Engaged Research

We live in a rapidly changing world, full of new and long-standing, but newly urgent, challenges. In our age, issues like climate change and poverty defy narrow disciplinary redress, and they no longer respect political boundaries. What once was local is now global and global is now local. The co-creation of knowledge, the joining of forces between practitioner and academic in civic problem solving, may be our best hope. Higher education has a vital role to play by combining rigorous scholarship with democratic, inclusive and impact-focused community engagement. High-quality engaged research meets all the standards of traditional scholarship, plus the expectations and ethical imperatives of community engagement. Engaged scholarship is similar to public scholarship in its public purpose and value, but whereas public scholars take their knowledge to broader audiences, engaged scholars collaborate with community-based partners, drawing on multiple types of knowledge when defining research questions, developing research design, gathering and analyzing data and applying findings. Engaged research is sometimes also referred to as community-based participatory research (CBPR) or participatory action research (PAR).

Andrew Furco, Professor of Higher Education and Associate Vice President for Public Engagement at the University of Minnesota, developed this table to differentiate traditional scholarship and engaged scholarship:

Traditional Research Engaged Research
Breaks new ground in the discipline. Breaks new ground in the discipline and has direct application to broader public issues.
Answers significant questions in the discipline. Answers significant questions in the discipline that have relevance to public or community issues.
Is reviewed and validated by qualified peers in the discipline. Is reviewed and validated by qualified peers in the discipline and by members of the community.
Is based on solid theoretical basis. Is based on solid theoretical and practical bases.    
Applies appropriate investigative methods. Applies appropriate investigative methods.
Is disseminated to appropriate audiences. Is disseminated to appropriate academic and community audiences.    
Makes significant advances in knowledge and understanding of the discipline. Makes significant advances in knowledge and understanding of the discipline and public social issues.
  Applies the knowledge to address issues in the community. 

Developing Research Partnerships

The skill-building curriculum below provides an excellent overview of critical issues and strategies in engaged research. For faculty interested in learning more about potential research partners in the local community, the Swearer Center staff is available to consult; please contact Julie Plaut ([email protected]), Director of Engaged Scholarship at the Swearer Center, and Assistant Dean of the College. Advance-Clinical Translational Research also "serves as a central hub to support and educate clinical and translational researchers in Rhode Island" and is a valuable resource for scholars focused on health.

Related Resources 

  • Research University Engaged Scholarship Toolkit (Hurd et al., 2016, fifth edition).
    • This toolkit was developed "(1) to add clarity to the meaning and conceptualization of community-engaged scholarship in a research university context; (2) to provide a rationale for why to do it and resources on how to do it well; (3) to provide tools and assistance for faculty at research universities to document engaged scholarship for reward and promotion (i.e., how to get credit for it); and (4) to provide tools and assistance for enabling the assessment of engaged scholarship (i.e., for faculty reward and promotion)."
  • IRB Challenges in Multi-Partner Community-Based Participatory Research (Brown et al.). 
    • Faculty from Brown and UC Berkeley and several community partners “report here on the challenges of obtaining institutional review board (IRB) coverage in a multi-partner, community-based participatory research (CBPR) project...discuss how we have navigated our IRB strategy…[and recommend]  guiding principles for navigating IRB issues."
    • Also see the Collaborative Initiative for Research Ethics for relevant teaching materials and presentations.
  • Community-Engaged Scholarship Toolkit (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2005).
    • "The goal of this toolkit is to provide faculty, post-docs and graduate students with a set of tools to carefully plan and document their community-engaged scholarship and produce strong portfolios for promotion and tenure."
  • Developing and Sustaining Community-Based Participatory Research Partnerships: A Skill-Building Curriculum (Community-Campus Partnerships for Health, 2006). 
    • "This evidence-based curriculum is intended as a tool for community-institutional partnerships that are using or planning to use a CBPR approach to improving health."
  • The Community Impact Statement: A Tool for Developing Healthy Partnerships (Gust & Jordan, 2006). 
    • "The CIS is meant to guide early and ongoing conversations between community and campus partners to create health in a partnership as it is formed and the work to sustain it is undertaken."
  • In It Together: Community-Based Research Guidelines For Communities and Higher Education (Community Research Collaborative, 2021).
    • A report from the Community Research Collaborative at the University of Utah offers advice for both community-based and campus-based people who want to do collaborative research. This report is an updated and revised version of the 2007 Guidelines for Community-Based Research (CBR). This new version includes an expanded set of principles and integrates lessons learned from the growth of CBR over the last 15 years.