo to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, then-Provost Peter Salovey unveiled a new web-based activity report, which professors must fill out once a year to help the University track their research, work responsibilities and the grants, honors and awards they have received over the past year. The online form, developed over the past several months by the Provost’s Office and Faculty Administrative Services, replaces the Microsoft Word documents used to collect this information in recent years. Professors interviewed said the online system has the potential to be much easier for the faculty because it reduces the level of manual work required of professors.

“It’s really a total revamp of the process,” said Timothy O’Connor, associate provost for science and technology. “We’re getting rid of a clumsy form and instead aiming to reduce the burden on the faculty.”

The activity reports, which are due Feb. 1, are used to keep Provost’s Office and departmental records up-to-date and are reviewed by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Steering Committee in annual deliberations about faculty salaries, O’Connor said.

In previous years, faculty members downloaded a form consisting of many fill-in-the-blank boxes and either filled it out in Microsoft Word or printed it, completed it by hand and scanned it back into the computer. The reports were then emailed to the department chairs.

O’Connor said most professors keep their own records of their activity in the form of a curriculum vitae, or CV, but the old system required professors to re-enter all the information manually. The new, web-based form has just two text boxes and a button for directly uploading one’s CV. The remaining information, such as details about grants and course enrollment statistics, will be merged automatically with the records kept by the Provost’s Office, Salovey said in the memo. Professors will have the opportunity to review the final form before it is sent to department chairs, and can notify the Provost’s Office of any necessary corrections, he added.

O’Connor said the new form enables the faculty to submit a CV with any format, and provides two additional boxes asking them to “self-identify what they consider their most important accomplishments” and to detail their service to the University in the past year. The new forms are more environmentally friendly and are more convenient than the old system, Salovey said in an email to the News.

Before rolling out the new forms, the developers asked a small group of faculty to be beta testers. O’Connor said some feedback he received from the test group led to several improvements in the form.

Chair of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Ronald Breaker, who has used the online form, said the process is “vastly improved from previous years” and cited the ability to upload one’s CV as a particularly useful feature.

“Faculty members regularly keep their CV up-to-date as part of the materials submitted when applying for grants, and so this feature greatly simplifies the reporting process,” he said.

William Kelly, professor of anthropology, said he would evaluate the success of the new form after he sees whether electronically gathering information from uploaded CVs as well as from the records in the Provost’s Office can be accurate.

Anthropology professor Joseph Errington, who has not filled out the report yet, said he liked the idea of the text box component of the web-based form because it allows professors to describe their achievements in their own words.

“They say they want a prose narrative, and that’s easier than filling in boxes,” Errington said.

The final reports will be sent to department chairs on Feb. 15.

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