Creating Research Connections

Early childhood research is essential to support children’s health and well-being. However, research that is not practical or meaningful in real-life has little chance of improving outcomes for children and their families.

NAECR works to bridge the gap between the research, practice and policy communities — facilitating research collaboration, promoting partnerships and disseminating research findings. Collaboration and partnership among all three groups is vital to address chronic challenges affecting young children in Nebraska and beyond.


NAECR supports collaboration among early childhood researchers across the University of Nebraska system and partners with community stakeholders in practice and policy to ensure research is useful and meaningful in real-world contexts. NAECR also works to enhance the scope, quality and impact of early childhood research in order to advance the field's knowledge base.

“The role of Extension is to serve as a vehicle and a bridge to connect our work with policymakers and practitioners. … bringing them on-board at the beginning and making them a part of that co-creation… ensuring that the work we do is useable and relatable.”

–Holly Hatton-Bowers

Assistant Professor and Early Childhood Extension Specialist
Child, Youth and Family Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln


NAECR connects researchers with practitioners in the early childhood field to ensure that statewide programs and practices are informed by the latest evidenced-based findings. Practitioners provide important input to researchers on what works best when providing services directly to children and families. This collaboration helps ensure that the most effective strategies are put to use, while enriching the research and improving outcomes.

“[By] having the Nebraska Department of Education and Health and Human Services partner with the University’s research and evaluation systems, we can then pool our resources and garner the best outcomes for children and families in our state.”

–Amy Bunnell

Statewide Coordinator, Early Intervention Services
Nebraska Department of Education, Office of Early Childhood


Evidence-based policies have significant potential to positively impact Nebraska’s children and families. NAECR facilitates linkages between researchers and policymakers, and translates findings in a way that is meaningful to local and state decision-makers. Policymakers provide a unique perspective on what’s useful in real-world contexts.

“Our policy work really does benefit from early childhood research… Research gives us a guidepost to go by. When there are competing opinions or competing sides, we try to use research and what we see as the strongest evidence for what’s best for children and families, as a way to guide our path — and guide our stance on any particular issue.”

–Ben Baumfaulk

Policy Research Analyst, First Five Nebraska