Key Takeaways from the in-person "Building Bridges to Use-Inspired Research and Science-Informed Practices" workshop held June 12-14, 2023

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Following two virtual microlabs, an in-person workshop was held June 12-14, 2023 in Boise, ID to continue development of community priorities, formation of connections among Biological Science community members, and creation of frameworks for successfully conducting ‘use-inspired research and education’. Around 120 attendees were selected from a wider body of around 750 individuals who participated in the online microlab #1 and #2, with particular intentionality placed on representing a broad spectrum of academic institutions and career progressions. Sectoral representation was equally as diverse, with participants' backgrounds in academic, private, and government communities of all organizational sizes. NSF EPSCoR jurisdictions were notably well-represented, making up about 50% of the participants.

The primary goal of the in-person workshop was to engage diverse stakeholder communities, fostering awareness of the reciprocal benefits that strong partnerships could bring to a gradient of basic through applied science. The time in Boise successfully identified shared interests, addressed community needs, and identified barriers to functional partnerships. Participants heard directly from Dr. Erwin Gianchandani from NSF TIP and from Dr. J.D. Swanson from NSF EPSCoR who each highlighted the importance of use-inspired research and education in their programs. Valuable knowledge from past use-inspired science initiatives was shared, and recommendations for new structures and processes that could accelerate research translation into innovations for societal benefit were developed.

Emergence of Core Community Priorities

Eight core themes (referred to as ‘Umbrella Working Groups’ [UWG]) emerged with the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) umbrella serving as an overarching framework for all working groups to include as they advance community initiatives.

Themes of the umbrellas included:

  • Theme 2 - Cross-cutting: The Path to Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusivity (JEDI, original group I and integrated into each working group)
  • Theme 3 - Cross-cutting: Crafting Community Agreements (CCA, original group J)
  • Theme 4 - A Launchpad to Catalyze Use-Inspired Research and Innovation (UWG #1)
  • Theme 5 - Community-Oriented Use-inspired Regional STEM Education (COURSE) Career Development Network (UWG #2)
  • Theme 6 - Lab to Market (UWG #3)
  • Theme 7 - Empowering Faculty and Students through Community-Responsive and Use-Inspired Learning Experiences (UWG #4/#5)
  • Theme 8 - Internal Incentives and External Frameworks to Stimulate Use-Inspired Research (UWG #6)
  • Theme 9 - Connecting The Dots: Open Innovation Portal to identify End-User Products (UWG #7)

Formation of Umbrella Working Groups

Of the list above, A and B were identified as cross-cutting initiatives across the other six (C-H) UWGs. Each umbrella has 1-3 separate, sub-level initiatives with individual participants leading teams who support actuation. Each UWG developed a strategic plan, including enunciated connection to other umbrellas to further minimize siloing as collaboration continues virtually. Each of the sub-level initiatives developed SMART goals which were integrated directly into the context of the larger UWG to coordinate a timeline and minimize redundancy. Each UWG has a structure of individuals who are connected and have taken ownership of SMART goals and have developed a team of teams structure of individuals to create accountability moving forward.

Each individual in attendance was also separately encouraged to understand their specific sphere of influence and to return to their home organization as a use-inspired research change-maker (see Appendix A).

Establishing a Use-Inspired Ecosystem

The in-person event established the scaffolding for a community of practice that will create an ecosystem of use-inspired research and education.

Step 1: The in-person participants developed the first layer of scaffolding to influence structures and cultures within their sphere of influence and worked on a path towards implementing use-inspired practices.

Step 2: Internal (microlab #3) and external (microlab #4) support and recruitment of participants to join and contribute to UWG activities. The wrap-up showcase on 03 October at 1200 MST is focused on sharing progress with the larger Use-Inspired Research and Education community to get additional input and recruit more people who are passionate about co-developing use-inspired cultures, practices, and outcomes.

Step 3: UWGs and newly recruited participants will be supported by NSF Grant # FAIN-2309541 through fellowship funds that will allow teams to implement SMART goals that make them more competitive for current and future funding opportunities within and beyond NSF. Participants will support each other through internal review of grant proposals and connections with trusted partners across sectors that can help launch, assess, and revise initiatives. Specifically, community members intend to submit conference/workshop, or Research Coordinated Network grant proposals and publish a variety of manuscripts highlighting accomplishments and proposed innovations, the core values of the community, major challenges, and how our use-inspired communities intend to address challenges.

Appendix A. Beyond Boise - what participants wanted to implement when they returned to their home institutions.

  • Work on implementing an auto-teaming portal to match multiple faculty to resources and synergistic funding opportunities.
  • Continue to support advancement of the PTIE effort and work to develop innovations to build institutional and leadership capacity for use-inspired.
  • Learn about local resources and make a couple new connections. Share with our Division of Research about the conversations and work that happened here.
  • Advocate for adding priority emphasis on use-inspired research in the appropriate mechanisms within our portfolio of internal funding programs.
  • Submit a collaborative use-inspired research proposal that features a clearly articulated community agreement (by the end of summer).
  • Corner my OVPR and give him a summary of what happened here and what my uni needs to do to help initiate or motivate these types of Big Ideas at UHM and regionally in Hawaii.
  • Contact my OVCR to better understand what my institution has done with use-inspired research. Also interested to see what efforts have been made to collaborate with EPSCOR jurisdictions.
  • I will connect to and learn more about EPSCoR Oklahoma. Start working on the first goal we establish here as a group.
  • I look forward to sharing with the leaders of our in-house Translational Science Initiative the exciting initiatives and energy that I was able to experience in Boise, We are looking to incorporate (paid!) internships into our program so please give me a shout if you have ideas for feeding in or would like more information on what we do.
  • Convene our team; Message several folks to follow-up and follow-up on conversations that got started here.
  • Talk to my CURE networks about developing and incorporating use-inspired concepts into their frameworks.
  • Summer: Integrate some of the use-inspired workforce development ideas, community-based agreements, and JEDI into our NRT proposal. Be prepared to be tapped for partners who want to coordinate a network of this to train and exchange grad students across our campuses that leverage assets of RUIs (education career track) and partners (ranching, tribal, and non-profits).
  • Fall: change T&P to include use-inspired community actions in biology (our department actually wants this) and in our new school of the environment. I would love to create a support group of others around doing this across our nation.
  • Invite all members of our bridge building community to our track-1 and track-2 leadership/team training, and JEDI training. I will be soliciting a quote for services for any groups who can deliver this for us in fall semester! This will prepare our lead bridge builders some training to manage their team of teams.
  • Reach out to NSF and our cohort partners to institutionalize what Lighthouse is doing - in order to bring the JEDI approach into future opportunities. I will also reach out to our National Institute of Health partners (and Stanford Univ) to get advice, as they have already found it possible to integrate JEDI into their funding opportunities.
  • Sign up as a Bridge Builder to onboard and share JEDI resources, strategies, and guidance to help NSF transition this into use-inspired research.
  • Continue to find ways to scale Lighthouse to better assist other organizations in their quest to authentically engage various people/communities and bring more "lived experience" into research and academia.
  • Take the time to update our working group documents, so that it holds actionable next steps.
  • Assist the Community-Based Agreements working group by helping to establish a repository of best "how do we convene diverse populations" practices, which will help academia build on a skill set (or muscle) that has not always been required.
  • Reach out to as many of you as possible, as I value finding understanding, and transforming conflict (not resolving it) in a way that creates partnerships and not siloes.
  • Work on an NSF JEDI presentation for the fall (whether we are selected or not), because I want all of us to be JEDIs (we can create our own paths as a JEDI, so all are unique).
  • While discussing about my plans for our projects after this workshop with the sponsor office program at Jarvis Christian University, I will keep in touch with the working groups that I would like to work with and continue the collaborations.
  • Continue to explore ways for community colleges to contribute meaningfully to the use-inspired research and innovation pathways presented by the NSF collaborative opportunities.
  • Share what this group is doing with my institutional leaders to get them thinking about ways to embrace and incorporate use-inspired research on our campus.