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American U. Receives $5.7 Million from NSF to Bridge Research and Policy, Address Real-World Challenges

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American University won a $5.7 million cooperative research agreement from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Accelerating Research Translation program. The award will help AU foster greater use of evidence in the public and private sectors by producing new knowledge on best practices in research translation, training scholars in the effective conduct of research translation, and supporting the dissemination of research findings that have the potential to benefit society.

The ART program empowers academic institutions to speed and scale translational research aimed at growing the U.S. economy. American University is one of eighteen U.S. institutions that will receive funding under the program, which was authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 that aims to support enhanced American competitiveness.

“This historic partnership will further accelerate American University’s changemaking scholarship by helping to ensure that it is translated into impact and action,” said AU President Sylvia Burwell. “Thanks to the support of the National Science Foundation, and the hard work of Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Diana Burley, the AU Office of Research, and numerous faculty experts, current and future generations of AU scholars will have the tools they need to expand research opportunities and create lasting change.”

As part of the four years of NSF funding, AU’s Office of Research will build institutional capacity to translate scientific knowledge into evidence-driven public policies and private sector practices. AU will also train graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in translational research and work to promote and cultivate a culture of research translation on its campus and at other institutions of higher education.

“AU has a strong record of fundamental research on pressing social issues, a commitment to translational research and policy impact, and deep connections to Washington’s most important policy institutions,” said Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Diana Burley. “This grant is perfectly aligned with AU’s core strengths, and it will help us to leverage basic research into data driven decision-making.”

In addition, AU will establish an interdisciplinary repository of translational research methods and partner with other universities, foundations, and nonprofits with experience in building research translation capacity to share best practices and strengthen academia’s ability to have a real policy impact. 

"NSF endeavors to empower academic institutions to build the pathways and structures needed to speed and scale their research into products and services that benefit the nation," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "The Accelerating Research Translation program in NSF’s new Technology, Innovation and Partnerships Directorate identifies and champions institutions positioned to expand their research translation capacity by investing in activities essential to move results to practice." 

American University faculty members leading this project include Raychelle Burks, associate professor, and Bei Xiao, associate professor, College of Arts and Sciences; Rachel Borchardt, scholarly communications librarian; Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Diana Burley; Susanna Campbell, associate professor, and Jordan Tama, provost associate professor, School of International Service; and Joseph Young, professor, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service.

“To address increasingly complex societal challenges, public and private sector leaders must leverage research to make evidence-based decisions,” said Campbell. “Yet, public and private sector practitioners are not always informed of the best research, and university-based scholars often lack the skills or capacity needed to translate their knowledge for them. The grant will address that challenge and we are proud to have been chosen to lead this changemaking work at AU.”

“This funding is so exciting because it enables us to make a real policy impact, understand when and why research makes a policy impact, and build the capacity of the next generation of scholars to make an impact,” Campbell added. “NSF has had impressive foresight in developing this program. The challenges facing the world require that we use all of the knowledge at our disposal to solve them. By improving the infrastructure that universities use to transfer and translate knowledge, NSF is making a catalytic investment in our ability to have real world impact.”

Partial funding for this project was provided by the NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education program, which supports improvements in STEM teaching and learning for all undergraduate students.