Against the odds: researcher development in teaching‐focused HEIs

Carol O'Byrne (Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland)

International Journal for Researcher Development

ISSN: 2048-8696

Publication date: 20 May 2011



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the emergence of a “researcher” dimension in the academic professional identities of lecturers operating in the teaching‐focused Institute of Technology (IoT) sector of Irish higher education.


Using Margaret S. Archer's social realist conceptualisation of the reflexive formation of personal and social identities as a theoretical lens, life history data from ten research‐active lecturers working in one of Ireland's 13 IoTs were analysed. The research aimed to understand both the factors that influence the development of “researcher” identities in this context and the nature of the identities that develop.


The analysis suggests that sectoral location acts as an obstacle to researcher development but that the restrictions at sectoral level can be counteracted by positive intervention at institutional level. Challenges created by lecturers' involuntary placement in schools and departments that may be home to a range of disparate disciplines can be resolved. This generally occurs through voluntary alignment with alternative collectivities that provide individuals with coherent conceptual homes. Lecturers can and do develop researcher identities in this context but what it means to be a researcher can vary from one individual to the next.


The study provides a valuable insight into the process by which individuals operating in teaching‐focused higher education institutions develop the researcher dimension of their academic professional identities. It should be of benefit to individuals striving to become researchers in similar contexts. Its conclusions may also be of value to institutions striving to develop research cultures and to encourage staff to become research‐active.



O'Byrne, C. (2011), "Against the odds: researcher development in teaching‐focused HEIs", International Journal for Researcher Development, Vol. 2 No. 1, pp. 8-25.

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