THE SUBHEAD of staff writer Leon Neyfakh’s Oct. 9 Ideas piece, “Think local,’’ asks: “Why don’t Boston’s great professors study Boston?’’ The answer is, many of us have been, some for decades, but apparently Harvard sociologists have only recently taken up the idea.
In public health - my field, and an area of work that is mentioned in the piece - I am aware of many research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health that are active in Boston and surrounding cities (an important focus that was not mentioned). Most are not only addressing problems in these cities, but are in formal partnerships with city agencies and with community-based organizations, many using community-based participatory research approaches. These projects produce enviable lists of peer-reviewed articles in major academic journals as well as transformative activities in local communities.
Having studied at Harvard long ago, I understand how the school works. Sometimes, if something is not produced at Harvard, it just does not exist.
You have to forgive Harvard, though, for just being what it is.
I am more disturbed that the writer did not ask around more to make sure that the claim was true. In recent years, many of these community-engaged research projects have been profiled prominently, including in the pages of The Boston Globe. It would not have taken much effort to see that they have been here all along.
The writer is a professor in the department of public health and community medicine at Tufts Medical School.