MERCED -- Some University of California at Merced researchers have been taking the slogan "Think globally, act locally" to heart.
A new task force made up of eight UC Merced academics and affiliates and three community members is in the early stages of launching a campaign targeted at UC Merced faculty to promote the idea of doing research that benefits the local community.
Jan Wallander, a psychology professor and task force member, said there's a push for research to be useful to society.
For example, a UC Merced public health professor could partner with local organizations to study the rise of type 2 diabetes among teens in the Central Valley.
"This is not the only research a university should do," he added. "There is also research for the sake of knowledge."
This type of socially beneficial research, called Community Engaged Scholarship, is sometimes hard for some academics to perform because of other job-related pressures.
Amy Moffat, a spokeswoman for the Great Valley Center, said the emphasis on making tenure often keeps academics from conducting research that serves the local community. The think tank, based in Modesto, is affiliated with the university.
Some professors want to get published in prestigious journals in hopes of making tenure. That may leave less time for research that directly benefits the surrounding area, Moffat said.
Part of UC Merced's mission is to make a positive impact on the local community, she added.
UC Merced Chancellor Steve Kang set aside $8,000 this semester for the promotion of this type of research.
Some professors at UC Merced are already engaged in it. Anthropology professor Robin DeLugan is measuring the health of two communities, Planada and south Merced, by measuring the quality of life of their residents.
Instead of using typical indicators, such as income level and employment, residents answer a number of questions about their civic engagement and how connected they feel to their community.
DeLugan's preliminary research shows that Planada residents have a greater feeling of social cohesion than those in south Merced, she said.