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Tenopir Returns to the Faculty

Chancellor's Professor Carol Tenopir

On July 1, 2014, Chancellor’s Professor and BOV Professor Carol Tenopir will step down from her CCI research leadership role and return to the SIS faculty where she will continue her own research and work with students.  An internal search is currently under way to find CCI’s next director of research/director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies (CICS). On the occasion of Tenopir’s decision to return to the faculty, this article takes a look back over her 11 years of service as CCI director of research/CICS director to pay tribute to the tremendous impact she has had on CCI.

A strategic goal of the University of Tennessee’s “Journey to the Top 25” is to strengthen productivity in research, scholarship, and creative activity.  In 2002 when the College of Communication and Information (CCI) was being formed, a vision for establishing a culture of research emerged as an important college-wide objective.   To help make this happen, then UTK Chancellor Lauren Crabtree asked SIS Professor Carol Tenopir to become Director of CCI’s Center of Information and Communication Studies effective Aug. 1. 2003.  Two years later, the title of CCI Director of Research was added to her duties. In 2008, she was named as one of UTK’s inaugural Chancellor’s Professors, and, in AY 2012-13, she was appointed as the inaugural CCI Board of Visitors (BOV) Professor. 

On the occasion of her decision to step away from her administrative role, Tenopir noted, “Much of social science research is done without external funding sources. However, conducting research with external funding enables research to move from regional in scope to national or even international.  It attracts more positive attention to the University and the College and ultimately attracts research partners, ideas and opportunities.” 

Students working on externally funded research projects gain several benefits including: invaluable research experiences that allow them to gather and analyze research data and write research articles and reports that help establish their own academic reputations, tuition waivers to help pay for their graduate degree, and travel funds allowing them to present research at conferences. CCI graduates who have participated in externally funded research projects have also been able to translate their CCI research experiences into jobs at other academic institutions, for governmental/non-profit entities and/or for private industry.

Establishing CCI as a research leader has also enabled the College to strengthen its relationship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  That relationship has yielded several other opportunities for CCI and ORNL.  Those opportunities include SciData, ScienceLinks2 and Developing a Model for Scientific Data Curation Education in Research Centers (DCERC).

As a result of her research leadership within CCI, Tenopir has helped to significantly expand the base of sources from which CCI researchers receive funding.  Whether as the research lead or as a sub-contractor, CCI has participated in many important grant projects for entities such as the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the National Science Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, IEEE, and the US Geological Survey.  These research projects have provided opportunities for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary and transformational collaboration and partnerships. She has also helped CCI greatly expand the number of faculty members engaged in sponsored research by increasing CCI’s faculty participation rate from the single digits to 57%.

CCI faculty members get the benefit of working in a research environment where they can learn the processes and best practices for securing external funding for their work.  SIS Assistant Professor Wade Bishop commented, “I’ve worked in a number of great research centers, but never with a group as phenomenal as the CICS staff. They are incredibly knowledgeable about every step of the research process from identifying sources of funding, to narrative and budget writing, and to administrative details such as hiring assistants, traveling, and purchasing equipment. The CICS staff is an anchor for CCI faculty in today’s turbulent external funding waters.”

Under Tenopir’s leadership, CCI faculty have led grant projects that have attracted positive attention to UT for their civic and social benefits, contributed critical medical and health communication findings, benefited science and technical publishing research, and provided high-tech engineers with communication tools to enhance their collaboration both in the U.S. and in India.  These and many other research projects have been produced through collaborations within and among CCI’s four schools. 

In addition to Tenopir’s profound impact on CCI’s research culture, she also recognizes the importance of “paying it forward.” Tenopir and SIS Adjunct Professor and BOV member Don King recently donated the funds required to create the Tenopir-King Endowed Research Fund, which will provide recent Master’s and PhD graduates with experience conducting real-world research.  These post-graduate experiences will make CCI graduates more employable by allowing them to acquire critical real-world skills and knowledge.