The most important outcome of the VP Program to date has been that it has achieved its originally intended goals of enhancing the professional accomplishments of faculty at MSIs by enhancing participant research skills and practices.
Since the program's inception, the number of participants has increased in each 4-yr period since 2001 (), indicating both an interest and a need for the program. Analysis of the racial and ethnic composition of participants shows that African-American and Hispanic faculty members are the most represented among both the applicant and participant pools in all periods of analysis. The increase in the number of Hispanic participants is less consistent than noted for African Americans and may be the result of fewer HSIs contributing applicants. The absence of Native Americans from the population of program participants may reflect the lower numbers of Native American faculty members in the broader academic community. This suggests the need for the VP Program to reach out more broadly to this population, especially to faculty at tribal colleges. Since 2005, there has been an increase in the number of applications and participants to the program from non-URM faculty at MSIs. This observation reflects the need for professional development of non-URM faculty as well as URM faculty.
The numbers of pre- and post-VP publications produced by matched MSI faculty peers, as well as the numbers of pre-VP–era publications by participants are similar (). This similarity may be the consequence of a “ceiling effect,” imposed by high nonresearch demands on faculty members at their home institutions. Specifically, Visiting Professors come from teaching-intensive institutions with larger teaching responsibilities and fewer opportunities for research as compared with colleagues at research-intensive institutions. Many also lack full-time PhD trainees and research staff and depend on undergraduate and master's-level students to complete research projects. Accordingly, limited research time, material, and human resources place a ceiling on the number of publications each can generate.
We hypothesize that post-VP–era increases in publications by Visiting Professors reflect a higher level of self-efficacy following training and may have a basis in the contributions of senior faculty mentoring, research funding, and training environment. This is further strengthened by the observation that faculty members participating in the program more than once published the majority of manuscripts. It is interesting to note that the range of numbers (as indicated by the SDs) of publication by Visiting Professors showed little change following participation in the VP Program (). For the VP population in the post-VP era, in which the average publication output is doubled, the relatively unchanged SDs suggest that the effects of the program are similar among the participants.
Grant-funding successes by Visiting Professors correlated positively with VP training ( and ). Although MSI faculty peers were also successful in securing grants in both the pre-VP and post-VP era, there was an ~50% decline in new grants received by this peer group in the post-VP era. The larger number of grants held by Visiting Professors in the post-VP era is likely a result of VP training, as many of the Visiting Professors report writing collaborative grants with their sponsors and often return to their home institutions energized to sustain their research practices. Many also are likely to have spent more time writing grants during the post-VP era than their peers, as they did not hold the level of funding held by their matched peers. The increase in the SD (from 0.24 in the pre-VP era to 1.38 in the post-VP era) for numbers of new grants secured by Visiting Professors indicates significant variation in productivity among the participants; this might be in part a discipline-specific effect, wherein the amount of funding available and opportunities for funding may not be equivalent in the fields in which Visiting Professors work.
There is a positive correlation between participation in the VP Program and subsequent grant funding. While the average grant size per Visiting Professor increased in the post-VP era, the average grant size for their matched peers decreased from the pre-VP era to the post-VP era. This change is not statistically significant. One peer scientist held an extremely large grant, and thus the mean difference between the two groups was not significant, despite Visiting Professors having a greater rate of funding. Because of the limitations in the survey data, we do not know the frequency with which each applied for funding, nor do we have a complete view of success rates on first submissions. Overall, the federal grant-funding success rates and average sizes of grants among MSI faculty are difficult to calculate, and it is therefore difficult to place the values presented above into a larger context.
Data presented show that participation in the VP Program correlates with other positive posttraining activities and practices. The VP Program participants reported engaging in activities that support their individual professional development and the development of their student trainees. Visiting Professors have also reported that they have been able to bring their experiences into their teaching classrooms. Although the extent to which individuals with bench research experience bring direct benefit to classroom teaching remains debatable (Smeby, 1998
; Marsh and Hattie, 2002
; Pocklinton and Tupper, 2002
), their involvement in classroom biology education does support didactic and other teaching methods (Miller et al., 2008
Finally, the majority of Visiting Professors eligible for tenure and promotion were tenured and promoted. We do not know the significance of this, due to the small number of candidates in this group and the absence of tenure and promotion information for their peers.
It is likely that the effectiveness of the VP Program is due in no small part to the program being one of a suite of opportunities offered to these scientists. Other highly structured, nonresearch opportunities offered by the MAC are among the important foundations and contributors to participant success. Seventeen of the past 32 Visiting Professors have participated in the MAC Linkage Fellows Program, which provides support for outreach activities in cell biology at participants’ home institutions. Twelve past Visiting Professors have participated in the Junior Faculty and Postdoctoral Fellows Career Development Workshop, which provides career development training. In 2005, participation in this workshop became mandatory for all Visiting Professors. Visiting Professors are also required to present their work at the annual ASCB meeting. Together, these activities can reinforce the scientific identities of the participants by building self-efficacy and a sense of belonging to the scientific community (Estrada et al., 2011
At the undergraduate level, there is strong evidence that authentic research experiences reinforce scientific identity and the pursuit of a career in science (e.g., Nagda et al., 1988
; Hathaway et al., 2002
; Russell et al., 2007
; Thiry et al., 2011
; Hernandez et al., 2012
). Similarly, faculty development programs build the networks that support faculty academic success, and faculty lacking access to career development resources lack the foundations for professional success (Hitchcock et al., 1995
; Morzinski and Fisher, 2002). The focus of the VP Program is to engage faculty at teaching-intensive institutions in research activity, thus re-establishing the framework for appropriate career development. Strengthening this framework—comprising skills such as motivation, persistence, mentoring—reinforces the scientific identity of the participating Visiting Professor. More important is the potential lasting and positive effect on the Visiting Professor's students.
The information gathered through the VP Program represents the initial step in longitudinal and retrospective studies that will be useful in defining challenges to individual scientific career development, especially for those from underrepresented groups and faculty at MSIs. Participation in the VP Program has been shown to lay the foundations for faculty members to achieve individual long-term career goals by increasing their engagement in research activities, which impact their teaching practices. presents a model that highlights the important gains linking mentored research practice to the desired outcomes for participants of the program. This model serves as a guide to assist faculty mentors and sponsors to strengthen the development and success of junior faculty. This is especially true at MSIs, where faculty plays an important role educating and preparing URM students for careers in STEM fields.
Figure 5. The working model for junior faculty career development includes practice, gains, and outcomes. The model highlights the expected gains of program participants en route to reaching the desired program outcomes, which contribute to career successes. “Gains” (more ...)
The disparity in research funding between majority and minority scientists (Ginther et al., 2011
) was the focus of a recent report (NIH, 2012a
). In response to this report, the NIH has recently announced new initiatives, including a renewed emphasis on underresourced undergraduate institutions on the premise that these institutions can produce more students prepared for research careers (http://commonfund.nih.gov/diversity/initiatives.aspx
). A key element in the improved preparation of undergraduate students is the ability of the faculty to teach through inquiry and to provide students opportunities to engage in authentic research (Hernandez et al., 2012
). The VP Program offers important insights that can inform the design of effective strategies to enhance the development of MSI faculty. Among the elements that are key to the success of the participants, we present three here: 1) a modest annual financial investment of ~$6000 per participant; 2) the commitment of host scientists; and 3) the willingness of the Visiting Professor's home institution to allow the faculty member to explore new ways to introduce inquiry-based learning into students’ experiences. The patient, often person-by-person investment in faculty development promises to ultimately translate into educational gains that benefit the larger scientific community in terms of scientific productivity and workforce development.