Research Into the Effects and Affects of Broader Impacts and Research Impact Initiatives

For the last twenty-five years there has been an increased emphasis on the importance of broader impacts. Mostly in part to the establishment of the broader impacts criterion instituted by the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, there is a limited amount of information provided on the importance, affects, and effects of broader impacts.

So, below I have provided an on-going qualitative and quantitative studies snapshot of the affects and effects of broader impacts and research impact initiatives…

When quality of all proposal aspects are controlled, data being collected suggest that those who have and work with a seasoned institutional broader impacts office or specialist are 5 to 16% more likely to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) award compared to those who don’t have access to these resources. This award range depends on how, when, and the frequency that broader impacts help is indirectly or directly provided for a NSF proposal. Whether this is permanent after the sunset of these offices or a specialist leaves an institution remains unclear.

Those with institutional broader impacts offices or well-developed broader impact networks at their colleges and universities also appear to have an overall increase in faculty, student, administrator, research, community, societal, business, and industry engagement.

Anecdotal evidence highly suggest that these offices and networks 1) become a hub of communication for an institution, 2) help to increase the quality of mentorship and training of undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, and faculty and 3) help to increase the number of individual and large collaborative proposals submitted by faculty to a variety of foundations and agencies other than NSF.

It is speculated that one of the reasons all the stated above happens is that the implementation of  broader impacts in concept and practice acts as a catalyst for culture change at a college or university. Aside from speculation, having a centralized broader impacts or research impact office that works on behalf of an entire institution sends a signal to a variety of societal communities and all university and college institutional members that societal members outside of the Academy walls are valued, important, and a high priority.

The take home message is that having an institutionally supported visible and viable mechanism or entity guiding impact, broader impacts, or research impact is not only beneficial for the research enterprise and those in the Academy but also important for the public’s perception of and interaction with academic institutions.

Knowledge, Dissemination, the University, and the Economy of Knowledge Abundance

At some point in time (I hope it will be sooner than later) Universities (those in them) will have to reconsider how they are approaching the public in terms of their values, practices, and ideologies when it comes to knowledge dissemination.

Knowledge dissemination is a phrase that is used ubiquitously across the academic landscape. Originally, knowledge dissemination practices were based on the pre-Knowledge Abundance Economy Era or the Era of Knowledge Scarcity. In the Era of Knowledge Scarcity, Universities were considered by many to be a beacon of knowledge and thus it was imperative that Universities and the individuals in them set up mechanisms to provide knowledge to the public.

As more knowledge was provided and technological acuity increased it prompted the use and development of technological “Knowledge Systems”, (a.k.a. knowledge-based systems) – especially in the context of knowledge management (KM). In this context, a knowledge-base is defined as a collection of complex structured and unstructured information used by a computer system. This term, knowledge base (KB), was originally employed in connection with expert systems (a.k.a. experts).

So, it is not surprising to hear in Academic circles KB being used frequently in this way – “That we, individuals in the University, are contributing to the knowledge base”. Which is an approach that works very well within the context of traditional academic knowledge dissemination practices and ideology.

From an Academic perspective, there is a knowledge base/s and someone in the Academy will add to it. Again, this assumes that knowledge is stable, knowledge is wanted or needed, and that it is valued by the public.

If you are interested and want to read more click here.

 

Copyright and Citation of Work: Author holds copyright. This is an open access print distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. This paper is a work in progress and the author has made modifications to original work.

Citation for Original Work: Thompson, M. (2018). Knowledge and the Problem With the Practice of University Knowledge Dissemination to the Public in the Era of Knowledge Abundance. Authorea Repository. DOI: 10.22541/au.152993669.97084818.