Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi was one of a dozen representatives from higher education, federal agencies and private industry invited to speak at the final “Evidence Forum” of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Year of Evidence for Action on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the White House. The event was co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Penn State’s Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative (EIC), with U.S. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff in attendance as a special guest and keynote speaker.
The forum explored the state of research and the use of scientific evidence in government settings, with a particular focus on addressing issues of equity across the evidence ecosystem — the global web of those who generate, mobilize and use scientific evidence.
Guided discussions touched on implementation within various stakeholder settings, potential barriers and challenges to success, contextual considerations for broadening the tent with an equity-oriented lens, and future goals and directions in the area.
Bendapudi’s remarks focused on the contributions of higher education to the evidence ecosystem, with emphasis on opportunities for the future, in both teaching and research missions.
“The whole culture of questioning science, questioning data, is a very dangerous phenomenon in our society,” she said. “We must do a better job of teaching critical thinking, and figure out how we can get to a space where we have more dialogue and trust.
“In our research,” she said, “we’ve got to make sure that our findings are robust and do more to engage our communities in our research. We have to create a pipeline of diverse leaders and scientists, people from different backgrounds who will ask different questions. Equity should be a throughline in everything we do.
“Penn State has a unique opportunity as a land-grant institution,” Bendapudi added, “in that 96% of Pennsylvanians live within 30 miles of one of our campuses. We have a system of 24 campuses in which to test our evidence for societal impact.”
At a reception with attendees after the event, Bendapudi affirmed “as the name of our EIC states, we at Penn State are ready to lead with evidence to impact.”
“We are deeply appreciative of President Bendapudi, the Second Gentleman, and the entire White House team,” said Max Crowley, director of the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative, who moderated the event. “This is the work of many actors over a long period of time to get to this culmination, and this is just the beginning. This was a tremendous opportunity to envision the future of efforts to increase the value of and use of scientific evidence in our society, and this work is core to the scientific mission of the academy and to the priorities of government.
"As the Second Gentleman pointed out in his remarks, one of the first items on the agenda for President Joe Biden when he took office was to sign 'a memorandum to restore trust in government and in science,'" said Crowley. " We're grateful to those who have supported this mission and continue to do so. We are especially grateful for the support of the Social Science Research Institute, the College of Health and Human Development, and the Office of the Provost, who three years ago began supporting work in this area through a Strategic Initiative Award.”
About the Evidence-to-Impact Collaborative
The EIC is a research center and core resource for the science of scientific impact — aiming to improve the relevance, value and use of research evidence to increase societal well-being. The EIC leverages expertise in administrative data, program design and evaluation, and researcher-policymaker relationships to optimize public and private investments. The EIC is a unit of Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute supported by the College of Health and Human Development.