This website uses cookies to store information on your computer. Some of these cookies are used for visitor analysis, others are essential to making our site function properly and improve the user experience. By using this site, you consent to the placement of these cookies. Click Accept to consent and dismiss this message or Deny to leave this website. Read our Privacy Statement for more.
Share |

On this page:

What is CORE?

The Certificate of Research Excellence (CORE) is a professional certification that recognizes and celebrates exceptional, rigorous, and impactful practice-based environmental design research studies. Applications to CORE undergo a rigorous, double-blind review by an interdisciplinary panel of experts. Evaluations are based on two main dimensions: (1) Research Rigor—the use of recognized research approaches (research design, tools, and data collection) and techniques to produce valid results (data analysis and finding interpretation), and (2) Research Value—the study’s actual (or potential future) impact on the design industry and project stakeholders. CORE is committed to excellence and aims to challenge applicants—and the industry—to find inventive and interesting ways to conduct and apply research in practice. Whether by way of an innovative tool or methodology, new techniques for analysis or means of disseminating a study’s findings, CORE aspires for design researchers to push the boundaries of professional practice.

Why was CORE developed?

Practitioners who conduct design research as part of their work have much the same interest as academic researchers in receiving validation and credit for the quality of their research efforts. While the credibility of academic research is typically judged on well-established protocols and peer-review processes generally associated with the publication of scholarly articles describing the research, design professionals are business and project-driven, and are less likely to prepare formal scientific reports. Aware of these different priorities, the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) developed CORE as a means of third-party recognition for practice-based environmental design research studies. CORE gives design researchers practicing in any sector of the design industry a way to showcase the proficiency and impact of their work, beyond the more traditional, academically-focused routes of recognition (e.g., peer-reviewed publication).

Why should I apply?

Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure for an extensive list, but in sum, there are many reasons why you should apply to CORE, benefitting both you and the design industry at-large:

  • CORE has always been at the forefront of recognizing design research in practice; it was the first recognition program of its kind. Applying to CORE allows you to join others pioneering design research in practice.
  • CORE is sponsored by EDRA, an industry-recognized professional organization that is committed to linking research and practice to create environments responsive to diverse human needs.
  • CORE is not limited to any one sector of the design industry; the program offers a way for design researchers in any field to seek professional certification of their work.
  • CORE understands that practice-based research may be different than academic pursuits, yet still deserves a means of third-party recognition.
  • CORE is a relatively inexpensive and painless application process that offers a strong value and ROI.
  • CORE certification offers a way to show how design research is making a real impact on the design industry.

Who receives CORE certification?

It’s actually not “who,” but “what”—CORE certification goes to the research study, itself. CORE certification is not bestowed on the applicant, research study team members, or affiliated organizations (though these entities do get acknowledged in press, etc. related to CORE recognition).

Is CORE an award?

CORE is not a competition or awards program, where jurors compare applicants against other applicants. CORE is a professional certification of individual design research studies, recognizing design research excellence by evaluating each application on its own merit against the CORE evaluation criteria.

How are applications reviewed?

Each application to CORE that is completed-in-full receives a rigorous, double-blind review. Reviews are conducted by an interdisciplinary panel of industry experts, including academic researchers, practice-based researchers, and/or designers. CORE’s evaluation criteria focus on two main dimensions: (1) Research Rigor—the use of recognized research approaches (research design, tools, and data collection) and techniques to produce valid results (data analysis and finding interpretation), and (2) Research Value—the study’s actual (or potential future) impact on the design industry and project stakeholders. CORE certificates are issued based on a study’s alignment with the CORE criteria. Individual applications are evaluated directly in comparison with the criteria, rather than comparing different applications to each other. If the application sufficiently meets the CORE criteria, it receives certification.

How many CORE certificates are issued each year?

There is no set number of studies certified by CORE each year; all studies that sufficiently meet the CORE criteria receive certification.

Is there a limit on the number of applications I can submit?

There is no limit on the number of applications you may submit. Note: If you plan to submit more than one application to CORE, you must complete a separate application form and provide payment for each design research study being submitted.

What elements are required in the application?

Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure for the full list of questions, which you may use to prepare your application off-line. The main sections of the application form include: declaration of integrity; study identification; payment; applicant information; study team information; study description; study budget and funding source, plus any additional non-monetary investments (if applicable); research rigor questions; research value questions; and the option to upload additional content (i.e., graphics to help describe the study).

One of the minimum requirements says that the study needs to have been completed within the past two years. What does ‘completed’ mean?

There are two aspects to this requirement: (1) A research study submitted to CORE must be completed in full—that means that not only has data been collected and analyzed, but also the findings have been determined, documented, and shared; and (2) the research study must have been completed within the last two years (since Fall 2017). The study, itself, may have begun before Fall 2017 and also may have taken longer than two years to conduct in full. Further, this time limit is only in reference to the research study—it does not include any timeframe associated with (e.g.) a building or space being evaluated by the research study. The two year requirement is solely in reference to the completion of the research study being submitted to CORE.

I’m a designer working with other practitioners on a design research study, but I don’t have a researcher with a PhD on my team. Can I still apply to CORE?

Yes, you can still apply. As long as your study used sound research methodologies and design research practices, it’s perfectly okay if a researcher with a PhD wasn’t part of the team. Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure for the full list of the minimum requirements to apply.

Not every member of my study’s research team had training/certification to work with human subjects. Can I still apply to CORE?

Yes, you can still apply. The CORE program doesn’t require that every team member involved in the study has training/certification to work with human subjects. However, note that CORE does require that studies go through the process of review by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), and many IRBs require study team members to have this kind of training/certification.

Does my study need to be approved by an Institutional Review Board?

To uphold ethical practices, CORE requires research studies involving human subjects to describe their process of going through review by an Institutional Review Board (IRB)—with the understanding that a study may be deemed exempt or may not meet the definition of research that would require IRB review. Please note that the determination of exemption and/or minimal risk for a study is made by an IRB, not the researcher(s) or project client.

Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure or more information about CORE’s IRB process requirement. For more information about IRB also consider:

How do I submit an application?

You may use the list of questions in the 2020 CORE Application Brochure to prepare your application offline. However, you must submit your application using the online application portal. Applications that are mailed or e-mailed will not be accepted. Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure for a complete list of steps for how to apply.

Can I log back in and revise my online application before the deadline?

Yes, you may log back in to the online application portal at any time prior to the deadline to view, resume, edit, or withdraw* any application(s) you have begun.

When is the application deadline?

The online application portal closes at 11:59 PM CST on November 11, 2019.

What does the application fee pay for?

Your application fee covers the costs of EDRA Headquarters to manage all applications and coordinate the double-blind review process of each application. Should your study receive CORE certification, the application fee also covers your Standard Recognition Package.

If my study receives CORE certification, how will it be recognized?

2020 CORE certified studies not only attain recognition of their achievement and will be celebrated during the CORE Recognition Ceremony during the annual EDRA conference, but also receive a Standard Recognition Package, which is included in the application fee ($0 additional cost). Refer to the 2020 CORE Application Brochure for the extensive list of what is included in the Standard Recognition Package, and to see the additional Recognition Kits Options that can be purchased by CORE certified study team members to customize the manner of recognition they wish to receive.

If I receive CORE, does that mean I also get to present at the EDRA annual conference?

Applying for CORE certification is a separate process and unique from submitting a proposal to present at the annual EDRA conference—they are two separate programs, though both are run by EDRA. If an applicant to CORE receives notification that their study has become certified, they are not guaranteed a presentation session during the conference, though there may be opportunities for CORE certified studies to be recognized and shared at the EDRA conference, as noted in the Recognition section of the 2020 CORE Application Brochure If you are interested in presenting at EDRA’s annual conference, refer to the EDRA51 Call for Proposals.

Who can I contact for help?

If you have questions about the CORE program and/or the application process, please contact EDRA Headquarters at If you need technical help with the online application portal, you can contact Confex technical support or call (401) 334-0220 Monday through Friday 8:30am-6:00pm Eastern Time.

* Refund Policy: Should you chose to withdraw an application, you must contact EDRA Headquarters by 11:59 PM CST December 3, 2019 to receive a refund of the application fee, less a $50 processing fee per withdrawn application.


Address: 2010 Pear St. #1060 Pinole, CA 94564-9998
Phone: +1 (507) 339-4620


© 2019 | EDRA − The Environmental Design Research Association | All rights reserved.