Reversing the Research Lens: Analyzing Turns Toward Racial Equity at IES and NSF
Heather McCambly

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pittsburgh

Primary Discipline

Higher Education
Recent studies have spotlighted the persistently racialized funding decisions of agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These inequities have critical implications for the study of racialization in higher education as grant funds are used as key indicators of institutional prestige; to legitimize particular methodological, epistemic, and political traditions in research; and to shape participation in the academy via influence over tenure outcomes and graduate student training. Prior work also demonstrates that government policies that favor research infrastructures and methodologies concentrated at elite, white-serving institutions provide a race-evasive mechanism for the racialized distribution of resources in educational research. This project takes up grantmaking as a hidden yet pervasive mechanism of racialization at two agencies that play critical roles in educational research and reform: the Institute for Education Sciences (IES) and the NSF?s Education and Human Resources Directorate (NSF-EHDR). Using a longitudinal (2010-2024), mixed-methods study, I ask: 1) How have equity commitments and policy designs at IES and NSF-EHRD changed over time?, 2) How do IES and NSF-EHDR grantee characteristics differ from the universe of eligible institutions and researchers, and have these differences varied across policy conditions?, 3) What epistemological and axiological values are reflected by funded projects, and how has this varied over time, by organizational and individual characteristics, and funding programs? In doing so, this project seeks to offer critiques of education-focused grantmaking generative to catalyzing shifts toward racial equity and epistemic expansion in the academy and educational policy more broadly.
About Heather McCambly
Dr. Heather McCambly is an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. McCambly?s work?across research, teaching, and service?is guided by her commitment to co-creating more equitable, just, and joy-filled futures in higher education for Black, brown, Indigenous, and People of Color whose labor and lands have been stolen to create the academy we know today. Dr. McCambly studies the role of organizations in (re)producing systemic, racial inequalities, and draws on a range of analytic and interpretive methods to study the influence of aspiring change agents on institutionalized racial inequities in higher education practice and policy. Her research has been featured in multiple outlets including Change Magazine, the Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Review of Higher Education, and Foundation Review. In 2023, Dr. McCambly published an edited volume, along with Dr. Lorenzo Baber, entitled Critiques for Transformation: Reimagining Colleges and Communities for Social Justice published by Information Age Press. Her work has been recognized by the Spencer Foundation?s Conference Grant to build the Quant4What Collective, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education Dean?s Faculty Research Grant and Distinguished Award for Research, the AERA Division-J Outstanding Dissertation Award, the American Political Science Association?s David Brian Robertson 2022 Politics and History Best Paper Award, Northwestern University?s highly prestigious Presidential Fellowship, and the Association for Education Finance and Policy?s New Scholar Award.

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