Social Sciences, Vol. 12, Pages 312: Creating the Current and Riding the Wave: Persistence and Change in Community-Engaged Health Sciences Research

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Social Sciences, Vol. 12, Pages 312: Creating the Current and Riding the Wave: Persistence and Change in Community-Engaged Health Sciences Research

Social Sciences doi: 10.3390/socsci12050312

Authors:
Krista A. Haapanen
Jonathan K. London
Karen Andrade

Recent decades have seen considerable increases in funding and support for community-engaged research (CER) in the health sciences, including the introduction of community engagement requirements into federally funded research infrastructure programs. This paper asks why, despite these supports and incentives, even the best-intentioned researchers and research organizations may struggle to design, implement, and sustain successful community engagement strategies. This question is examined using an exploratory case study of an environmental health sciences research center whose strategies were influenced in part by a requirement by the funder to incorporate community engagement into its research activities. This study utilizes multiple sources of qualitative data collected between the research center’s second and fifth years of operation, including participant observation, interviews, and focus groups. The analysis employs an organizational perspective, yielding insights into the factors hindering and facilitating the development of practices that integrate community perspectives and control into academic structures. The findings point to an ongoing dialectic between support for innovative community engagement practices and persistence of conventional academic structures. We highlight the interconnected effects of environmental influences, organizational structures, and individual agency on the development of innovative community engagement practices. The implications for future research and practice are discussed.

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