Research collaborative about to get respect it deserves for work

MAKING A  DIFFERENCE: So far one of the few collaborative research projects to make a difference in policy discussions was a Roger Williams University professor's study of the state's failing bridge infrastructure. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO
MAKING A DIFFERENCE: So far one of the few collaborative research projects to make a difference in policy discussions was a Roger Williams University professor's study of the state's failing bridge infrastructure. / PBN FILE PHOTO/ MICHAEL SALERNO

In supporting the creation of the College & University Research Collaborative, the Rhode Island Foundation hoped to give state leaders impartial and focused data to inform policy debates.

The tool would be a series of research projects on topics that Rhode Island’s elected leaders would like studied by the state’s college and university faculty. So far, at least, while 18 studies have been done, it does not appear that many of them have had significant impact on state policy. That is unfortunate.

The concept is a strong one. Major policy should be informed by facts, and the state’s colleges and universities employ some of the best researchers and topic experts to be found.

The project, which is also supported by state funds and the higher education institutions, would seem to be an antidote to the seemingly endless series of legislative commissions and panels that explore subjects already studied by previous commissions and panels. Maybe the reports did not support a politically expedient legislative goal, or were assailable on purely political criteria.

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In either case, using the state’s academic resources removes these types of concerns from the equation and produces a more fact-based solution.

The program director for the collaborative says that starting this spring, there will be analyses published to assess the usefulness of the work it does. It’s better late than never, but really, this kind of effort should have gone into the project from the beginning. •