Georgia on their minds

Return to Contents

Where the Sidewalk Ends

"I'm a scholar, but I'm also a citizen. I separate the two somewhat, but I think the purpose of acquiring knowledge is to improve the world."
Howard Frumkin, School of Public Health

"My advocacy comes in demonstrating that environmentally sound decisions can be really good for business. They don't have to decide to spend money for what feels like no return except to get Greenpeace off their backs."
Steven Walton, School of Business

Emory faculty have been involved in more than 160 community-based or community-focused research projects in greater Atlanta and Georgia over the last three years, according to a recent study by the Office of Institutional Planning and Research.

The main goals of the web-based survey, conducted in late 1999 and early 2000, were to learn how faculty perceive the influences of their scholarship in the community and how the community has shaped their scholarly work, according to Susan Frost, vice provost for institutional planning and research. "An additional goal was to learn what faculty believe is needed to help support Emory's research in local communities," she adds.

A total of 122 Emory faculty reported information on 164 research projects--completed or underway--in greater Atlanta and the state. Although faculty who reported such projects represent all schools at Emory, about half were in the health sciences.

One important finding was that most respondents believe support for research in the community needs to be stronger. Currently, assistance appears to be more informal than formal. For example, 84 percent of faculty respondents noted they found helpful support among their colleagues, whereas only 16 percent found their department, their school, or the university helpful in supporting their research in local communities. When asked to identify the main barriers to expanding scholarship in greater Atlanta, 50 percent of respondents believe Emory lacks the infrastructure to support such efforts. Others noted the lack of knowledge regarding potential collaborators, either at Emory or other institutions in the metro area. Below is a brief profile of faculty scholarly involvement in the community, as reflected in the findings of this survey.

FUNDING Eighty percent of the research projects reported were funded projects. The most frequent source of support was the federal government, which supported 32 percent of the projects, followed by university sources, which funded 21 percent of the projects.

COLLABORATION Overall, scholarship in the community is collaborative; in 68 percent of the reported projects, respondents collaborated with other faculty at Emory, and approximately half of the projects involved collaboration with scholars at other universities.

DURATION Most research projects required a long-term commitment; about 80 percent of the projects are being conducted over a period of more than one year.

CONTENT More than a third (36 percent) of all research projects conducted in greater Atlanta and Georgia represent basic or theoretical studies. Approximately half of all studies involved some type of applied research, including policy studies (16 percent), clinical studies (15 percent), or action research (17 percent).

SCOPE The geographical area covered by 50 percent of research projects was the city of Atlanta. About one quarter of the research projects focused on Atlanta suburbs, and a similar proportion covered Emory's neighborhoods. Twenty-three percent were statewide projects, and only fourteen percent focused on regions of the state outside metro Atlanta.

BENEFICIARIES Respondents believe that the citizens of greater Atlanta or Georgia benefit most from scholarship in the region (55 percent of respondents), followed by scholars or interested observers (49 percent), hospital or other health care providers (36 percent), and state and local government agencies (36 percent). (Many of the projects were said to benefit multiple groups.)

RECOMMENDATIONS The study recommends four areas of action for further strengthening support for research in the community: 1) institutional support for scholarship in the community needs to be stronger, especially in the area of logistics (i.e., transportation, office space, and staff support); 2) faculty conducting research in local communities need help connecting with Emory colleagues who share similar interests; 3) scholarship in local communities needs to be recognized and properly rewarded, and 4) Emory's connections with state and local organizations, universities, and funding sources need to be expanded.

For further information on this study or on other studies concerning support for scholarly work of Emory faculty, visit the IPR web site (www.emory.edu/PROVOST/IPR), or contact the IPR office at (404)727-0765.

Faculty with scholarly interests in the community are invited to visit the Community Partnerships database at www.oucp.emory.edu to verify and update existing information on current or completed projects and add information on any new projects.