Getting the perspective of the community on community-engaged research

Photo of campus and the city

Getting the perspective of the community on community-engaged research

By Ben Lewis, Office of Outreach and Engagement

As land-grant universities such as Ohio State encourage more community-based research by faculty and funders such as the National Science Foundation incentivize more collaboration between researchers and communities, one critical voice in the process is often missing - the perspective of the community member.

A new study being undertaken by four Ohio State faculty members looks to establish best practices for including the community perspective as they look at how large, land-grant research institutions can build meaningful community relationships while conducting research.

While this is a national issue, it also is a challenge locally. According to the study's investigators, little, if anything, is known about how Ohio State's community residents and leaders view this type of engagement, including if there is a recognition in the community about what research is and what is meant by engaged research.

"Our work can inform how universities, including Ohio State, can build and maintain meaningful, trust-filled, and productive relationships with their neighbors and create ideal environments," said Jill Clark, associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and one of the principle investigators of the study. "This perspective moves us beyond 'do no harm' when engaging with community members to 'doing right by' our neighbors, and developing and maintaining relationships that honor their interests and needs."

The research objectives for the study are:

  1. Describe the experience of community members in university research and engagement;
  2. Document the language community members use in regards to community-university research relationships;
  3. Understand how community members perceive the institution and its role in the community; and
  4. Identify the ways that community members want the university to build and maintain relationships with them and vice versa, with a specific focus on what reciprocity means to community members and, from the community's perspective, what organizational infrastructure and practices could create the ideal environment for a community-university relationship.

Specific to Ohio State, this project can inform the university's work on at least three fronts:

  1. Ohio State's own funding of projects, including how projects are prioritized and supported;
  2. The design and delivery of professional development opportunities for faculty and staff; and,
  3. The support of student research.

In addition to Clark, the principle investigators of the study, which is being funded by the Office of Outreach and Engagement, are Michelle Kaiser, associate professor in the College of Social Work; Jason Reece, assistant professor in the Knowlton School; and Ryan Schmiesing, associate professor in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and vice provost for Outreach and Engagement.

View the full research summary - "Getting it right: Principles for university engagement in the community from the perspective of the community"