Jack of All Trades and a Master at Each

It seems the case that faculty are often put in a position where they are expected to be a jack of all trades and a master at each. Certainly an ambitious and unattainable goal given the multitude of responsibilities faculty (particularly those with dual research and teaching roles at institutions like Virginia Tech) face. The reading about Dr. Bonnie C. Yankaskas fighting demotion after a data security breach associated with Unit 2 in our Preparing the Future Professoriate class brought to light an unfortunate case study where requiring faculty to be experts in (seemingly) everything is potentially problematic. The write-up doesn’t provide enough information for a true judgement call to be made about the degree to which this researcher and others involved should each be held accountable for a hacker accessing research study files that contained personal identifying data of participants, and likely all are partially responsible. However, as principal investigator, the ultimate responsibility for everything related to a study does fall on her. To me, this seems unfair that researchers should also be expected to be IT experts as well, and that perhaps more indirect funds should be allocated to funding research-related IT personnel.

Thoughts? How is data security handled in your respective labs?


About tanyamh

A PhD Student at Virginia Tech. This blog was created as a class requirement for Contemporary Pedagogy - Spring 2013.


  1. Hey Tanya, you pose a really good question, unfortunately I don’t work in a lab so I cannot add to your question, but I do agree that at times institutions place unrealistic expectations on faculty members (they can be experts in their fields but certainly not at everything thing else). In this case, I believe that she was made out to be a example for others (not the right thing to do in my opinion). As mentioned in the article, she was made the scapegoat (somebody had to pay/be held responsible)- I really think it was a political move (where many players were involved). Certainly, this case serves as warning to be thorough in all aspects- for all who take part in research of this scale at public institutions.

  2. You make a really good point. Researchers, who should just be experts at conducting some kind of research in some field, should not be expected to know about everything and have everything under control, even concerning their data security. Probably the best way to handle things like data security is to assign professionals from the institution who are experts in the data security domain, and if the data is hacked it should be their responsibility, not the faculty’s.

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