Our Work


Highly Integrative Basic And Responsive (HIBAR) Research: Engaging Theory with Practice for Transformative Solutions

A Call for Universities to Improve Research and Increase Benefits to Society Through Deepening Engagement with External Partners

The Highly Integrative Basic and Responsive (HIBAR) Research Alliance is a network of research leaders who believe that universities can improve their research outcomes and increase their benefits to society through the advancement of HIBAR research, which builds upon excellence in basic research as well as excellence in application and societal engagement. HIBAR research thus maximizes innovation and the potential for research collaboration among academic institutions, business and industry, and government agencies. To do so, it adopts the high standard of research quality established and led by the best fundamental university research.

HIBAR research projects combine academic engagement with real-world problem solving through all of the following aspects of motivation, approach, partnership, and time frame. HIBAR research:

  • Embraces the attainment of new knowledge coupled with the solution of important problems;
  • Combines academic research methods with practical design thinking aimed at application;
  • Engages the efforts of academic and real-world leading experts; and
  • Seeks time-to-use less than academic norms (< 15 yr) & more than in direct application (> 3 yr).

These four aspects produce potent innovations and significant new understandings, and also promote balance and synergy, which enables HIBAR projects to address major problems and identify new opportunities. HIBAR project leaders form partnerships between experienced practitioners and academics to tackle common obstacles to humanity’s advancement. Such a highly integrative approach leads to both academic and practical breakthroughs – respected research publications and successful practical applications.

Although these characteristics may appear novel, HIBAR research has a long and distinguished history of transformative contributions. And while the HIBAR characteristics collectively distinguish such research, the approach has wide applicability – HIBAR research is conducive to all forms of intellectual pursuit. For example, HIBAR projects are:

  • Common in social, physical and biological science, engineering, design, and other fields;
  • Often interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary, although some reside within a single discipline;
  • Especially effective in addressing socio-technical problems using diverse research methods;
  • Well-suited to participants in NGOs, government agencies, industry, academia, or elsewhere.

HIBAR research builds upon university excellence in basic research by engaging societal partners. Support for this time-honored principle can grow as more academic researchers find they are able to partner effectively with practitioners in government, industry, and non-governmental organizations. When they do, a remarkable synergy often produces both better peer-reviewed research and practical solutions. There is growing evidence that when academic leaders encourage HIBAR research (as well as the basic research excellence upon which that work relies), they can heighten benefits for society as well as the prominence of their institutions. However, this may require overcoming natural impediments to organizational change.

Such efforts to bolster HIBAR must be strategic – focusing on examples that will attract support because they improve all forms of research and promise improved social benefit. Integrative research has already long been evident in a number of fields at leading institutions, as well as in collaborations and networks within and among institutions. But implementation challenges remain to be resolved, including adjusting promotion and tenure criteria to better value broader aspects of impact, such as, in some fields, patents, entrepreneurship, or policy changes. Also important are supportive institutional statements about the value of HIBAR research and a commitment to increase and accelerate social impact. The HIBAR Research Alliance is working to better understand and describe the needed improvements and to help encourage implementation and adoption. This ultimately will increase the amount and the quality of HIBAR research for the purpose of better serving society as a whole.

The concept of HIBAR research builds upon other conceptions of engaged science and technology, such as research on societal grand challenges. From their founding, public research universities have undertaken research in service to society to address problems and discover fundamental knowledge. APLU is pleased to work alongside partner organizations to develop and further HIBAR as another way of demonstrating the importance of research performed by our institutions. Please direct any HIBAR-related questions or feedback to the HIBAR Alliance or Sarah Rovito.