When we moved into a brand-new suite of offices on the 10th floor of the BioSciences Research Collaborative at University Boulevard and Main Street a couple of weeks ago, there was one prominent office that’s empty. But it won’t be empty for long. That’s because we are about to hire a national director for a new Kinder Institute venture: the National Education Research-Practice Partnership, or NERPP.
Over the past several years, the Kinder Institute has gained wide recognition for the fine work done by the Houston Education Research Partnership (HERC), led by our associate director (and Rice sociology professor) Ruth López Turley, which conducts research designed to help improve student performance at Houston Independent School District.
Now, Ruth has led the effort to put together a national network of research partnerships between universities and school districts across the country – that’s NERPP – which will be housed at the Kinder Institute’s offices. Several foundations, most of which are not located in Houston, are funding Kinder’s NERPP effort.
At the same time that Kinder is setting up NERPP, we are also participating in the creation of the MetroLab Network – an equivalent national network of research partnerships between universities and cities that was rolled out at the White House in September.
The MetroLab Network is being run out of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, but Kinder’s experience setting up NERPP helped the folks at Carnegie Mellon figure out how to set up the MetroLab Network. Kinder is about to release our first joint research project with the city – an analysis of how bike-share patterns in Houston compare to those of several other cities in the Sun Belt. And in a couple of weeks, we’ll be hosting a visit to Rice from Steve Koonin, formerly provost at Caltech and BP’s chief scientist, who runs the equivalent research partnership at New York University.
Later on this year, we’ll host political scientists from around the country to discuss the research agenda for the database maintained by the Local Elections in America Project, led by Rice political science professor Melissa Marschall, which was brought into the Kinder Institute earlier this year with the support of the Knight Foundation.
National networks of research partnerships can play a powerful role in helping us address urban problems. Not only can researchers compare notes on how they do their work, they can also find consensus on best practices and lessons learned. Sometimes, they can even conduct research projects together to discover what works across cities.
We hope to keep on convening these folks. Our goal is to convene Sun Belt think tanks at the Kinder Institute in 2016 as a way of making sure that everybody’s research, including ours, has maximum impact in Houston and across the nation.