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Scientific Research in Education
throughout this chapter we refer to OERI and other agencies, most often comparing various aspects of funding and operations among them.
We also relied on information the committee gathered at a workshop it sponsored in March 2001 that featured panels of senior officials from these and other agencies as well as knowledgeable experts about the federal role. The participants discussed the federal role in education research and related social sciences across several agencies with an eye toward the future of a federal education research agency (again, OERI was one of several agencies represented and discussed). This event is summarized in a workshop report (see National Research Council, 2001d).
Based on the information gathered at the workshop and through subsequent data collection, our guiding principles of science, the features of education that influence the conduct of research, and the nature of scientific progression, we develop six design principles around the notion of creating a scientific culture. We argue throughout this report that science itself is supported through the norms and mores of the scientific community, and we believe that cultivating these values within a research agency is the key to its success. We also note that decades of organizational fixes at the current agency have arguably not done much to improve its culture and, consequently, its reputation.
Our focus on a scientific culture within an agency stems from the recognition that an agency in many ways reflects the field it supports, and vice versa. An agency’s success requires a strong group of scholars, and the broader community depends in part on a vibrant federal presence. Thus, our design principles emphasize the role of researchers to lead and staff the agency, to serve on advisory boards, to help synthesize the current state of knowledge, and to act as peer reviewers of proposals and programs of research. The principles also recognize the role of the agency in building the professional capacity of the field.
Other themes in this report are embedded in the design principles as well. For example, we take up the issue of research ethics—an influential aspect of the education research enterprise (see Chapter 4)—from the perspective of the federal regulations that govern them. We also argue for flexible decision-making authority in the agency to accommodate the dynamic nature of scientific progress and opportunity (see Chapters 2 and 3). And we suggest the agency attempt to enhance part of its research port-