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Closing the Knowledge-Action Gap for Infrastructure

This project is in collaboration with Dr. Christine Kirchhoff (University of Connecticut) and Dr. Elizabeth McNie (California Maritime University).

Usable science can play a critical role in informing the multi-trillion dollar investment needed to rebuild and modernize American infrastructure to better serve societal needs in the face of uncertain demographic, technological, and environmental change. However, there is a persistent and costly science-to-action gap that hinders the production and application of relevant scientific knowledge to guide these critical infrastructure investments. This science policy research report will address the science-to-action gap for infrastructure by identifying how public investments in science can be better managed to produce more relevant information to inform the next generation of infrastructure design, construction and operation. This review will help guide science policy-makers on appropriate research and development investments best suited to inform the rebuilding and expansion of modern, resilient, and sustainable infrastructure critical to support U.S. businesses, communities, and citizens in the 21st century. Science policy research suggests that the ways in which we currently fund and organize scientific research is insufficient to support planning and implementation for 21st century infrastructure in the context of current and future expected changes in climate and other environmental and societal factors. Drawing upon pertinent and critical evidence from this science policy research, literature on usable science and boundary organizations, and related practitioner expertise, this research utilizes innovative and robust methods to advance fundamental knowledge about the science-action- gap for infrastructure. The collaborative research team, led by the Aspen Global Change Institute, will identify a set of evidence-based science policy ideas through a series of input gathering methods, including expert elicitation, literature analysis, and iteration with other SciSIP-funded science policy report teams. Four anticipated focus areas for strategy development will include:

1) Research investments in institutions that help to broker and bridge knowledge producers and users across the boundaries of science, policy, and practice;

2) Research investments in translational and post-normal research and in changing the culture of the research enterprise;

3) Manipulations to design of Requests for Proposals, including special requirements of researchers to interact or co-develop research with end-users or other practitioners; and

4) Manipulations to the design of reporting and evaluation requirements, such as those associated with NSF’s broader impacts criteria included in both proposals and reports.

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