What is the value in affiliation?

I’m a student on medical leave. I taught a course last year, so I’m also a part-time professor until the end of 2015. In Canada, term adjunct is used differently than in the US – but I would be the US equivalent of an adjunct professor. I now live and work in the US, but still have an affiliation with the University of Ottawa. In September, I hope to be off medical leave and back to full time student status.

I’m also looking for opportunities to teach online in the fall – if anyone needs an ed tech instructor, please let me know ;-). So, there is a chance I may actually be affiliated with two institutions in September. I am also actively engaged in a few research projects. One of them is clearly in my role as part-time professor at the University of Ottawa – so my affiliation is clear. The other projects, however, are not in any way related to my thesis work, nor my role as a part-time professor. So, the projects are in no way related to my work at the University of Ottawa.

Why does it matter? The significance is largely in the form of how I fill in the “affiliation” section of various publications I’m working on, but also on the requirements for whether my research must be approved by the University’s Research Ethics Board.

In Canada, research ethics are governed by the Tri-Council. The statement they make is: Article 6.1 of the Tri-Council Policy Statement (http://www.pre.ethics.gc.ca/eng/policy-politique/initiatives/tcps2-eptc2/chapter6-chapitre6/):

“Members of an institution (i.e., its faculty, staff and students) may be affiliated with other institutions, or may be engaged in consulting or other professional activities in a separate enterprise, or in student co-op work or field placements. If members of the institution make reference to their affiliation to the institution, or use any of its resources when engaging in research, they should submit their research proposal to their institutional REB for research ethics review in accordance with this Policy.”

If the University of Ottawa is not providing any resources for my research, and I do not claim any affiliation in the related publications, then I am not obligated to seek REB approval. It is not that my research is in any way unethical or could cause harm, more that seeking REB approval slows things down and doesn’t add any value to the process. Unnecessary REB approval takes time and effort away from research that does benefit from ethics approval.

I love to collaborate on research projects. I love to do innovative things with educational technology. I despise process for process sake – which unfortunately is what most of my experience has been relating to REB approvals (e.g. changing informed consent documentation to align with templates that make REB approval easier, but actually make the consent process less informed).

In our new world of adjunctification and alt-metrics, does an affiliation matter? Am I better to declare myself as an itinerant scholar than a scholar associated with a particular university? What is the value of the affiliation, especially when the institution isn’t providing any resources to support the project? 


3 responses

  1. foveros Avatar

    I started writing a comment about this, but it seemed to get too long, so I posted the full version on my blog –> http://idstuff.blogspot.com/2015/03/institutional-affiliation-or-itinerant.html

  2. francesbell Avatar

    I am not sure that this is what you mean but the benefit of affiliation that I miss most is access to digital library resources. I think that ethical research can be done outside the confines of institution so best wishes if that is the route you take.

  3. Scott Johnson Avatar

    Rebecca, no zip about the value of academic affiliations but know confirmation of identity certifications matter. Moving to Alberta from 30 years of settled living on Vancouver Island I just took it for granted that people would treat me like an accomplished, if somewhat bent, human. No deal. First my qualifications were “out of Province”–after all, who knows how carpenters decide which end of the nail to hammer on in BC?
    Second, I didn’t really care about working in construction any more and this is something that carries dark messages of thinking too highly of myself or being disloyal to my learned skills.
    Be nice to say this doesn’t bother me except that somehow being open to anything is not particularly good coat to wear. Without some kind of proof of commitment to SOMETHING (Goffman probably has a term for this) it seems the assumption is you are interested in nothing. The opposite of where you wanted to be.

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