By JAY REY
Published November 2, 2023
Health and wellness coaching at a supermarket. A therapy program for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Imagining Erie County’s climate future.
Those are just a few of the 12 civic projects selected this fall to receive grants of $5,000 for the first year of UB’s new Civic Engagement Research Fund.
The fund supports community-based research proposals that not only advance knowledge but have the potential to make a difference, whether in policy or practice or in the lives of those across the Buffalo region and beyond.
“Actively contributing to our community and society is a critical mission for our research enterprise,” says Venu Govindaraju, vice president for research and economic development. “Advancing community-based research and scholarship is one way we can make a positive difference in communities where pressing challenges will require the engagement across local and regional entities.”
The research fund grew out of recommendations from the Implementation Committee of the President’s Advisory Council on Race and its subcommittee on scholarship, tenure and recognition, says Robert Granfield, vice provost for faculty affairs. The subcommittee, which included faculty from across UB, sought to re-establish support for civic-based research that had dissipated with the discontinuation of the strategic strength in Civic Engagement and Public Policy in 2015, he says.
“The subcommittee recommended that UB provide support for civic/community-based research that advances UB’s mission of public engagement and broad social impact, especially in addressing various issues related to social justice and social inequities at the local to global levels,” Granfield says.
The fund, a collaboration between the Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Office of the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, was established in June when requests for proposals were sent out to all full-time faculty. The deadline for proposals was in September.
A three-member faculty panel with expertise in community-based research reviewed the 24 proposals submitted, and recommended recipients based on several criteria, including academic rigor and potential for published scholarship, collaboration with an external partner and potential for external funding.
The selected proposals confront issues that address community needs today and beyond, Granfield and Govindaraju say. The research focuses on health inequities in marginalized populations, preventing gun violence, workforce development in East Buffalo and developing arts and music initiatives for historically marginalized youth, among other issues.
The 12 principal investigators awarded $5,000 grants were:
“The teams working on these projects will showcase how the Civic Engagement Research Fund will successfully serve as a community pulse check and offer ideas for continuous improvement to programs that positively engage and impact our neighbors,” Govindaraju says.
Funding for the initiative is expected to continue over the next three years, after which time the impact of the research fund will be assessed, Granfield says.
“It is hoped that future calls for proposals will result in an increased number of proposals from faculty interested in conducting community-engaged research,” he says. “Also, it is hoped that these efforts will lead to a university-wide community of scholars at UB interested in conducting this type of research.”