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"San Francisco Chronicle" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law professor Bennett L. Gershman in "100% turnover in St. Louis prosecutor's office in 2 ½ years"

09/23/2019

"San Francisco Chronicle" featured Elisabeth Haub School of Law professor Bennett L. Gershman in "100% turnover in St. Louis prosecutor's office in 2 ½ years"

But Bennett L. Gershman, a law professor at Pace University in New York and former prosecutor in Manhattan, said the turnover rate in Gardner's office is "astonishing." It's unusual, he said, for enthusiastic new hires, their minds focused on "serving the public, making the community safer and doing justice," to leave so quickly. "That has a drastic, drastic impact on the system," he said.

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"San Francisco Chronicle" featured Dyson Assistant Professor Anne Toomey's piece "Redefining 'impact' so research can help real people right away, even before becoming a journal article"

05/07/2018

"San Francisco Chronicle" featured Dyson Assistant Professor Anne Toomey's piece "Redefining 'impact' so research can help real people right away, even before becoming a journal article"

Scientists are increasingly expected to produce research with impact that goes beyond the confines of academia. When funding organizations such as the National Science Foundation consider grants to researchers, they ask about “broader impacts.” They want to support science that directly contributes to the “achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes.” It’s not enough for researchers to call it a day, after they publish their results in journal articles read by a handful of colleagues and few, if any, people outside the ivory tower.

Perhaps nowhere is impact of greater importance than in my own fields of ecology and conservation science. Researchers often conduct this work with the explicit goal of contributing to the restoration and long-term survival of the species or ecosystem in question. For instance, research on an endangered plant can help to address the threats facing it.

But scientific impact is a very tricky concept. Science is a process of inquiry; it’s often impossible to know what the outcomes will be at the start. Researchers are asked to imagine potential impacts of their work. And people who live and work in the places where the research is conducted may have different ideas about what impact means.

In collaboration with several Bolivian colleagues, I studied perceptions of research and its impact in a highly biodiverse area in the Bolivian Amazon. We found that researchers – both foreign-based and Bolivian – and people living and working in the area had different hopes and expectations about what ecological research could help them accomplish.

My colleagues and I focused on research conducted in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park and Natural Area for Integrated Management.

Due to its impressive size (approximately 19,000 square kilometers) and diversity of species – including endangered mammals such as the spectacled bear and the giant otter – Madidi attracts large numbers of ecologists and conservation scientists from around the world. The park is also notable for its cultural diversity. Four indigenous territories overlap Madidi, and there are 31 communities located within its boundaries.

Between 2012 and 2015, we carried out interviews and workshops with people living and working in the region, including park guards, indigenous community members and other researchers. We also surveyed scientists who had worked in the area during the previous 10 years. Our goal was to better understand whether they considered their research to have implications for conservation and ecological management, and how and with whom they shared the results of their work.

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