Over the years an attempt has been made to include both participatory and quantitative research approaches for solving environmental justice problems. Spanning these two research approaches has not been easy because quantitative research is the most dominant and respected research paradigm at the University. To be held in good standing with colleagues demands that information be obtained by using traditional scientific methodologies. While researchers of the positivistic tradition profess to be value-neutral and detached in order to maintain their objectivity, they--not the subjects under study, determine the direction of the scientific inquiry. Through their own bias, they determine the content of questions to be asked in the interview or on the survey. The randomness of the sample allows them to extrapolating information well beyond the boundaries of the sample itself, and thus empowers outside agency more so than the givers of the information.

Traditional academic research methodology (generally known as positivism) has generally confined Western intellectual tradition to a single method of finding "worthwhile knowledge"-- the quantification of observation. This research methodology, which is based in the physical sciences, tends to restrict the focus of social scientists to short-run and isolated events. Thus, their research results often yield a limited range of meanings, creating an oversimplification of complex social phenomena (Smulyuan, 1983). Even though this research paradigm has short-comings, it is perhaps the most widely used paradigm in western civilization and perhaps the world. Because policymakers and corporate managers lend their ear consistently to those researchers that can share with them information in the positivistic tradition, this research paradigm has had a tremendous effect upon the world; it is the backbone to government policymaking and of the market system in that it helps in the creation of new product lines and "better" ways of doing things, particularly for the business community. It also has it downside as evidence by the amount and extent of pollution we experience in our cities and in the heartland; the disproportionate amounts of pollution that people of color communities and low-income communities experience in their daily lives. Yet, policymakers and corporate managers are finding that people in communities across the country are resistant to policy decisions from the top down. Well-intentioned policies from the top often lack emotional support at the local level; they lack emotional support because people affected by these policies have not been involved in the decision-making process.

Participatory research (PR) is committed to egalitarianism, collaborative enlightenment, and consciousness raising to increase potentials for self-affirmation and the ability of community people to make informed decisions. In order for PR to work, we must train researchers in the PR methodology; we must train them to humble themselves in order to be able to work effectively with community people in order the help them make informed decisions. Participatory researchers are not trained to be detached from or noninvolved in the research process, but they are trained to be an integral part of it. Community people must be an integral part of the research process in the articulation of the problem, the construction of questions, and the collection and analysis of data. Through a rigorous and continuous methodological process of planning, observation, reflection, and evaluation, truth or a course of action emerges. Participatory researchers must not abdicate the control of information to outside agency--an agency that will perhaps make policy decisions that will affect not only the givers of the information but people in communities far beyond the boundaries of interviewees.

Therefore, it is important that the locus of control remains with those who generate the knowledge to be used in their best interests. The purpose of PR is to solve immediate problems of a specific neighborhood or community-- and not to extrapolate knowledge learned to other communities, although such research outcomes may have broader implications. Policies that result from PR will have more significance and emotional support than policies made by professionals alone. Such policies have more emotional support because the locus of control of both the research results and policymaking remains with the community. While research in the positivistic tradition relegates decisionmaking to outside agency, research done in PR tradition relegates the decisionmaking to the people involved in creating the knowledge. The PR research paradigm supports the principles of democracy, while the positivistic paradigm undermines the principles of democracy; decisions regarding research outcomes are lifted from the village square and made by experts or outside agency. University scientists concerned about community groups being empowered to make informed decisions through the PR process often find themselves in a dilemma. Where should most of their time be spent? Should it be spent empowering communities to problem-solve which is not look upon in high esteem in the university community and perhaps have implications for promotion and merit increase? Should they concentrate upon resume building by doing quantitative research that is highly revered by their colleagues? Or should they do enough quantitative research to get the confidence of funders and policymakers in order to position themselves more time on PR endeavors. These are questions that each researcher will have to answer. For some there is no easy answer.

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Smulyuan, L. 1983. Action Research on Change in Schools: A Collaborate Project. A paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Education Research Association, Montreal , Canada.