Universities claim to value community-engaged scholarship: So why do they discourage it?

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With current crises of academic relevance and legitimacy, there is a need for epistemic equity inherent to community-engaged research. Scholars in science communication and science and technology studies have analyzed, advocated for, and conducted public engagement in pursuit of this goal. However, despite desires to celebrate public engagement, US academic institutions and organizations often present barriers to meaningful community-engaged research. From tenure and promotion requirements, to lack of recognition and resources, universities in the American academic landscape are not currently organized to support such work. In this article, we offer a conceptual framework to examine the complex structural dimensions of academic institutions that have systematically discouraged and devalued faculty participation in community-engaged scholarship. We outline four such structural dimensions: interrogating epistemic biases, neoliberalist tendencies, gendered norms, and colonial-racist defaults. Our goal is to illuminate processes that could inform interventions to bridge the gap between academic aspirations for community-engaged work and current actions in the academy that undermine it.




Bell, M., & Lewis, N. (2022). Universities claim to value community-engaged scholarship: So why do they discourage it? Public Understanding of Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625221118779

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