NASEM Workshop Explores Institutional Barriers and Incentives for Engaged Research

November 18. 2021

The National Academies of Sciences, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education has a Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication that brings together diverse disciplines contributing to science communication research and practice with a mission ‘to more effectively engage allcommunities with science in ways that are equitable, evidence-based, and inclusive.’ On November 12, the Committee hosted a workshop on Institutional Barriers and Incentives for Engaged Research. Stated goals of the workshop included: 

  • To feature different models of engaged research for addressing pressing issues at the intersection of science and society, and explore considerations and challenges for this work  
  • To identify needs and opportunities across the landscape of institutional incentives for engaged research 
  • To encourage capacity building for expanding and scaling engaged research, and fostering institutional change around incentives 


Committee Co-Chair, Dietram Scheufele, University of Wisconsin, introduced the first panel presentation and discussion – ‘Collaboration toward Research Excellence: Models of Engaged Research’. Speakers provided informative and engaging presentations touching upon themes of great interest to many FABBS members eager to connect their research to policy and practice. Also important to consider, is the role of behavioral science disciplines in studying, informing, and advancing research engagement. While engage with stakeholders may sound like a straight-forward first step, many researchers are unsure how to initiate research partnership much less grow them. Speakers identified various challenges including a lack of an established practice that would require a shared definition of engaged research, clear models for scaling knowledge, and metrics and indicators of success. Prioritizing engagement can often work at odds with traditional approaches to academic research. For example, academics are trained to develop their own research questions and then search out situations and conditions to 

In addition, the types of reports and documents that would be most useful to school decision makers or health care providers on the front lines are not typically published in peer review journal articles.  

Researchers shared lessons learned and valuable advice, focusing on the importance of starting with a shared common goal and building relationships. All agreed on the importance of good communication skills – particularly the listening part, ability to translate research into actionable steps, and humility were critical for successful engagement. 

Committee member, Angela Bednarek, the Pew Charitable Trust, hosted the second panel, ‘Needs and Opportunities for Scale.’ Speakers identified challenges, opportunities, and provided examples of how institutions can more effectively support research engagement. One speaker presented that it takes about 17 years for about 14 percent of original research to get translated. 

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