The Paradigmatic Shift Towards Research Impact in the AcademyIn the last four decades there has been increased emphasis for faculty to show and effectively expand the impact of their Academic Research Work*. This trend has occurred nationally, internationally, and is expected to persist through recent national and international events. There are now summits and conferences such as the National Alliance for Broader Impacts Summit (NABI) now called Advancing Research in Society (ARIS) in the United States (US) and International Impact for Science, Humanities, and Social Science Conferences. Many of these international conferences that focus on pushing forward the impact agenda are facilitated by The Network for Advancing & Evaluating the Societal Impact of Science (AESIS).There is rapid proliferation of both new businesses and independent organizations that focus on helping others manage and maximize the impact of their research. These businesses and organizations range from assessment to communications and scholarship, to training individuals on how to extend the reach of their research work. Some examples of these are: Knowledge Translation Australia by Tamika Heiden who also facilitates the largest online impact summit; Jenny Ames Consulting Ltd in the United Kingdom (UK) by Jenny Ames; Institute for Knowledge Mobilization and Peter Norman Levesque Consulting in Canada by Peter Levesque; and Broader Impacts Productions, LLC in the United States (US) by Kirsten Sanford.Simultaneously, impact blogs and blogging have increased in number over the last ten years. These impact blogs are also increasingly gaining support and recognition in the Academy. For example, one of these is the London School of Economic and Political Science (LSE) Impact Blog. The LSE Impact blog is based in the LSE Communications division and is financially supported by the HEIF5 program ran by LSE Knowledge Exchange.Evidence of this paradigmatic shift can also be seen by the number of societal benefitting-like terms, names and phrases now being used around the world. Many of these terms, names, and phrases have been contextualized for maximizing the impact of academic research. These include but are not limited to phrases, terms, and concepts such as: Capacity Building in Africa; Equity in Development in India; Broader Impacts, Broader Implications, Collective Impact, and Relevant or Ultimate Outcomes in the US; the Engagement and Impact Assessment (EI) Framework and Knowledge Exchange in Australia; Knowledge Mobilization in Canada; Valorization in the Netherlands; Harmonious Development in South America; Economic & Social Development and Influence in China; and the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the European Union. Almost every country, roughly eighty-two percent (82%), uses a societal-benefit name, term, phrase, or concept that indicates ARI is important. This is accompanied by the growing number of professionals and positions to address and actionize these concepts, names, and phrases in academic institutions, agencies, organizations, and governance. For example, there is Susan Renoe, Director of NABI and ARIS who started The Connector formally called the Broader Impacts Network (BIN) in the US; David Phillips who leads an award-winning Knowledge Mobilization Unit in Canada; Julie Bayley who is the Director of Impact Development and Mark Reed who is a professor and transdisciplinary researcher specializing in environmental governance and research impact in peatlands and agri-food systems both in the UK; and Emma Johnston who initiated a Science for Impact Center in Australia focusing on Knowledge Exchange.In addition, some ranking organizations have started to include Overall Impact on Society (OIS) metrics to rank universities and colleges. This includes how university’s and college’s research are benefiting society. For example, in 2019 “THE WORLD University Rankings” facilitated by Times Higher Education, provided their first ever rankings specifically focused on University’s and College’s Impact on Society. These impact rankings are based on the United Nations (UN) seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provided in Figure 1.
Preface This article provides a discussion about knowledge and how the University practice of and ideology behind knowledge dissemination to the public fits within our current Economy of Knowledge Abundance. Here, I suggest that University methods for knowledge delivery to the public need to be reconsidered and approached in a different way. I begin to discuss how faculty can start to think and address the problem of knowledge dissemination to the public in a knowledge abundance economy. In the last two sections, I also provide a way for how Presidents, Vice Presidents or Chancellors of Research (VPR’s/VCR’s), Provosts, and other Upper Administrative leaders of Universities can support this approach in conjunction with State Regents/Education Boards/Board of Trustees. Introduction Knowledge dissemination is a phrase that is used ubiquitously across the academic landscape. Originally, knowledge dissemination practices were based on the pre-Knowledge Abundance Economy Era or the Era of Knowledge Scarcity. In the Era of Knowledge Scarcity, Universities were considered by many to be a beacon of knowledge and thus it was imperative that Universities and the individuals in them set up mechanisms to provide knowledge to the public. As more knowledge was provided and technological acuity increased it prompted the use and development of technological “Knowledge Systems”, (a.k.a. knowledge-based systems) - especially in the context of knowledge management (KM). In this context, a knowledge-base is defined as a collection of complex structured and unstructured information used by a computer system. This term, knowledge base (KB), was originally employed in connection with expert systems (a.k.a. experts). So, it is not surprising to hear in Academic circles KB being used frequently in this way – “That we, individuals in the University, are contributing to the knowledge base”. Which is an approach that works very well within the context of traditional academic knowledge dissemination practices and ideology.* From an Academic perspective, there is a knowledge base/s and someone in the Academy will add to it. Again, this assumes that knowledge is stable, knowledge is wanted or needed, and that it is valued by the public.  Our Changing World However, we no longer live in the Era of Knowledge Scarcity. Universities and Industries along with their corresponding knowledge management systems have had to wrestle with this scenario for at least the last three decades. “Knowledge Systems”, (a.k.a. knowledge-based systems), now must account for a knowledge base (KB) that approaches infinity. In addition, there are now mechanisms that the public recognizes and uses like a KB. Examples of these would be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumbler, Snap Chat. In many cases, even the Google Search Engine is being used like a KB for the public. There are now more than 200 social media sites and by other estimates there are more than 800 social media sites that are and can be used as a KB. This does not include the numerous websites and webpages that the public is using as KBs. The total global population in January 2018 was estimated to be 7.593 Billion. A summary of the 2018 Global Social Media Research Summary Report shows that the number of people using social media went up by 13% in 2018 to 3.196 Billion since last year. The number of internet users world-wide went up by 7% in 2018 to 4.021 Billion compared to last year. The number of active mobile phone social users went up by 4% to 2.958 Billion since last year. All of this suggests that there has been a change in what and how the public obtains, envisions, prioritizes, and counts as knowledge.   Defining Knowledge in the New Economy Our understanding of what constitutes knowledge has changed in the last 10 to 15 years for the public. Meaning that the ideology and practice of knowledge dissemination to the public is now a little bit of a misnomer. Because knowledge, especially for the public, implies a use function. This must not only be of use to the individual providing it but also to those who receive it. For example, if someone claims that they have knowledge of a subject and cannot demonstrate/show that knowledge to someone else, then the knowledge claimed is put into question. Knowledge must have a multi-user function. Most dictionaries describe knowledge as facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; or, as the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject or awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. For western philosophers and scholars of knowledge, defining knowledge appears to have been debated for centuries. Some older known philosophers and scholars known for these debates include but are not limited to Kant, Locke, Plato, Kripke, Gettier, Blackburn, Nozick, Kirkham, Wittgenstein, and Moore. Aspects of this debate over what is knowledge still goes on today.** Currently under a western perspective, there is wide-spread agreement on three conditions, but not consensus, on what constitutes knowledge. They are: if the person believes the statement to be true; the statement is in fact true; and if the person is justified in believing the statement to be true. These three conditions embody Justification, Truth, and Belief or JTB for short. One can find a short synopsis on JTB by clicking here. Both the dictionary and scholarly definitions of knowledge are correct. Showing how both definitions are correct is a topic for another discussion. However, in the context of the public and our current (new) knowledge abundance economy, synthesis of the dictionary and scholarly definition of knowledge can be best understood in general through the following definition. Knowledge can be described as useful, or recognized as being useful, coherent well-organized packets or containers of information that embody at least the three JTB conditions. When this packet or container (of information) is used by the receiving individual, the container is opened, and the organized information inside is interpreted under JTB conditions into some usable form called knowledge. The reason that a particular container would be used can be as simple or basic as an individual wanting to understand a little more about a topic. Note: Above, the phrase, “some usable form called knowledge”, was used because one hundred percent (100%) knowledge transfer is a persistent myth. Corruption, perversion, and misinterpretation of knowledge happens among individuals and groups – regardless of educational attainment. Aspects of these coherent well-organized packets or containers of information can also be just useful enough for someone to reject or modify. This would still constitute knowledge. Rejection or modification of knowledge could be based on a number of things, for example - religion, ignorance, illness, stupidity, and the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Discussion points that would generate much debate between philosophers and other scholars of knowledge. If all these points are considered, this could imply any knowledge disseminated, under academic traditional practices, to the public would be considered disseminated potential-stored knowledge or organized information rather than knowledge itself. This would be somewhat analogous to potential energy and the idea behind a photon (in general, a packet of energy). Disseminated knowledge is similar to potential energy because it has yet to be acquired, used, or put into motion by the public user within the context of a system. The system here includes: individuals mental models; distributors, sharers, and users of the disseminated potential-stored knowledge; a medium; type of delivery; and already existing information external and internal to the distributors, shares, and users.   Disseminated knowledge is also like a photon, because disseminated knowledge acts and behaves as a subatomic “Conceptual” particle. It has a certain frequency, speed, velocity, and transfer potential. Just like there could be wasted packets of energy (photons) there could be wasted packets of organized information (potential knowledge).   University Knowledge Dissemination and the Public in the Era of Knowledge Abundance What has happened and is currently happening, is that many coherent well-organized packets of information, when released (disseminated), don’t get used, and stay in their most basic form (that is, they’re untapped). The basic form of knowledge is useful coherent well-organized packets of information. Traditional academic knowledge dissemination practices become increasingly limited in an abundance environment. This occurs in an abundance paradigm because the knowledge base exponentially approaches infinity. Under these circumstances, formal knowledge representation (formal knowledge bases and their systems) are easily converted into constantly changing semi-formal, formal, and informal ways of knowing by the public to depict the world. These depictions are based on the cultural norms of the individual, group, or subgroup represented in the public. More importantly with the wide use of mediums like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google preferences, and etc., individuals, groups, and subgroups can either create or house their own knowledge base or pseudo-knowledge base systems. Result being, that for better or for worse, individuals or groups in the public are increasingly accessing knowledge from sources other than the University or well-established and tested knowledge systems. This also allows individuals, groups, or subgroups to pick and use the first pieces of coherent well-packaged information (knowledge) available that works for them. Even if it is wrong. Thus, in this abundance economy, knowledge may not be seen by the public as stable (such as coming from a stable fact-checked knowledge base), knowledge may no longer be needed or wanted, and there is enough knowledge that at any point in time that different types of knowledge can be viewed as having little to no value. Reconsidering Our Approach Disseminating knowledge to the public in an abundance of knowledge economy does not guarantee its use. Knowledge disseminated to the public without the public being able to use it, is waste. In fact, it might not be considered knowledge at all, just more information. In a knowledge abundance economy, knowledge must have a receiver/user to be knowledge. This suggests that knowledge is also finite and not indefinite. In other words, for the public, knowledge has an expiration date. In addition, universities and faculty in them are increasingly being forced to reconsider how they interact with the public. This has been due to several changes in the national and international landscape (e.g. state funding, governmental funding, politics, usefulness of the University conversations initiated by the public, declining enrollment, increasing ethnic and gender diversity, proliferation of social media, and national and international wicked societal problems). One critical step that would help universities successfully navigate this new landscape and economy would be to tweak how individuals/faculty in the University approach a community. This would require universities and faculty to change their ideological values about and practice concerning, “disseminating knowledge to the public”. Individuals/faculty would need to highly value and embrace some new perspectives, like “sharing, communicating, mobilizing, translating, managing, and propagating knowledge with and for the public”. Such a suggestion implies a more strategic approach. It implies understanding and working with those whom the information will be most relevant before the sharing, communication, translation, management, propagation, and mobilization process begins. This requires individuals and universities to know and develop relationships with the public outside the context of a recruitment mindset, a project need, or a requirement to get funding. It may also mean that it might be required, in some cases, that knowledge be co-constructed with the relevant individuals or groups in the public. Full or partial infrastructure needed to advance and support these approaches are already in place at many universities nationally and internationally. This infrastructure is typically comprised of Societal Benefit Professionals (SBPs). A few examples of SBPs at universities that could be better utilized for this endeavor are: community engagement and engaged scholarship professionals; broader impacts professionals (for the National Science Foundation, other agencies, and in general); and knowledge mobilizers, brokers, and translators. There are also a number of Societal Benefit Organizations (SBOs) that act as “boundary organizations” that could be used for this purpose to help share, communicate, translate, propagate, and mobilize University knowledge with and for the public. Boundary organizations sit either inside or outside the University and work with individuals in the Academy and in the public. In addition, several different types of University technology transfer centers, marketing offices, and communication departments and colleges could be employed with numerous types of SBPs and SBOs to support this proposed approach. However, for universities to fully embrace these new perspectives there must be high-level administrative support, a change in University culture, and a revaluing of what matters in departments concerning tenure. This starts with Presidents, Vice Presidents and Chancellors for Research (VPR/VCR), Provosts, and other Upper Administrative leaders embracing this change through formal University structures. Approach for Vice Presidents and Vice Chancellors of Research (VPR/VCR) For VPR’s and VCR’s, this means to create Assistant or Associate Vice President or Chancellor for Research, Society, and Impact (VPRSI/VCRSI) positions in their organizations. These VPRSI/VCRSI positions would support, engage, and work with and for “ALL” researchers and society to help an institution, VPR/VCR office, graduate and undergraduate students, and specifically faculty navigate their research with, for, and in the context of the public domain to maximize research impact. In addition, VPRSI’s/VCRSI’s and their offices would help individuals/faculty evaluate the effectiveness of their research impact endeavors and the research impact for an entire University.  This position would also allow University systems and VPR/VCR offices to effectively take advantage of the relationship between increased researcher public positive engagement and increased University funding. This relationship between public engagement and funding is a phenomenon that has not been adequately explored in the United States (US). However, as research funding is challenged, the relationship between public engagement and research expenditures is becoming a greater focus in the US and internationally.  Funding for research is not the only driver for increased institutional, office of VPR/VCR, and faculty/researcher engagement with the public. A culture change is beginning to happen throughout the world in which the society is requiring Universities to provide, work for, and with the public to increase the impact of University research. This impact implies an emphasis on the end user and not solely the researcher and University. There are now several national and international mechanisms bringing together individuals and organizations in the non-profit sector, government, Academy, and Industry to support and better address the public call for a Societal-Centric Research University Impact Culture. A few examples of these national and international mechanisms include the: National Alliance for Broader Impacts Summit in the US; Knowledge Mobilization Forum in Canada; and the International Impact of Science Conference. Note: The Impact of Science Conference is not just focused on the impact of science. It is concerned with the impact of social science, arts, humanities, and all aspects of research impact in the public domain.   Approach for Presidents, Provosts, Other High-Level Administrators, and Governance Boards For Presidents, Provosts, and other Upper Administrators this means to modify the University tenure guidelines and/or mandate an increased departmental and faculty value on being “Public Facing” in tenure considerations. A way that State Regents and other boards that perform similar functions could support this approach is by providing a public proclamation on the value of “Public Facing”. Public facing is when an individual/s, group, organization, entity, company, or University decides through their procedures, actions, professional responsibilities, and policies to have and encourage better: relationships; interactions; sharing; attention; mobilization; and communication (could be with the help of others) so that they can be more reciprocally involved and open to and with the public.*** “Public Facing” is used to accomplish at least three major objectives. These three major goals are to: create large positive public impacts; allow the public access and more equitable and effective use of information; and help individual, groups, and universities emphasize outcomes and outputs rather than only outputs and activities in the public sphere. In the context of knowledge dissemination to the public, most University tenure guidelines are either non-existent or outdated – based on 13th – mid 20th century values on knowledge. Times when knowledge scarcity was considered the norm. These outdated values on knowledge have shaped University departmental and faculty beliefs and values on what matters for tenure. Many departments and the faculty in them still adhere to an “Ivory Tower Approach” on knowledge as the primary indicator of tenure worthiness. This is evident by the low value put on “Public facing” by Committee A’s/tenure committees, already tenured faculty, and departmental/school chairs in departments across the nation.   Summary Times have changed, the world has changed, we have moved past the Era of Knowledge Scarcity, and are not going back. We are now in the Age of Knowledge Abundance. It is time for our University, departmental, and faculty tenure policies and values to reflect the current times, the current age, and how the public currently deals with knowledge. In a public domain, “Knowledge is art, a useful gift, it needs to be shared, and those who successfully share it in a way that it gets used are well-respected and highly esteemed artists”. These well-respected and highly-esteemed individuals embody public facing. After all, knowledge dissemination from the public’s perspective, equates to just providing more information if it has no use or perceived as useful. Simply because anyone can provide information in this age. How useful is that?     Notes* In health fields and medical universities in the US and around the world, there has been increased movement away from traditional University knowledge dissemination practices. Knowledge dissemination is now being shifted and/or equated to knowledge translation practices. Knowledge translation is more in line with knowledge mobilization depending on the field of study, profession, or industry. This is especially salient in Canada. Like knowledge mobilization, knowledge translation also seeks to put knowledge into action with the end user in mind. Many times, with emphasis on impact in terms of the non-academic user. **It is important to recognize that there are other notions and thoughts to what constitutes knowledge. Many of these notions come from civilizations well-established before European Western Civilizations. These civilizations influenced western scholarly thought on knowledge. Examples of these are Asian, Indigenous, and African civilizations. For the purposes of this article, this will be discussed in further detail at another time. *** Public Facing was a phrase used by Dr. Karlos Hill in a conversation he and I had that summarized my advice on how institutions, organizations, individuals, and faculty could be more impactful in today’s knowledge abundance environment.
Abstract Many faculty researchers, University administrators, proposal development individuals and organizations, engagement specialists, Societal Benefit Organizations (SBOs), and Societal Benefit Professionals (SBPs) have asked and indicated the need for a researched evidence-based response to the following question: What is one of the most important keys to developing broader impacts for the National Science Foundation (NSF)? This question has become especially salient for faculty submitting proposals to NSF or other agencies, foundations, and organizations with different types of broader impacts foci. Faculty know it is vital to develop broader impacts, but they do not necessarily know what the deeper meaning of broader impacts is. To truly understand the scope of broader impacts, we need to go beyond anecdotal descriptions of what others have done.  This article introduces a research-based framework for understanding, practicing, and starting to operate in a broader impacts paradigm. This response is a brief synopsis based off several works-in-progress that either have been or will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals.   Brief Introduction, Background, and Methodology Many do not realize that the concept, meaning, and methodology of broader impacts represent an international phenomenon. An investigation into this phenomenon revealed that at least eighty-two percent (82%) of the countries around the world utilize a range of names, terms, or phrases (NTP’s) to describe broader impacts. Broader impacts-like NTP's were originally identified based on three overarching features.  The first feature was that the NTP had to be focused on achieving something societally desirable. The second feature was that it had to encompass a process function. The third feature was that it needed to encourage achieving a specific goal[1]. Examples of these NTP’s are found in Figure 1 (Fig.1) and organized by country, except for the European Unions (EU’s) Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and the Research Excellence Framework (REF).