Covenant with Communities
Collaborative, community-focused research endeavors offer benefits to 1) researchers through long-term community labs that support evidence-based, project-driven, and innovative approaches for students and faculty; and 2) community partners through training on issue-based subject matters, public policy development, and sustainable comprehensive action plans. This document serves as a guide for the Institute for Sustainable Communities (IfSC) to ensure it upholds the highest ethical, cultural and scholarly principles when engaging community partners. In addition, this document explicitly outlines a bundle of expectations community partners may hold the IfSC accountable to, as well as the expectations the IfSC has of its community partners.
The IfSC affirms the mission, purpose, and values of Texas A&M toward the development of faculty and student leaders dedicated to serving the greater good. Specifically, the IfSC is Texas A&M’s response to an Environmental Grand Challenge calling for an alliance of researchers, faculty, students, and citizen scientist, to address critical environmental challenges from disasters and climate change, to poverty, and threats to public health, safety, and quality of life, in service to the people and communities of Texas, the nation, and the world.
The IfSC focuses on the protection of natural and built environments and the expansion of social and economic opportunities for all people. Scholars affiliated with the IfSC believe addressing environmental grand challenges requires attention to issues such as ecological degradation, poorly planned human settlements, and the lack of access to healthy living environments and the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on poor and marginalized populations in particular. IfSC scholars also share a fundamental belief that early engagement of community partners to identify areas of concern and the most appropriate methods of collaboration, is critical for transformative progress in reducing the impacts of hazards, climate change, poverty, and other issues related to critical or unmet needs.
Roles and Responsibilities of the Institute of Sustainable Communities
To apply and advance methods of scientific research for the betterment of individuals and communities, the IfSC will offer technical and logistic support for community partners while maintaining the highest level of scholarship and cultural competence. By signing this document, the IfSC’s principle investigators agree to assume responsibility for the following:
- Maintain ethical research practices: Abide by, and follow all guidelines, set forth by the Division of Research's Institutional Reviews Board at Texas A&M University.
- Participatory Process: Involve community partners in the articulation of research objectives, intellectual properties and desired outcomes. Train and involve community partners in data collection, manipulation, presentation and interpretation.
- Resource Sharing: Provide resources necessary for community partners to participate meaningfully in project activities, including stipends for time and effort and other project cost (travel, communication, meetings, conferences, etc.)
- Share data: Data collected within communities will be co-owned and managed with community partners. Sharing may include and not be limited to: providing community presentations and digital access to raw or manipulated data. The IfSC data sharing guidelines can be viewed online at < http://ifsc.tamu.edu/Research-Ethics/Data-Sharing>
- Allow for feedback or permission on published work: Allow partner to review papers intended for submission to peer-reviewed journals, as well as popular press pieces, presentations or other forms of communication intended for public view and identifying the partner organization as a contributor, prior to publication. Partner should always be recognized as co-author or contributor when appropriate.
- The IfSC will be accessible via phone, electronic communication, and in-person upon request (see item g). All attempts will be made to respond to communications with 48 hours.
- In-person participation in partner events: The IfSC requests a minimum ten (10) day notice prior to an event (meeting, workshop, conference, etc.) to increase the likelihood of participation.
Roles and Responsibilities of the Community Based Organization
The IfSC seeks long-term change by collaborating with community partners to illuminate the conditions, concerns and capacities of community partners, while supporting communities in actualizing their own resilience. To be most timely, efficient, and effective however, community partners must be willing and able to communicate with and provide assistance to IfSC scholars as well. By signing this document, community partners acknowledge and commit to performing the following duties:
- Assign a Point of Contact: An individual will be assigned to act as the main liaison between the IfSC and the community partner. All required administrative tools and equipment necessary for completion of project related tasks will be provided by the Partner (i.e computer, telephone, fax, etc).
- Assist with connections: Partner will provide connections to individuals and networks of people in the community who might benefit or assist with efforts related to project goals.
- The Partner will be accessible via phone, electronic communication, and in-person meetings to allow for the design and completion of project activities. All attempts will be made to respond to communications with 48 hours.
- Assist with coordinating tasks and activities: Project activities including but not limited to data collection, community meeting facilitation, formal or informal discussions, and media presentations, will be co-managed by the Partner as necessary.
- Meeting/Activity Logistics: Partner will arrange appropriate meeting location and ensure IfSC is aware of date and time of the activity at least ten (10) days in advance. Partner will confirm the location 48 hours in advance, notify participants (email and phone calls), and ensure materials are sent out in advance of meetings.
- Keep track of project progress: Keep a record of progress of towards project goals. Arrange to take notes and distribute meeting summaries to participants within one (1) week after each meeting, and update team members when they miss a meeting. Communicate progress and other key information about the project to target audiences as appropriate.
When pursuing or receiving funding to support collaboration - in the form of grants or donations from public or private sources - the IfSC will favor the most efficient and equitable allocation of those resources between the IfSC and community partners, in consultation with community partners and prior to proposal submission. This may include assisting community partners in locating, applying for, and utilizing resources whereby the community partner is the sole grantee. The IfSC and community partner should consider (1) the benefit to the community, (2) who has intellectual property and authorship, and (3) who manages or implements the process.