The Advancing Research 2021 program is—surprise!—research driven. Our curation team has interviewed a variety of industry thought leaders to identify important opportunities to advance the practice of research.

Theme 1: Advancing our field

Research is at a crossroads; our customers are becoming more sophisticated and demanding, while at the same time, the quality of our work may be dragged downward by an influx of inexperienced people who do research. We struggle with systemic inequality baked into who does research and with whom—while a handful of Big Tech employers dominate hiring, and have an outsized impact on our society. And we’re still navigating how to be better at partnering with other research-connected functions. What is research in 2020, and how do we advance it in the face of these challenges?

Theme 2: Advancing practitioners and teams

We’re great at listening and empathizing, but those qualities can become millstones in business settings that require advocacy, assertiveness, and persuasion. We are often isolated in teams, which may limit our ability to learn and grow. How might we develop our skills and our team’s skills to become strong, valued partners in our organizations—while maintaining the attributes that enable us to make sense of the complexity around us?

Theme 3: Advancing our business impact

Impactful research must integrate the broadest and most diverse range of expertise, experiences, and perspectives across the range of user and customer experiences. How do we ensure that researchers know how to synthesize and connect the insights we generate with the strategic goals of the companies, leaders we work with, and equities for which we advocate—while not losing sight of human-centered values that brought us to the field in the first place?