Being Academic Researchers: Navigating Pleasures and Pains in the Current Canadian Context

Michelle K. McGinn


Research productivity and research capacity development are increasingly important to universities in a globalized world, and have considerable implications for the academics who staff these institutions. The current neoliberal and managerial context has heightened pressures on academics to do more and to be held accountable to higher standards for research. The proposed paper is based upon qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with 10 tenured or tenure-track academics from social sciences, humanities, and education, representing diversity by sex, discipline, and career stage. All participants work at a Canadian university that is transforming from a primarily undergraduate to a comprehensive, postgraduate institution with an increasing emphasis on research, including collaborative research. The interviews addressed the academics’ motivations, pleasures, satisfactions, and challenges as researchers in the current context, with particular attention to tenure-and-promotion decisions, research projects, research reports, research grants, and research collaborations. Regardless of career stage, the academics expressed concerns about the pressures they faced and the ways that those pressures affected their institution, their fields, and themselves.


academic research; accountability; tenure

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ISSN 1715-0094  Workplace