The proposal submitted to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was a joint effort of four units on campus, including: University Press/Libraries, College of Liberal Arts, Global Policy Research Institute (GPRI), and Discovery Park. The lead principal investigator was Charles Watkinson, Director, Purdue University Press and Head, Scholarly Publishing Services, Libraries. Joint investigators were: Hyunyi Cho, Professor, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Education, College of Liberal Arts; Suresh Garimella, Distinguished Professor and Chief Global Affairs Officer, Global Policy Research Institute; and Candiss Vibbert, Assistant VP for Engagement, Associate Director for Discovery Park. Shortly after the inauguration of the project award, James L. Mullins, Dean of Libraries and Esther Ellis Norton Professor, succeeded as Principal Investigator upon the departure of Charles Watkinson from Purdue University. During the course of the project, leadership changes have taken place as positions and responsibilities changed. A major transition occurred when the Global Policy Research Institute was re-branded the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI). Although global was dropped from its name, PPRI continues to be concerned with global policy development.
In August 2014, a call was made to the Purdue community to bring researchers from across campus to learn about the "Mellon Catalyzing Grant." Focus groups were formed to discuss particular aspects of the World’s Grand Challenges. From these informal discussions developed teams who identified a particular challenge to research and develop policy drawing on humanities, social sciences, and STEM methodologies and expertise. Librarians were included on each team to bring their knowledge of research databases and ultimately to collaborate on the dissemination of the policies using new modes of scholarly communication.
Fourteen proposals were submitted for review by a panel of experts for funding. Each team received approximately $50,000 to support its work from April 2014 through July 2016. After a thorough review, five teams were selected for funding:
At different points in the research process, the teams were afforded opportunities to meet with experts in order to guide their projects. Robert L. Faherty, Vice President and Director Emertitus of The Brookings Press, served as a consultant on the grant, reviewing proposals and progress, and ultimately visiting campus several times to meet with the teams. These meetings focused on developing policy solutions, identifying stakeholders and policymakers, and crafting dissemination plans for research. By challenging teams to produce results beyond traditional academic writing, the intention is to amplify the impact of findings and deliver information directly to key parties and decision makers.
In October 2015, the community gathered for the first-ever "Policies for Progress" conference at Purdue University. A broad collection of faculty, researchers, graduate and undergraduate students, and other interested parties attended the conference. The first day of the conference was highlighted by keynote speaker Nicholas Haan, the Track Chair for Global Grand Challenges from Singularity University. Haan's impressive resume includes over a quarter-century of work at the intersection of science, technology, social challenges and innovation. His lecture showcased his depth of knowledge of Grand Challenges as varied as disaster relief, food security, the environment, genetics, and information systems, and his experience working with groups such as the United Nations, governments, universities, donor agencies, and NGOs. Attendees were reminded that Grand Challenges rarely remain static, and so we must develop new ways to address them and anticipate how they are likely to change over time.
The second day of the "Policies for Progress" conference provided an opportunity for the grant research teams to share their research findings to date with a wide audience. This afforded teams the chance to engage in meaningful Q&A with interested parties and discuss their plans for the remainder of the grant period. The featured speaker for the afternoon session was Barbara Kline Pope, Executive Director for Communities and the National Academies Press. Pope’s presentation focused on science communication, impact, and dissemination, and reminded attendees of the importance of developing and delivering messages credibly and effectively. The conference concluded with an interactive workshop led by Pope and Peter Froehlich, Director of Purdue University Press and Head of Scholarly Publishing Services. After having a chance to hear from each research team earlier in the day, the workshop aimed to develop detailed strategic dissemination plans that could not only be applied to these specific grant projects, but to provide lessons for attendees to apply to their own work.
In July 2016, the grant period will formally come to a close, but the impact of these five research teams will continue to be felt well beyond Purdue University's campus. Whether they were conducting interviews in India or interacting with our community in West Lafayette, Indiana, the faculty and students involved in the grant were able to gather new data, present findings at conferences, publish articles for academic and general audiences, develop and propose unique policy solutions, and draw attention to complex Grand Challenge problems. Although it was not the expressed intent of the grant, multiple graduate students working on the research teams were able to further their dissertation research through their association with these projects.
By engaging complex, large-scale Grand Challenge problems through a multidisciplinary approach that included humanities, social sciences, STEM, Libraries, and the University Press, these teams have accomplished a tremendous amount through their combined efforts.
A final report on grant activities will be delivered to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in October 2016.