D. Patrick Jones, Ph.D., explained at a press conferenceyesterday the role of Eastern’s new Institute for Public andEconomic Analysis in the Spokane Community.
“The goal of the institute is to provide resources of theuniversity to the public outside of the university,” saidJones, the institute’s executive director. The research ofEWU academics will be focused on matters of concern to theregion.
Eastern made a commitment a little over two years ago to beginthe new office, and it has already produced a number ofstudies.
The institute has published studies on the new Spokane Valley,the racial and ethnic makeup of Spokane and Kootenai counties, andpopulation forecasts for the region.
Some of the upcoming reports include information on theAsian-Americans who live in Spokane, the importance of federal”transfer” payments to Spokane’s economy, thecommunity of Airway Heights and whether Spokane county is laggingbehind the rest of the state in creation of new businesses, saidJones.
He said that the institute would like to come out with at leastsix to eight studies a year.
When asked how the topics for the studies are decided, Jonesexplained, “We’d like the questions to come from thecommunity.” That way, he said, studies won’t beacademic exercises but can directly address problems of the peopleliving in the area. Focus groups are often set up to work up ideasfor exploration, he added.
The institute has also done contract work for clients such asthe Chamber of Commerce and area hospitals.
People look to Eastern for such studies because a university canlook at controversial matters objectively, Jones said.
All the institute’s research is done by EWU professors, hesaid. He added that the research often provides projects forstudents to work on and learn from.
Jones explained that he doesn’t always know how theinformation that is produced is used, but he anticipates that thecommunity will be better informed of their surroundings and thatstereotypes will be broken by factual reporting.
“Reality is never black and white,” said Jones.”Reality is never simple.”
One of the goals of this institute, he said, is that there willbe better qualitative decisions in policy making as a result of thedata produced in their studies.
He added, “At the very essential level, I hope thecommunity is better informed. I hope we have a better knowledgebase to go forward with.”