C&IS faculty join national cohort supporting public engagement in research

Jul 26, 2023

By Leah Myers

Tuscaloosa, Ala. — The University of Alabama (UA) will be participating in The Center for Advancing Research Impact in Society’s (ARIS) Program to Enhance Organizational Research Impact Capacity (ORIC), strengthening the university’s position as a national research leader.

The ORIC is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF), who developed the program to help institutions grow their capacity for facilitating broader research impacts. “Broader impacts” (BI) refers to the ways in which research benefits society and is key for evaluating NSF proposals and funded projects.

“The College of Communication & Information Sciences supports authentic, reciprocal and meaningful impact activities informed by effective and ethical public engagement,” said Dr. Matthew VanDyke, faculty lead of the Alabama Science Communication Initiative and associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations (A+PR). “[These activities] add to a better science communication ecosystem and propel The University of Alabama’s multidisciplinary research efforts, creating meaningful social impacts.”

Understanding broader impacts is important because it allows institutions to improve STEM education and educator development at all levels; develop a diverse, globally competitive STEM workforce and increase partnerships between academia and industry.

This year’s ORIC cohort consists of seven institutions, with each cohort training period lasting one year. During that year, BI professionals participate in an intensive training series designed and led by ARIS, followed by nine additional months of application and practice, which are overseen and mentored by the ARIS team. Joining the cohort positions UA to receive resources, mentoring and community-building, as well as an intensive training and professional development series on topics such as developing their institution’s BI identity, evaluating BI activities, using the ARIS BI toolkit, conducting BI consultations and building effective BI partnerships.

VanDyke will join the program as UA’s BI professional, and Dr. Brian Butler, dean of C&IS, will serve as the cohort’s administrative partner. Administrative partners champion the work of BI professionals and advocate for necessary administrative changes within an institution.