TITLE: Vice President of Research Integrity
FUNDING AREAS: Education, governmental accountability, and research integrity
CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)
IP TAKE: Buck advocates reliability and transparency in research. He also has written widely about African American education history, school vouchers, and racial balance, and he's a critic of traditional teacher pension systems. If your interests lean toward psychological research and different approaches to education, Buck may be your kind of funder.
PROFILE: Stuart Buck brings his legal training, research expertise, and passion for education policy, quality research, and governmental accountability to his position as director of research and strategic litigation counsel at the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF).
Through LJAF's Research Integrity initiative, the foundation is making an effort aimed at increasing the reliability of scholarly research in areas that affect individual decisions, philanthropic work, and government policy.
To support this goal of research transparency and quality, one major funding initiative at LJAF provided $5.25 million to launch the Center for Open Science. Based in Charlottesville, Virginia, COS facilitates the sharing of scientific knowledge and strives to improve the ways in which scientists conduct and share research that advances knowledge of a range of issues. Much of its emphasis is on the sharing and replicability of psychological research.
Single studies are not enough to establish new knowledge; rather, scientific knowledge advances through the replication and reinterpretation of previous research findings. COS encourages openness and transparency in the scientific research process in part through its Open Science Framework website, which provides a way for researchers to store and manage data and other research materials, collaborate with other scientists, and publicly disseminate findings.
"We decided to support the center's operating costs for an initial four-year period because we believe so strongly in the mission of improving the integrity of scientific scholarship," said Buck. The LJAF website cautions that all research projects sponsored by the foundation must follow its guidelines, which encourage pre-registration through the Open Science Framework and require that Buck be listed as a collaborator on the project so that he can review study data and related materials.
Buck's research interests are especially strong in education policy. After working as a law clerk for two federal judges and an attorney specializing in telecommunications and securities litigation, he began studies in education policy at the University of Arkansas, completing his PhD in 2012 specializing in econometrics and program evaluation. He also worked in the university's Department of Education Reform, researching and writing articles on such subjects as teacher merit pay, special education scholarships, and the impact of school vouchers on racial balance in schools.
Buck's best-known work, however, is the 2010 book Acting White, published by Yale University Press. Acting White examines the history of education in African American communities and argues that a culture of academic underachievement among African American students emerged only in the decades following desegregation of public schools. Prior to that time, he claims, African American educators in all-black schools served as role models for their students, nurturing academic excellence.
LJAF is a strong advocate for charter schools and recently donated millions to charter school organizations and school choice advocates in New Orleans. Charters form the majority of schools in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Some studies, such as one by Penn State University Law Professor Preston Green III, show that charter schools are more racially segregated than traditional public schools. Given that New Orleans' student population is overwhelmingly African American, Buck's work would seem to offer an intellectual riposte to any misgivings that might arise over de facto segregation in New Orleans' schools of choice. If you are an advocate of traditional public schools rather than school choice programs, this funder may not be the source for you.
Advocates of traditional teacher benefits and pension systems may not find a friendly reception from Buck and the LJAF, either. Buck's doctoral dissertation focused on pension reform, and a portion of it was published in 2013 in the Texas Review of Law and Politics, a self-described journal of "conservative legal scholarship." Members of its advisory board include Edwin Meese, U.S. attorney general under President Reagan, and Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a favorite among conservatives and tea party activists.
Buck writes that traditional public employee pension systems, including those that cover educators, strain the budgets of state and local governments across the country. These systems are often based on defined benefit programs, which cover the majority of teachers. Efforts by policymakers to reform these pension programs often meet court challenges, including challenges by teacher organizations. Past recipients of LJAF funding have included Teach for America and StudentsFirst, a lobbying organization founded by Michelle Rhee that focuses on eliminating teacher tenure and seniority systems. These recipients, coupled with Buck's views on teacher pension programs, suggest that if you are an advocate for teacher unions and traditional pipelines for training educators, you may not find a lot of friends at LJAF.