Transforming the Research Enterprise for Equity: RTI International’s Equity-centered Transformative Research Framework

Daniela Pineda, PhD, Center for Equity and Social Justice Research/Transformative Research Unit for Equity, RTI International, Research Triangle Park, NC

Theoretical Background and research questions/hypothesis:

Background: Prior to the 2020 racial uprisings precipitated by the murder of George Floyd, RTI staff began to develop a methodological framework to enable us to use science as a tool to advance equity. The Transformative Research Unit for Equity (TRUE) was established to lead the charge of developing innovative solutions for longstanding systemic social problems by centering equity in both the research process and the development and implementation of science-based solutions to disrupt systems of oppression. This transformative research framework lays out concrete ways to evolve research practices so that they interrupt the status quo and create new equitable systems. There is a need to reimagine how research is conducted so that both the research process as well as the content of research can be more equitable, inclusive, and benefit from having diverse perspectives involved in findings solutions and creating knowledge.


The presenter will give an overview of the key concepts and assumptions embedded in RTI’s Equity-Centered Framework for Research. Equity-centered transformative research requires 1) transformation of the researcher; 2) an expansion of the research content; and 3) evolution of the process of conducting research. The panel presentation will cover the core concepts embedded in each of these three areas:

  • Researcher: to build critical consciousness to recognize and interrupt bias and assumptions
  • Research content: to increase knowledge of the current and historical systemic factors that contribute to inequity to focus research on systems, not individuals
  • Researching: to develop competencies and skills in culturally responsive and equity focused evaluation practices
For each of the above-mentioned framework sections, specific research orthodoxy will be highlighted and an alternative way to consider how to embed equity principles throughout. To transition from the research principles to seeing the framework in practice, the discussion will shift to exploring how the concepts of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, and Belonging can transform research practice to advance equity. In addition to these concepts, the framework expands scholarship on how to think about Transformation and Liberation as outcomes of the research process.

Methods and Results (informing the conceptual analysis):

This is a new conceptual framework.


Centering equity in research requires that we transform the research enterprise as it currently exists.

Implications for research and/or practice:

Centering equity in how we communicate of research findings and their implications starts with interrogating the research process itself. The presenter will share two examples in which project teams changed how ‘dissemination’ was designed to be inclusive of community voice and priorities. The examples will highlight how the research process itself shifted to consider communication strategies for multiple audiences. These community engagement practices show how knowledge sharing and codification were aligned to meet community needs while still meeting project objectives.