Our Work

Modernizing Scholarship for the Public Good

  • Supported by the Rita Allen Foundation, the Kavli Foundation, the Bourroughs Wellcome Fund, APLU, and the University of Michigan as part of the Civic Science Fellows Program, APLU and the University of Michigan serve as co-hosts for the APLU Civic Science Fellowship aimed advancing the public good through research and community engagement.
  • APLU and the University of Michigan are working to identify institutional best practices for supporting community-engaged research.

Public impact of scholarship is a common aim of public research universities. Yet faculty and staff who pursue such impact often cite a lack of advancement, reward, and supportive promotion policies and practices as core barriers to engaging in this work fully. While these challenges have been acknowledged and studied for years, barriers to modernizing scholarship persist: universities need guidance to align the necessary rhetorical support, policy, resources, and infrastructure to support faculty and staff who do this work and how to better communicate its impact.

APLU’s Modernizing Scholarship for the Public Good effort focuses on the ways public research universities can support scholars and advance reward and recognition related to Public Impact Research, Cooperative Extension, civic science, and other forms of public engagement , with special attention to the ways that diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice are integral to this work. Dr. Elyse Aurbach, the APLU Civic Science Fellow and the Assistant Director for Public Engagement and Research Impacts at the University of Michigan, is leading this effort.

The project will focus on four integrated efforts:

  • Synthesizing and framing the scholarly literature around advancement, reward, and promotion related to Public Engagement (PE), Public Impact Research (PIR), Cooperative Extension (CE), and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice efforts (drawing inspiration from other reform efforts, related to innovation, entrepreneurship, teaching & learning, etc.).
  • Developing case studies for “leading edge” institutions to identify what exemplifies their policy and programmatic success in supporting, recognizing, and rewarding scholars in their PE, PIR, and DEIJ, including examining their centers and Cooperative Extension offices (e.g. mid-level infrastructure), resourcing, faculty/staff experience, and where possible, evaluation criteria.
  • Creating a framework for action with interventions to better support engaged and DEIJ-oriented scholars across the academic hierarchy and in different institutions, with an emphasis on public and land-grant universities. This framework will provide guidance for decision makers, center and Cooperative Extension (and other mid-level infrastructure) leaders, and faculty on how to best leverage their assets to support PE, PIR, and DEIJ efforts, including through the lenses evaluation, advancement, reward, and promotion.
  • Extending and expanding the work via APLU and the Civic Science Fellows program; drawing on leaders from across research engagement initiatives to identify leading approaches and metrics to support, advance, and assess faculty contributions to research based on its impact or degree of public engagement. The work is being undertaken in collaboration with the vice presidents for research, communications, engagement, academic affairs, and food/agriculture/natural resources/extension councils of APLU, as well as a coalition of leaders across University of Michigan offices, centers, and initiatives. The project will also connect to and draw inspiration from other members of the Civic Science Fellows network and their projects.
  • Three (or more) case studies of distinct institutional models to determine similarities and differences in how public and land grant universities support PE and DEIJ work, focusing on centers and Cooperative Extension as critical pieces of mid-level infrastructure;
  • A final guidance document and/or convenings for decision-makers that includes relevant scholarship, frameworks, illustrative examples, and evidence-based interventions at multiple scales and levels for supporting, advancing, rewarding, and recognizing PE, PIR, and DEIJ; and
  • Connecting national initiatives and pilot efforts at a major R1 – the University of Michigan – and consider a path to scale across 240 public research universities.

We see potential for this project to inform national efforts to help institutions to align rhetoric, policy, infrastructure, resourcing, and lived experience of faculty and staff to better support PE, PIR, and DEIJ in higher education. Our intention is to support more faculty and staff to pursue scholarship and engagement involving and benefiting different publics. We further hope that these efforts will enable faculty and staff who engage in this work – especially individuals of color and whose backgrounds are frequently marginalized in academic spaces – to be supported, retained, and rewarded for their efforts. We are especially interested in surfacing and advancing tactics that different institutions might use to bring successful strategies to scale across APLU’s network, which consists of leadership across about 200 public research universities in every state conducting some 60% of the nation’s academic research (~$47 billion annually). By leveraging these multiple university constituencies across North America, the project could potentially influence and change the systems, structure, and policies of these institutions around research. Ultimately, we hope that this work can add to efforts that appreciably increase faculty and staff participation and contribute to stronger connections between science and society.

  • Neeraja Aravamudan, Director of the Edward Ginsberg Center, University of Michigan
  • Sandy Brown, Vice Chancellor for Research and Distinguished Professor, University of California San Diego
  • Tabbye Chavous, Director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity; Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; and Professor, University of Michigan
  • James DeVaney, Founding Executive Director, Center for Academic Innovation & Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation, University of Michigan
  • Damona Doye, Associate Vice President, Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma State University
  • Howard Gobstein, Senior Vice President for STEM Education and Research Policy and Advisor to the President, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Caroline Henney, Executive Director, Cooperative Extension System/ECOP & Assistant Vice President, Food, Agriculture, & Natural Resources, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Emily Janke, Director of the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement & Associate Professor, University of North Carolina Greensboro
  • Bemmy Maharramli, Associate Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Center for Community Learning, University of California Los Angeles
  • Melur (Ram) Ramasubramanian, Vice President for Research, University of Virginia
  • Kacy Redd, Associate Vice President of Research & STEM Education, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Julie Risien, Associate Director of the STEM Research Center, Oregon State University
  • Heather Shipley, Senior Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, Dean of the University College, and Burzik Professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Construction Management, University of Texas San Antonio
  • Lexi Shultz, Vice President for Science Policy and Government Relations, American Geophysical Union
  • Dana Topousis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, University of California Davis
  • Rodolpho Torres, Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development, University of California Riverside

Members of the planning committee are indicated with italicized text.

Featured Project & Initiative

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Featured Publication

2022 APLU Annual Report