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    Engaged Research 101

    What is Community-Engaged Research?

    In broad terms, community-engaged research is research that invests the pursuit of knowledge in the public good.  While there are a number of definitions and forms of community-engaged research, some core defining characteristics include: 

    1) Researchers use a collaborative approach in which non-academic communities are equitable thought partners and in some cases co-researchers.  Research is conducted with, rather than on, the community.  Most centrally, communities most impacted by an issue identify the needs or questions addressed by the research project.

    2) Researchers aim to integrate knowledge and action.  This means both directing learning and inquiry to actionable knowledge -- that which can lead to desired social change -- and disseminating research findings in ways that aim to mobilize or inform collective action.

    What are the overarching principles of Community-Engaged Research (CER, also known as Community-Based Research, CBR)?

    • CER acknowledges the importance of community
    • CER builds on the strengths and resources of the community and community members
    • CER is a collaborative, equitable, power-sharing process that attends to social inequalities
    • CER fosters co-learning and capacity building among all partners
    • CER balances the quest for knowledge with the quest for community wellness
    • CER insists upon the local relevance of research problems 
    • CER is iterative, reflective, and self-updating
    • CER involves all partners in the dissemination and utilization of research findings
    • CER is committed to building sustainable, mutually beneficial community partnerships

    (see Israel et al., 2003)

    2019-2020 Exemplary Achievement in Community-Engaged Research Award

    This award honors a faculty member who has applied the knowledge of their discipline and their own expertise to the public good through community-engaged research. Recipients of this award engage in research that is co-created with and benefits communities and/or community-based organizations, and the knowledge produced by the research is indirectly or directly actionable toward social change.

    Recipient: Rachel Montgomery Paupeck, Assistant Professor (Art Department)

    Excerpt from Rachel Montgomery Paupeck's nomination:

    “[Professor Paupeck] saw a need, launched a Go Fund Me to raise money for materials, gathered a team, trouble shot the 3-D printers/laser cutters on campus and now her and her team have delivered hundreds of masks to essential front line workers such as EMT’s, fire fighters, grocery clerks, police officers, etc. Her and her team have been featured on a couple of local news channels and The Gazette. I truly feel she is building a bridge in the community with this project and has been working long days on her block ‘off’ since the project started to meet demand.”

    What makes a successful CER partnership?

    • A shared worldview
    • General agreement about project goals and strategies
    • Mutual trust and mutual respect
    • Shared decision-making
    • Careful communication and close listening
    • Mutual empathy
    • A long-range perspective

    (see Strand et al, 2003)

    How is CER different from traditional research?


    Traditional research


    Primary goal

    Advance disciplinary knowledge

    Contribute to community wellness

    Source of research question

    Academic literature

    Community-identified problem

    Research designer

    Trained outside expert

    Campus and community collaboration

    Role of community

    Object to be studied

    Collaborator, partner and learner

    Role of students

    Recipients of textbook knowledge or research assistants

    Collaborators, partners, and learners

    Relationships between faculty and community

    Short-term, task-oriented, detached

    Long-term, multifaceted, connected

    Measure of value

    Acceptance by academic peers (e.g. Tier 1 publication)

    Usefulness for community

    Criteria for method selection

    Conformity to standards of academic rigor

    Balance between rigor, utility, and sensitivity


    Faculty and discipline

    Faculty, discipline, students, community

    Ownership of findings



    (based on Strand et al, 2003)