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Seize It: You Are Design Research Leadership

Posted By Nicholas Watkins, Ph.D., Chair, EDRA Board of Directors 2011-2012, Monday, October 17, 2016

For many years, our annual international conference has been our sanctuary, reunion, and return.  I never fail to marvel at how approachable so many accomplished researchers (“research heartthrobs” as I have dubbed them per a friend of mine) are at our conference.  At any other event, they are at arm’s length or lost in a crowd.  

But, this actually has very little to do with my excitement for our fast approaching EDRA43 in Seattle.  Why? No doubt, I do look forward to the discourse and conviviality.

Last year, during EDRA42Chicago, I became aware of a spark in our organization. Our esteemed and tight-knit group of scholars, researchers and design practitioners welcomed more than 500 people, a 35% increase over the prior year’s conference. Attendees and members included those from high-profile firms like HKS, Perkins & Will, Perkins Eastman, Cannon Design and HOK. Over 300 members were affiliated with an academic institution and at least 120 had their Ph.D.s. When Galen Cranz, Ph.D., accepted the EDRA Career Award and stated that EDRA42 was the best EDRA conference she has yet been to, it was confirmed. I understood what I was feeling: a profound sense of affirmation that we who love design research recognized an authentic legacy and a bountiful future. We were empowered and, most of all, empowering.

Since EDRA42, I have been witness to what I can only describe as an “EDRA Renaissance”. A multi-year effort to orchestrate and develop a highly interactive EDRA website reached a milestone in January of 2012 with the launch of our new website. This website not only exhibits EDRA members’ accomplishments, it is a portal to a 24/7 live community of tweets and knowledge network discussions.  We now have over 2,000 social network followers, some of whom I have met in person and I know use posted materials in their practices and coursework. The conference has been restructured and conference organizer roles redefined.  A new conference abstract and paper submission management program has streamlined our blind, peer-review process for the conference proceedings, improved conference quality and assists with allocation of continuing education credits vital to practitioners. EDRA members will be publishing EDRA’s first compendium of white papers on a topic that builds an exciting bridge between research and practice:  healthcare design research technology. The list goes on.

The world is looking to our membership to define the course of design research in policy and architectural and engineering practice. A diverse group of policymakers and business leaders are asking us how to switch their mindsets on environments from those of  liability and depreciation to social value and return-on-investment. We are the center of a movement and most qualified. What I will be excited to see at this year’s EDRA is if we have further seized our responsibility and realization as the leaders in design research. 

I challenge you, EDRA member, to surprise us all! What are you going to do at this year’s conference that demonstrates leadership in design research? How are you changing the world? What would you like to see happen that would inspire you, your colleagues and your students? How would you like to see the future of design research evolve? What design research models are viable for business practice and academia so that all parties benefit? The world is your audience and we will be listening, blogging and tweeting.

Tags:  Ph.D. 

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