Organization of U.S. Research Labs Becomes a Trade Group

By Debra Viadero — August 06, 1997 2 min read

The Council for Educational Development and Research, an umbrella group that has served the U.S. Department of Education’s research laboratories and centers since the 1960s, is recreating itself to become a trade association.

The new organization, known as the National Education Knowledge Industry Association, or NEKIA, will include private and profit-making institutions as well as the federally funded research laboratories that have been CEDAR’S main clients all along.

The Washington-based group will provide lobbying, advocacy, and publications services for its members, much as the original organization did.

Dena G. Stoner, who headed CEDAR for eight years and spearheaded its overhaul, said the group is remaking itself in response to the changing field of education research.

“It became very apparent that there were many new actors in the field and that the labs and centers were building relationships with them,” she said. Some of the new private-sector research organizations have no traditional connections to universities, she noted, and many of the independent research groups are branching out from basic research to developing products-work that Congress is less likely to provide funding for in the future.

Ms. Stoner resigned from the organization this summer, though she said her departure was not related to the changes afoot for the group.

Roy Forbes, the director of the Southeastern Regional Vision for Education Lab in Greensboro, N.C., will serve as the interim director for the newly formed NEKIA until Ms. Stoner’s replacement is found. The organization has trimmed its staff down to three in this interim period while it broadens its membership.

Shifting Climate

Before its overhaul, CEDAR’s members included all but one of the Education Department’s 10 regional laboratories, a handful of federal research centers, and two other research organizations that have had or still have ties to the federal government. The institutions paid substantial fees for the services CEDAR provides.

The regional laboratories, whose field-based governing boards independently determine their missions, have long been a target of budget cutters on Capitol Hill. They barely survived their most recent reauthorization battle in Congress and have endured criticism in recent years from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers and from former federal officials.

And this summer, according to several CEDAR representatives, the Education Department’s inspector general has been exploring the organization’s financial arrangements with the regional laboratories. A department spokesman last month would neither confirm nor deny the existence of any formal probe.

NEKIA officials, however, say the organization’s overhaul has more to do with the new directions the field is taking than with the labs’ political problems.

“We’re very interested in defining what is meant by ‘education knowledge industry’” Mr. Forbes said. “The industry doesn’t have any standards or a code of ethics now, and we feel it’s important to develop both of those.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 06, 1997 edition of Education Week