Public engagement is key to successful cross-sector research partnerships, said panelists at a National Academies of Sciences November 15 discussion about successful collaborations in today's challenging environment.
Universities, government and industry often have different priorities, said moderator William Kirwan, Ph.D., president emeritus, University System of Maryland. “The question is, ‘how do we build synergy?’”
Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America, said involving the public in research can help better align stakeholder priorities and ultimately strengthen partnerships. She cited the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) as an example of researchers successfully engaging patients to achieve shared goals.
A joint fact-finding approach that involves the public in the early stages of research builds trust among stakeholders, said Lynn Scarlett, co-chief external affairs officer, Nature Conservancy.
“At universities, our students are the public so it’s important to really embed them in research problem solving, which often provides a great way to open the door with industry,” said Laurie Leshin, president, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Woolley recommended establishing a course on the public context of science for all graduate students in science, enabling them to better understand public expectations and help shape public policy.