University research in the neighborhood: The perspective of community members
By Ben Lewis, Director of Communications
While many faculty, staff and students are actively conducting research in the community, the voice of community members is often missing or underrepresented in this work.
Four Ohio State faculty members recently completed a study to inform Ohio State leadership and researchers about community and neighborhood leaders' perspectives on Ohio State research, specifically as participants in research, but more generally as community and neighborhood leaders.
"Relationships are key to engaged research," said Jill Clark, associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs and one of the principal investigators of the study. "In a relationship, listening to what potential partners, collaborators, and colleagues are saying about their needs and wants and taking the time to learn historical and current perspectives on relationships with the university is foundational to that relationship."
The intent of the study is to elevate community-member voices as a starting point to understand the position of the broader university and allow for a reflexive understanding of its role, and that of researchers, in community-based and participatory research.
The study focused on historically disenfranchised Columbus neighborhoods in which high levels of research activity are occurring. The faculty collected qualitative data through interviews and focus groups with three different groups of informants:
- Community-wide leaders who have engaged with Ohio State and Ohio State research projects
- Neighborhood residents and leaders who have engaged with Ohio State and Ohio State research
- Neighborhood leaders and residents without experience with Ohio State research projects
One finding was that participants do not separate out their research experiences from program participation, teaching, and general activities of Ohio State personnel.
"Community members remembered the details of the relationships with Ohio State, both positively and negatively, and often expressed how their involvement related to broader experiences, often negative, by the university in their communities, outside of research," Clark said
Another finding from the study was that interviewees voiced a strong desire for Ohio State to be part of meaningful, transformative community change through impactful research.
"University-community research projects in which people and groups from both the university and the community are equitable ultimately leads to positive outcomes and impact," Clark said.
In addition to Clark, the principal investigators of the study, which was 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.
Key personnel for the study included Aiden Irish, research associate in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs; Kyle Knott, graduate fellow in the Office of Academic Affairs; Jee Young Lee, research associate in the Knowlton School; and Seungbin Park, research associate in City and Regional Planning.
Learn more about the study, including the executive summary, additional findings and how to request a copy of the full report.