NSF Award Enables Fox' Innovative Project on Transmission of Knowledge about Women in Science and Engineering
Mary Frank Fox, ADVANCE professor, School of Public Policy, has been awarded a two-year $300,000 grant by the National Science Foundation as Principal Investigator for the study of “The Transmission Zone between the Producers and Consumers of Knowledge about Women in Science and Engineering.”
Fox and her collaborator, Gerhard Sonnert (Harvard University), were motivated to undertake this project because a deep gap continues to divide the research producers and the broader consumers of knowledge about women in science and engineering—with some consumers (including working scientists) experiencing frustration about not being able to get pertinent knowledge in a form that works for them. Although a wealth of data and knowledge about women in science and engineering exists, this knowledge often fails to reach intended consumers: working scientists, students, administrators, and all those interested in understanding and enhancing the participation and performance of women in science and engineering.
Fox’s project is a strategic study that investigates the key dimensions of the problem of this “transmission zone” and identifies blockages and inefficiencies in the current system of transmission of knowledge, with broader implications for promising initiatives and models of such transmission.
Using multiple methods—bibliometric means, individual interviews, and organizational analyses—the project is innovative, even unique. It takes knowledge about women in science and engineering as a focal case, and recognizes and addresses the transfer of knowledge from producers to consumers as “non-automatic,” and more problematic, than previously assumed in prevailing research about the diffusion of knowledge.
Fox says “this project takes a leap from research and theory on diffusion of knowledge that has preceded it. It goes beyond the passive broadcast model of knowledge, and aims to identify and understand active and effective agents of knowledge transmission in the nationally and internationally critical area of women in science and engineering. The project intends to map the various channels of diffusion, identifying ways in which effective diffusion of knowledge about women in science and engineering can overcome costs of cognitive load, effort, and time among potential consumers. In reality, the broadcast model of publication may suffice for scientists when working within their own research subareas, but ‘knowledge transfer’ does not operate in this way when the targeted audience goes well beyond non-specialists who, nonetheless, have a crucial need to know.”