With support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Faculty Engagement Imperative (FEI) represents a growing movement among faculty members, communities, and institutions of higher learning towards clear and consistent valuation of community engaged scholarship in the promotion and tenure process. The pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and a crisis of higher education present an opportunity to reconfigure how universities recognize, reward, and promote their faculty. Restructuring the promotion and tenure process is especially urgent for land grant institutions, whose charters emphasize bringing scholarly research to all citizens through engagement and "extension" activities. All higher ed institutions, however, must reckon with academic traditions that help feed popular skepticism, if not hostility, to science that profoundly threatens public health.
Academics joke amongst themselves about the few colleagues who read their publications. Macro social work curricula emphasize the need to make research accessible to policy makers if the research seeks to effect change: Avoid scientific jargon and provide one-page summaries. One may reasonably question the degree to which scientific papers, which are generally sequestered behind paywalls, fulfill the obligations of social work researchers.
Community-engaged research, including time-intensive community-based participatory research (CBPR), involves local and indigenous representatives to co-produce knowledge, making it richer, more authentic, and more likely to connect with key change-makers. Studies suggest that women researchers, and faculty from traditionally underrepresented groups often carry a disproportionate share of responsibility to cultivate and maintain relationships with local communities. These efforts are understood to be essential, and may even be recognized in university media outlets, but these efforts often receive scant credit in the promotion process. Such inequities heighten the need to reexamine practices in academic promotion.
This roundtable session brings together social work scholars, agency professionals, community representatives, and foundation program officers to discuss the traditions of university promotion and tenure. The discussion will examine critically what is valued in the promotion process and how traditions may be reformed to connect academic research more effectively to the communities it purports to serve.