Higher Education Researchers Workgroup

The goal of this group is to bring together qualitative and quantitative higher education researchers working on issues at Berkeley, the University of California, the State of California or elsewhere for the mutual exchange of knowledge, ideas and issues through:
  • Acquainting one another with their respective research
  • Discussing our research strategies, data base use and data issues
  • Engaging with the questions raised by all of our work
  • Supporting each others’ work by providing feedback on substance and presentation
  • Creating an ongoing list of projects past and present for eventual posting on the CSHE website

Format

  • Monthly meetings for an hour and a half
  • At every meeting a check in with new and existing members about their project(s)
  • When possible prior to each meeting an abstract, proposal, raw summary, finished or draft piece should be circulated among the group
  • At the meeting the author informally presents a summary of his or her research questions and issues and does not necessarily make a formal presentation—this is research in progress
  • Depending on the consensus of the group pertinent articles by non-members could be circulated and discussed for the issues germane to the participants
Too often higher education data driven researchers on and off campus work alone and they are unfamiliar with the breadth of research even on the Berkeley campus. There also is not necessarily communication among qualitative and quantitative researchers although many researchers use both types of data. Additionally there often is a disciplinary divide. This group is intended to overcome these to the enrichment of all participants. All are welcome including international visiting scholars who may be working on higher education issues in their own country. 

Meeting Details

Higher Education Researchers Workgroup 
First Friday of every month by Zoom
Graduate students and postdocs are particularly encouraged to attend.

Contact

This workgroup is organized and chaired by CSHE Senior Researcher Emerita, Anne MacLachlan
For more information regarding this workgroup please contact Anne at maclach@berkeley.edu.

Past Presentations

Is Law a "Parallel Science?" Metrics-based Research Assessment and Academic Legal Research

The term "parallel science" was coined by a political scientist, Maciej Górecki, to describe (primarily) East and Central European social sciences and humanities. This ironic term denotes research clusters that are not internationally visible and are published mostly, if not exclusively, in vernacular languages. These two mortal sins render them unscientific and relegated to national bubbles strongly insulated from the rest of the world. In other words, anything that is not published in English and not found in SCOPUS or Clarivate-indexed journals is considered a "parallel science" that should not be treated seriously and financed by the government.

This way of thinking aligns with what many European governments are currently doing while introducing performance-based university funding systems. These systems suit STEM disciplines well, while humanities and social sciences, including law, appear to suffer. Government representatives claim they do not follow the STEM path by default, and their specific role in society can justify publication in national languages. This argument is strongly supported by academic lawyers, who point out that law is strongly connected with national jurisdictions and that academic lawyers analyse mainly domestic legal rules with practitioners and lawmakers in mind. So for lawyers, publishing for an international market is generally the exception, not the rule. The government's response to this argument is, in most cases: "All other academics publish their research in top international journals, so should you. If not, you get no funding. Off you go, parallel scientists."

The purpose of this project is to analyse academic lawyers' publishing patterns to ascertain if they follow the general model of STEM and some social sciences, such as psychology, or if they are truly different from the rest of the pack. We use a mixed-method approach for this purpose: comparative legal analysis, bibliometrics and socio-legal research. The presentation will show partial project results based on the research performed so far.

A preliminary analysis of results of the Times Higher Education Law ranking, Research Assessment Framework (UK), Polish Research Evaluation Exercise, and SCOPUS data shows that academic lawyers tend to have their own publishing patterns and do not follow the rest of the pack. Lawyers tend to publish at home: in national journals, many of them published by the authors’ own university, with only a handful of journals covering more than three jurisdictions. There are no international law journals parallel to Science or Nature where lawyers worldwide publish their texts. Also, the citation data appears different for law as a discipline: they are usually very low, and many papers go uncited. This is in line with what has been found earlier for the humanities. There are at least four possible explanations for this phenomenon proposed in the literature: a) this research is so uninteresting that no one reads it; b) lawyers tend to publish in books and in journals that are not indexed by SCOPUS and other databases, which explains lower citation rates; c) there is a “citation bias,” i.e. academics refuse to cite specific journals or texts authored by people representing developing countries or even (for the US) anything except student-run law reviews; and d) academic lawyers solve real-life problems and their readers are practitioners and lawmakers who use the research but do not write learned texts. The same reasoning has been used recently to explain the differences between citation rates of papers written by male and female scholars in STEM. It has been suggested that female researchers often choose real-world problems, and their work is socially relevant and used more frequently in professional rather than academic contexts. This hypothesis has yet to be tested.

The preliminary results show that the bibliometric data should be used carefully while assessing the quality of academic legal research. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Thus, the results of this project could be used by lawmakers to improve their performance-based funding systems and by university research policy and marketing managers to improve their universities' positions in international rankings.

Next Meeting

"To Enjoy Equal Privilege Therein": The effort to restore minority admissions at the University of California after the repeal of affirmative action

After Californians voted to repeal affirmative action in 1996, admissions of Latino, Black, and American Indian students plunged by half at the University of California ‘s most selective campuses. This talk will present a participant-observer’s view of what happened next.
University officials were forced to reexamine virtually every aspect of admissions policy in an effort to ameliorate racial disparities by race-neutral means. The result was one of the most remarkable and sustained periods of policy innovation in the university’s history. Among other initiatives introduced at this time were UC’s Top 4% Plan, which extended eligibility for admission to top students in every California high school; a greatly expanded program of university outreach to some of the lowest performing schools in the state; adoption of comprehensive review in admissions, a practice that until then had been mostly confined to small, private institutions; and a challenge to the most widely used test in American college admissions, the SAT, a challenge that would have national repercussions. The talk will examine how these various policy initiatives were developed and, with the hindsight of two decades, how successful (or unsuccessful) they proved
to be. Special attention will be paid to the role of data in policy development and the importance of an effective policy narrative in winning support for admissions reforms.

Saul Geiser is a research associate at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from UC Berkeley and taught there before joining UC’s Office of the President in 1981. Geiser served as director of admissions
research for the UC system after Californians voted to end affirmative action in 1996, and he helped redesign UC admissions policy. His work has focused on issues of equity and validity in college admissions, with the aim of identifying admissions criteria that have less adverse impact
on low-income and minority applicants while remaining valid indicators of student preparedness for college. Geiser’s work has contributed to the development of a number of new admissions policies, including UC's policy on Eligibility in the Local Context, which guaranteed admission
to the top four percent (and now top nine percent) of students in each California high school. His research was influential in the UC Regents’ decision in 2020 to phase out the SAT and ACT in university admissions.

To register for this or other events in this group, contact Anne MacLachlan at: maclach@berkeley.edu

Writing the History of the University from the Perspective of Graduate Women, 1870-1919

Writing the History of the University from the Perspective of Graduate Women, 1870-1919

The Role of Universities in Promoting Democracy

The Role of Universities in Promoting Democracy

Get Ready: Introducing the Millions of Adults Planning to Enroll in College

Get Ready: Introducing the Millions of Adults Planning to Enroll in College

Asymmetric Expectations: Faculty Research Roles Under California’s Master Plan for Higher Education

Asymmetric Expectations: Faculty Research Roles Under California’s Master Plan for Higher Education

Immigrant Age-at-Arrival, Social Capital, and College Enrollment

Immigrant Age-at-Arrival, Social Capital, and College Enrollment

Student Learning and Wellbeing during the Pandemic: Evidence from the SERU COVID-19 Survey

Student Learning and Wellbeing during the Pandemic: Evidence from the SERU COVID-19 Survey

The History and Evolution of UC's Faculty Code of Conduct, with William Kidder

Academic Freedom

Higher Education Researchers Workgroup: Academic Freedom

COVID-19 Impacts on Early Career Trajectories and Mobility of Doctoral Graduates in Aotearoa, NZ

COVID-19 Impacts on Early Career Trajectories and Mobility of Doctoral Graduates in Aotearoa, NZ

Can We Ever Forgive Joseph Le Conte?—The Challenge of Names on UC Berkeley's Buildings

Can we ever forgive Joseph Le Conte?—The Challenge of Names on UC Berkeley's Buildings