Integrated Elements of HIBAR Research

Research breakthroughs with societal impact often result from long-term research projects that are both curiosity-driven and application-oriented. The integration of these two forms of research, however, can be challenging as priorities related to purpose, methods, leadership, and time frames often conflict with one another. Integrated projects of this type represent a time-honored class of research projects labelled “Highly Integrative Basic And Responsive” (HIBAR), combining fundamental and applied research in an integrative and recursive manner.

A research project is considered HIBAR if it combines applied and fundamental research in all four of the following key ways:

  • Integrating motivations, through a desire for discovery and an intent to solve problems;
  • Integrating methods, using traditional academic investigation and creative methods;
  • Integrating leadership, by academics co-leading projects with societal partners;
  • Integrating time frames, by maintaining a strong sense of urgency over a long haul.

HIBAR, the acronym for the label “Highly Integrative Basic And Responsive”, was developed to emphasize the essential characteristics of this type of research project, by signifying their integrative and recursive characteristics. Academic researchers in all fields (including social sciences, humanities, science, engineering, and medicine), working alongside societal partners that bring key expertise, have much to offer in the diverse collaborations that are central to most HIBAR projects.

HIBAR research has historically been highly generative, contributing to breakthroughs such as the transistor and penicillin, and, indirectly, the internet, cell phones, and the GPS system. More recent examples include the work of Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics for their experimental approach using randomized controlled trials about alleviating global poverty, the creation of the Google “pagerank” algorithm that has revolutionized the internet search engine, and key material science developments in battery technology that have enabled the electric vehicle industry to flourish. HIBAR research also leads to solving societal problems in a less dramatic but no less important fashion, such as understanding institutional and behavior changes needed to reduce poverty in inner cities.

It is difficult to pinpoint the origins of today’s understanding of HIBAR research, but most agree that Donald Stokes made a key contribution in his book Pasteur’s Quadrant (1997), which brilliantly brought into clear focus, for broad audiences, a body of work that innovation economists and science policy scholars had written about for decades. Stokes’ work is highly cited and has been very influential.


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