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Why Can't (They) Be Friends?

Massimo at Exponential Book wonders whether teaching and research "go together like a horse and carriage" — or more like "oil and water." He asks: Does teaching make one a better researcher? Does doing research make one more fit to teach? "The longer I am in this profession, the more I become convinced that the two should go hand in hand," Massimo says. This is not his opinion alone, however. Massimo examines RateMyProfessor.com student evaluation of instruction — or SEI — data against h-indices, catalogued by Thomson Reuters' Web of Science, for 100 university physics professors in an attempt to provide a more objective perspective. A plot of the data — which has a sample average of 3.2 (SD: 0.8) for RMP SEI and 30 (SD: 15) for h-index — shows an "exceedingly weak correlation" between the two variables, Massimo says, adding that potential methodological weakness aside, "the most direct conclusion" to his pilot experiment "is that the two variables are indeed independent." According to his data, "there is a 50/50 chance that either a good/bad researcher will be a good/bad teacher," he says. Still, having heard colleagues lament over the obstacles that research and teaching pose for on another, Massimo considers other factors that may play a role in the relationship between the two. Culture, for example, could be a key influence. Given American universities' push to publish, he says he's left to wonder whether schools are "short-changing [their] own students by putting in front of them a class of instructors selected mainly based on research potential, who may or not have what it takes to deliver in the classroom."

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