Canadian Social Science Faculty Survey

4. Discussion

The responses to the Social Science Faculty Survey indicate that there are clearly some issues that attract more interest and research than others, such as diversity, socio-political issues, criminology, governance and family violence. Within each of these areas of interest, the largest proportion of researchers is from the faculty of sociology, followed by political science, psychology, criminology and social work. It is encouraging that a number of researchers are also expanding their interests to the newer issues of new information technology and biotechnology, victims and cross-border crime. As these issues are fast becoming very important in Canadian society, the identification of such individuals is valuable. Even more encouraging is the fact that many areas are of interest across faculties so that almost no areas are limited to one field. For example, while criminologists and sociologists are working in the area of policing, so are a number of faculty members of political science and psychology. This range enables an interdisciplinary perspective and approach to dealing with almost any issue.

This survey, the second of its kind that we have undertaken, contributes to our growing database of information on the nature of justice-related research being conducted by social scientists across Canada. The first survey, the Canadian Law School Faculty Survey, allowed us to gain insight into the nature of research being conducted by Canadian law faculties. The Social Science Faculty Database is another important tool for the Research and Statistics Division as it provides a database of researchers working in socio-political areas which the Department periodically addresses through its justice policy and in response to court challenges. It also highlights some of the research interests of social science professors throughout Canadian universities, and will allow us to contact researchers who are doing work related to the interests of the Department. The multidisciplinary composition of the database is in keeping with the multidisciplinary nature of the research interests of the Department.

4.1 Limitations and Future Recommendations

The primary limitation of the study is that it is not as exhaustive as we would like with respect to the response rate. Although close to 3,000 questionnaires were sent out, 552 were returned and 358 respondents were willing to be a part of the database. There are two possible explanations for the low response rate: First, the mail out was done over the summer, so many faculty members would have been away from their offices between May and August. However, one must also take into consideration that had the questionnaire been sent during the academic year, a great number of faculty members may have been too busy to reply. Second, a fair number of faculty members may not have compatible interests with the Department. For example, a number of faculty members within psychology, the field that makes up a high representation of faculty in the social sciences, study and research a more biological as opposed to social aspects of psychology. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the question where the respondent is asked whether he or she would like to be a part of the database does not have any follow-up questions. In future, we would recommend a follow-up question that asks the respondent specifically how he or she would like to be included, if at all. We would also ask why he or she would not be interested in being a part of the database.

Some other recommendations we would incorporate to make the study better would be to ensure that the questionnaire can be received and returned electronically. This would be beneficial in many ways as it would be less time consuming not only to distribute the questionnaires but also to complete them. Respondents could also submit an electronic version of their CV thus lowering the response burden even further. Electronic versions would also be easily transferred to an electronic database which could then be analyzed much more quickly.

In future, we would also like to expand the faculties and departments surveyed. In particular, we would include history, education, anthropology and philosophy. Many of our respondents in the current questionnaire indicated an affiliation with these departments.

Finally, future incarnations of the survey should be sensitive to changes in vocabulary and categories with respect to areas of study or interest. For example, the broad term "governance" may not be as widely known as its sub-categories (i.e., civil law, legislative amendments).

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