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Highly Integrated Basic and Responsive (HIBAR) Research Alliance:

Seeking solutions and understanding by uniting the approaches of invention and discovery

(Drafted by A. Austin, Michigan State University, C. Crittenden, University of California Berkeley, H. Gobstein, and J. Woodell, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, D. Sarewitz, Arizona State University, B. Shneiderman, University of Maryland, L. Whitehead, University of British Columbia)


Academic research is vital to technological, medical, and social advances that improve the lives of many people around the world. However, we believe that academic researchers could dramatically increase their impact if the academic incentive systems were updated to accommodate new understandings of what research processes are most likely to yield high payoff in new knowledge and useful inventions.

We believe that the incentive systems of academic research, which drive promotion, publication, and grant decisions, often discourage an important class of needed research. This research, which Donald Stokes described as Pasteur’s Quadrant research, combines the motivations, approaches and perspective of both basic and responsive research. Such research projects address significant societal problems in a recursive approach that combines, and builds upon the traditional methods of basic and responsive research.

Such basic and responsive research projects usually require strong connections with external organizations, long term vision, academic rigor, and teamwork among diverse contributors. Although they often involves science and technology, they usually go way beyond those fields, involving social science motivational theories and design thinking. Crow & Dabars, Sarewitz, Shneiderman, and Narayanamurti have all argued that many past research successes have been characterized as arising from basic research when in fact they were driven by working with business, civic, and non-governmental practitioners, while using basic research theories and approaches.

Testing theories in the real world produces the twin-win: validated theories, which could be published, and effective solutions, which could be disseminated. Many such twin-win breakthroughs took place in visionary corporate research labs, such as Bell Labs, or were incentivized by mission-driven funding by the DoD and NASA. The research we see as effective is often characterized by a patient focus on knowledge creation at the interface of use, for example in areas of agriculture and clinical medicine. If academic leaders could shift the research culture at universities help encourage dual-excellence projects which combine basic and responsive research, we believe everyone would benefit. Universities would retain their eminence in long term, academic research, while truly being more relevant to societal needs. But how can we do this?

Change can be led at multiple levels, ranging from projects of individual and collaborative groups of faculty members, to departmental leaders (who may help encourage new research directions with practitioner partners, revised courses, speaker series, etc.), and higher-level academic leaders (who may help revise hiring/tenure/promotion policies, public recognition of successful research, seed funding for innovative projects, etc.). We seek a discussion of change strategies that actually work, so as to develop guidance for others. We suggest that a network of those involved in academic change could help guide success.