Highly Integrated Basic and Applied Research

Program Areas – Science and Technology Policy, Education and Engagement

Consensus Statement of the HIBAR Research Alliance

A Call for Universities to Improve Research and Increase Benefits to Society Through Deepening Engagement with External Partners

May 16, 2017

The HIBAR Research Alliance is a network of research leaders who believe that universities can improve their research outcomes and increase their benefits to society through the advancement of Highly Integrative Basic and Responsive (HIBAR) research, which builds upon excellence in basic research as well as excellence in application and societal engagement. HIBAR research thus maximizes innovation and the potential for research collaboration among academic institutions, business and industry, and government agencies. To do so, it adopts the high standard of research quality established and led by the best fundamental university research.

HIBAR research projects combine academic engagement with real-world problem solving through all of the following aspects of motivation, approach, partnership, and time frame.  HIBAR research:

  • Embraces the attainment of new knowledge coupled with the solution of important problems;
  • Combines academic research methods with practical design thinking aimed at application;
  • Engages the efforts of academic and real-world leading experts; and
  • Seeks time-to-use less than academic norms (<15yr) & more than in direct application (>3yr).

These four aspects produce potent innovations and significant new understandings, and also promote balance and synergy, which enables HIBAR projects to address major problems and identify new opportunities. HIBAR project leaders form partnerships between experienced practitioners and academics to tackle common obstacles to humanity’s advancement. Such a highly integrative approach leads to both academic and practical breakthroughs—respected research publications and successful practical applications.

Although these characteristics may appear novel, HIBAR research has a long and distinguished history of transformative contributions. And while the HIBAR characteristics collectively distinguish such research, the approach has wide applicability – HIBAR research is conducive to all forms of intellectual pursuit. For example, HIBAR projects are:

  • Common in social, physical and biological science, engineering, design, and other fields;
  • Often interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary, although some reside within a single discipline;
  • Especially effective in addressing socio-technical problems using diverse research methods;
  • Well-suited to participants in NGOs, government agencies, industry, academia, or elsewhere.

HIBAR research builds upon university excellence in basic research by engaging societal partners. Support for this time-honored principle can grow as more academic researchers find they are able to partner effectively with practitioners in government, industry, and non-governmental organizations. When they do, a remarkable synergy often produces both better peer-reviewed research and practical solutions.  There is growing evidence that when academic leaders encourage HIBAR research (as well as the basic research excellence upon which that work relies), they can heighten benefits for society as well as the prominence of their institutions. However, this may require overcoming natural impediments to organizational change.

Such efforts to bolster HIBAR must be strategic—focusing on examples that will attract support because they improve all forms of research and promise improved social benefit. Integrative research has already long been evident in a number of fields at leading institutions, as well as in collaborations and networks within and among institutions. But challenges in its implementation remain to be resolved, including adjusting promotion and tenure criteria to better value broader aspects of impact, such as, in some fields, patents, entrepreneurship, or policy changes. Also important are supportive institutional statements about the value of HIBAR research and a commitment to increase and accelerate social impact by encouraging it.

These views arise from many significant preceding efforts and build upon their findings. Appendix A lists related publications and Appendix B identifies organizations that support HIBAR research. Appendix C answers some frequently asked questions about HIBAR research.

The undersigned, speaking on our own behalf, strongly endorse the overall mission of the HIBAR Research Alliance. We welcome our colleagues, within and beyond the university sector, to develop and share their own approaches for advancing highly integrative, basic and responsive research.

Ann Austin

Professor of Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education at Michigan State University, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Education

Roger Benjamin

Council for Aid to Education

Robert Briber

Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Associate Dean for Research for the College of Engineering at the University of Maryland

Sandra Brown

Vice Chancellor for Research and a Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at UC San Diego

Camille Crittenden

Deputy Director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute, Director of the CITRIS Connected Communities Initiative, University of California, Berkeley

William Dabars

Senior Research Fellow for University Design and Senior Director of Research for the New American University in the Office of the President, Arizona State University

Howard Gobstein

Executive Vice President of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

Julie Lenzer

Associate Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development and Co-Director of UM Ventures
University of Maryland

Cynthia Goh

Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, the Institute of Medical Science and the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Ronald Rensink

Associate Professor in the departments of Computer Science and Psychology at the University of British Columbia

Sarah Rovito

Assistant Director of Research Policy at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities

Daniel Sarewitz

Professor of Science and Society, and co-director and co-founder of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes (CSPO), at Arizona State University

Ben Shneiderman

Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland

Gavin Stuart

Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of British Columbia

Lorne Whitehead

Professor of Physics and Special Advisor on Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Research, University of British Columbia

James Woodell

Vice President for Economic Development and Community Engagement at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities


Appendix A: References

Allen, T. J., Managing the Flow of Technology: Technology Transfer and the Dissemination of Technological Information within the R & D Organization (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977).

Brown, S., Leinen, M., Strathdee, S., Advancing Social and Behavioral Health Research through Cross-disciplinary Team Science: Principles for Success, Section 8 Institutional Influences, Chapter 45, Voices from the Field: Building a Cross-Disciplinary Culture. NIH (2017).

Crow, M. M. and Dabars, W. B., Designing the New American University (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015).

Jackson, S., Op-ed: “The New Polytechnic: Preparing to Lead in the Digital Economy,” US News and World Report (Sept 22, 2014),

Narayanamurti, V. and Odumosu, T., Cycles of Invention and Discovery: Rethinking the Endless Frontier (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016).

Sarewitz, D. “Saving Science,” The New Atlantis: A Journal of Technology & Society (Summer 2016).

Shneiderman, B. The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016).

Spector, A., Norvig, P., and Petrov, S., “Google’s hybrid approach to research,” Communications of the ACM 55, 7 (July 2012), 34-37.

Stokes, D., Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1997).

Weber, G. H., Carpendale, S., Ebert, D., Fisher, B., Hagen, H., Shneiderman, B., and Ynnerman, A., “Apply or Die: On the Role and Assessment of Application Papers in Visualization,” IEEE Computer Graphics & Applications 37, 3 (May-June, 2017).


Appendix B: Organizations with Interests Related to the HIBAR Research Alliance

Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF)

Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)

Council for Financial Aid to Education (CAE)


Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable

National Alliance for Broader Impacts

National Organization of Research Development Professionals

State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI)

University Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP)


Appendix C: Frequently Asked Questions about HIBAR Research and the HIBAR Alliance

Is HIBAR research a new idea?

No, HIBAR is simply a new name to help describe a time-honored kind of research that has yielded many research breakthroughs, such as, for example, the transistor.  HIBAR signifies basic research that focuses, in special ways, on issues of importance to the non-academic world.  HIBAR research projects strengthen society by integrating the following four important aspects of theory and practice:
(1) Purpose, (2) Approach, (3) Leadership and (4) Time Frame.

If HIBAR research is not a new idea, what makes it especially important today?

Over the last half century, numerous corporate labs have shifted away from HIBAR research, toward shorter term work, while most academic researchers have continued in their essential role of pursuing fundamental research.  Meanwhile long-term problems have been a growing concern.   By increasing the number of projects that integrate basic research with meaningful application, HIBAR research teams can better address these grand challenges, achieving immense practical and academic benefits.

Isn’t almost all the research in university professional schools already HIBAR?

Excellent HIBAR research is already taking place to some degree in universities, especially in professional schools.  But it is not nearly enough.  University-based research often falls outside the HIBAR definition in one of two ways:  (1) the primary goal of the research may be knowledge creation alone—with little sense of urgency for real world application, or (2) there may be little intention of creating important new knowledge, with an emphasis instead on rapid results for the immediate needs of external partners. Projects the deeply integrate both perspectives are needed and less common than many think.

Doesn’t the prevalence of innovation hubs at universities show that HIBAR research is booming?

Not really, due to a time-frame mismatch.  Entrepreneurship centers focus on satisfying the short term return requirements of most investors.  Not all HIBAR projects are financially motivated, and those that are often won’t yield a return until much later. There are few quick fixes to grand challenges.

If businesses and investors tend not to support HIBAR research, shouldn’t government agencies?

Yes, but they have difficulty doing so. For research proposals with an application focus, funders often require corporate co-funding as evidence of quality. That disadvantages HIBAR projects because their time frame is too long for most companies. Alternative metrics of practical excellence are needed.

In order for HIBAR research to increase, will something else have to decrease?

Not at all. University basic research cannot be reduced to support HIBAR projects because it lies at the heart of HIBAR work. In countless cases, basic research, (such as, for example, astronomical imaging), has generated HIBAR projects with great practical value, and these projects in turn attract new funding.

If the value of HIBAR research is so clear, why is there a need to help it grow?

A key challenge is that the good systems that maintain university academic excellence often inadvertently discourage HIBAR research, especially in regards to how research is funded and faculty members promoted.  There are practical ways to solve this, but the required efforts can be difficult to carry out in a tradition-based culture – doing so will require a concerted system-wide change effort.

What value will the HIBAR Research Alliance provide to the existing organizations in this space?

The HIBAR Research Alliance will (1) develop strategies for leading the organizational changes needed to bolster HIBAR research, and (2) catalyze the adoption of these strategies by many other organizations. A distinguishing characteristic of the HIBAR Research Alliance is the networking of research leaders, at all levels, within their own institutions, and through network-facilitated exchanges between institutions.