Farzan and Beaton win Manners Award


The University of Pittsburgh University Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) has announced the winners of the Steven D. Manners Faculty Development Awards for 2013, which include iSchool faculty members Rosta Farzan and Brian Beaton. They will research how to design effective systems to meet the information needs of non-profits when managing and presenting data about the group’s impact on the community. The Manners Award will fund a pilot study into local not-for-profits’ current endeavors and tools to document their success at mission-related activities, and to determine how future systems should be designed and implemented in order to facilitate reporting to funding agencies. The PIs hope to use this initial work to seek funding from outside agencies to support the development of data collection and analysis tools.

Many agencies and organizations are stymied at measuring and reporting local impact in light of increasingly detailed reporting requirements of funders. Such groups may face budget constraints that result in a lack of expertise in data gathering and analysis, often depending upon volunteers to serve as staff. Or, they may have to divert time and effort from their primary activities to meet reporting requirements. Thus, the increased expectations with regards to reporting success, upon which continued funding is often dependent, create significant difficulties for non-profit groups.

Farzan and Beaton will survey local nonprofits and systems managers to identify the contemporary reporting requirements, information needs, capacity, and data management practices of such agencies. The pilot study will create a list of ideal features to be incorporated into the design and development of new impact measurement and reporting tools. The PIs will use qualitative social science methods for the investigation and they will share the results in the information science literature on information management, knowledge management, information sharing, system design and motivation. The PIs bring to the project complementary skills and research interests. Farzan has research expertise in social computing, with a particular focus on how people use and participate in community-based information systems. Beaton has research expertise in people’s everyday data and recordkeeping practices, and in the history and sociology of information work and workplaces. For more information about Rosta Farzan and Brian Beaton, please visit their home pages here and here.

Each year, UCSUR awards the Steven D. Manners Faculty Development Awards (http://www.ucsur.pitt.edu/manners_award.php) to promising research and infrastructure projects on campus. These awards honor the memory of Steve Manners, a sociologist whose research and service to the Center and the University community were dedicated to improving social conditions in the urban environment. UCSUR made the first Steve Manners awards in 2001 and makes awards in two categories: (1) Research Development Grants to support pilot research in the social, behavioral, and policy sciences; and (2) Infrastructure Development Awards aimed at enhancing faculty capabilities to carry out interdisciplinary research in the social, behavioral, and policy sciences.