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Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Scientific Research and Why Does It Matter?

At the WVU Institute for Policy Research and Public Affairs, we emphasize scientific research. That is, research that is  evidence-based, peer-reviewed, and objective. Our research is also empirical - we go where the data leads us. Our agenda derives from the land-grant mission of WVU - to be a resource for state, local, and community leaders and to better the lives of West Virginians. 

  • Evidence-based means that the data suggests the conclusion. If the data does not support a conclusion, we do not present it as more than conjecture. We do not alter data to fit specific conclusions or objectives.
  • Peer-reviewed is defined as “a process of subjecting an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field.” [1] Viable scientific research, usually published in academic journals or by independent research institutions, is legitimized through its peer-review process where other experts review the research being presented, subjecting it to scrutiny and revision.
  • Objective research is unbiased. The researchers have no personal stake in the outcome of a study. They do not benefit from the results, whatever they might be, and have no internal or external incentives to craft research or data to artificially bolster a given claim.  All research makes certain assumptions about the world and the context for the conduct of research. This is unavoidable. In our research, we endeavor to make these assumptions clear at the outset so that our research can be understood in the context of those assumptions and weighed properly in discussions of public policy.

Our mission to provide neutral and objective research on issues relevant to West Virginia, its leaders, and the broader Appalachian region.

What Does It Mean To Be Non-Partisan?

Non-partisan means that we are unaffiliated with any political party. We understand our professional role in aiding state, local, and community leaders in solving their own problems, rather than dictating solutions. While we believe policy reform should be evidence-based where possible, we recognize that  values matter. To that end, we endeavor to provide  evidence-informed bases for decision-making that are adaptable to state and local contexts and values. This also means that we, as an institution, will work with and advise leaders on both sides of the aisle at every level of government on solutions to problems we confront and strategies to seize upon emergent opportunities in West Virginia and the broader Appalachian region. 

What Are Community-Engaged Research Partnerships?

To these ends, we value  co-design  in our research partnerships. Typically, research proceeds with a question on which data is gathered to provide an answer from a scholarly perspective with scientific methods. Where possible, we value engaging officials on the ground in their communities and about their communities at the outset of research projects to better understand the challenges and opportunities confronting them. As researchers, this helps us to ground our research in real problems they face and better support their decisions, and provide the data they need to help the state and its communities flourish.