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Scientific Research in Education
kind of infrastructure building is fundamentally new. We suggest that an agency support such partnerships carefully and incrementally. There are not only significant structural and cultural barriers to forging these partnerships, but there is also the potential for them to be unproductive. The nature of their work requires practitioners to be driven by immediate crises of the day. These needs could skew the research to be too short-term and tactical in nature to contribute substantially to science-based knowledge. Similarly, there may also be tradeoffs between traditional views of scientific quality and the utility of the work for practice (National Research Council, 2001d). Thus, we urge that the development of these collaborations should include explicit plans for studying their effectiveness and improving them over time.
We believe that clear and consistent focus on translating these design principles into action will promote a strong scientific culture within an agency and strengthen the federal role in education research. For those who know the history of NIE or OERI, many of the principles will strike a familiar chord. For those who don’t, many of them will seem self-evident. However hackneyed or intuitive, we believe they are the crux of the matter. Too often “reform” efforts of the past have focused on changing the existing agency’s organizational structure without adequately grappling with the core issues related to building an infrastructure that supports a scientific community and fosters scientific norms within the agency. Arguably, not since the early days of NIE has the primary agency in the federal government charged with education research had the basic tools to develop a scientific culture and to achieve its mission. Although the details may shift, the principles we propose are intended to stand as guideposts for a federal agency charged with support of scientific education research regardless of the particular situation of the existing federal infrastructure at any given point in time.