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CFP: UACES CRN workshop on ‘The politics of knowledge: Europe and beyond’ (16-17 July 2015, Robinson College, Cambridge)
Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU Singapore) – hsuan.chou [at] cantab.net
Dr Julie Smith (Robinson College, University of Cambridge) – jes42 [at] cam.ac.uk
Mitchell Young (Charles University in Prague) – young.mitchell [at] gmail.com
Knowledge policies are at the forefront of contemporary global politics. There is an accepted belief among policymakers that knowledge is the foundation on which societies coalesce and economies thrive. Indeed, the competition for knowledge can be said to be driving the global race for talent. For the second workshop of the UACES collaborative research network on the European Research Area, we invite contributions covering and going beyond Europe to examine the politics of knowledge policies around the world. This workshop is geared towards answering the following questions: What key themes should we address when we talk about the politics of knowledge policies? How and why are these themes crucial for our understanding of politics and policymaking in sectors such as higher education, research, and innovation?
We invite theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions that investigate the role of the ‘four I-s’ – ideas, interests, instruments and institutions – in the politics of knowledge policies. By role, we refer to the effects that ideas, actors (individual, organisational), policy instruments and institutions have had on the national, regional and global governance of knowledge policies, and vice versa. This focus on ‘roles’ is to enable a multidisciplinary discussion on whether these factors share defining characteristics across the different knowledge policy domains (research, higher education, innovation), between distinct governance levels, and within and across geographical regions.
Potential papers could explore a variety of themes. For instance, they may address how and why particular ideas (‘excellence’, ‘talent’, ‘21st century skills’, ‘knowledge-based’) find policy resonance around the world, while others fail to do so. Are some of the newly emerging ideas a repackaging of earlier ones and, if so, what accounts for their rise on the policy agenda? Papers may examine the configuration and re-configuration of actors from the public and private sectors in designing, shaping, implementing, promoting or blocking knowledge policy from above, below and through other governance channels. Contributions may investigate and compare the sets of policy instruments adopted to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation throughout the world’s different geographical regions. Here, for example, it would be interesting to identify whether there are standard sets of measures that bilateral or multilateral cooperation embrace for promoting collaboration in the knowledge policy sector. Papers may also assess the institutional set-ups introduced to facilitate knowledge policy cooperation, the mandates given and decisional powers delegated to these institutions, and the effects, if any, that these institutions have had over time.
This CRN continues to welcome scholars at all career stages, theoretical and methodological approaches to examining knowledge policy cooperation in Europe and around the world.
Workshop call for paper
We will provide accommodation, refreshments and meals for accepted presenters for the duration of the workshop. Applicants may propose more than one paper for consideration, but no one will be permitted to present or co-present more than one paper. We encourage student members of UACES to consider applying for travel funding (http://uaces.org/funding/travel/).
Please contact any of the workshop organisers if you have any questions and please submit your proposal before the 13th of April 2015, 18.00 GMT at: http://goo.gl/forms/tq8ywKKdIu
13 April 2015 (18.00 GMT): extended abstract due
24 April 2015: acceptance notification
18 June 2015: workshop programme available
02 July 2015: full papers due
16-17 July 2015: workshop
Organising scholarly networks
18 December 2014, Gaskell Building Rm 210, Brunel University London
10.30-11.30: Keynote 1: Louise Ackers (Salford)
11.30-13.00: Panel 1: Scientific Diplomacy
- Tom Rusbridge (Sheffield): ‘England in Europe: Scholarly mobility in the sixteenth century’
- Meng-Hsuan Chou & Tamson Pietsch (Nanyang Singapore & Brunel/Sydney): ‘Organising scholarly networks: a literature review’
- Rasmus Gjedssø Bertelsen (Aalborg): ‘Arctic Science Diplomacy: accommodating a rising Asia’
- Commentator: Julie Smith (Cambridge)
14.00-15.30: Panel 2: Impacts and effects
- Branwyn Poleykett (Cambridge): ‘Being mobile, making meaning: studying exchanges of scientific ‘capacity’ between Denmark and East Africa’
- Lisa Scordato, Trude Røsdal, Agnete Vabø, Siri Aanstad & Rachel Sweetman (Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education): ‘The impact of academic mobility programmes’ on strategic knowledge exchange’
- Inga Ulnicane (Vienna): ‘What role does mobility play in international research collaboration?’
- Commentator: Julie Smith (Cambridge)
16.00-17.00: Keynote 2: Heike Jöns (Loughborough)
18.30: Dinner for speakers
For further information, and if you wish to attend, please contact the organisers:
Dr Tamson Pietsch (Brunel/Sydney) tamson.pietsch [at] sydney.edu.au
Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou (Nangyang Technological University) hsuan.chou [at] cantab.net
We acknowledge the generous support of the following institutions:
Society for Research into Higher Education
Nanyang Technological University Singapore
The University of Sydney
Brunel University London
Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe: New Constellations in European Research and Higher Education Governance
Why do knowledge policies play an increasing role on the European political and policy agenda? What are the synergies and tensions between European research and higher education policies? What have been the successes and challenges in establishing the European Research Council and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology? What role do stakeholders play in the Bologna process? And how strong are the soft modes of EU governance?
These and other questions are addressed in the recently published book ‘Building the Knowledge Economy in Europe: New Constellations in European Research and Higher Education Governance’ edited by Meng-Hsuan Chou and Åse Gornitzka. Meng-Hsuan Chou tells us about the rationales for and the key messages of their book.
Q1: How did the idea for this book on the knowledge economy in Europe emerge?
This edited volume gathers contributions from our ‘Europe of Knowledge’ section at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) general conference in Reykjavik in 2011. This was the first time that we – researchers working on knowledge policies (higher education and research) – had our own section at the ECPR. While we have successfully reconvened a ‘Europe of Knowledge’ section at every ECPR general conference since, we wanted to mark the occasion with a publication to promote the study of knowledge policies among EU scholars. At the time, Elgar came out with a new series on ‘New Horizons in European Politics’ and we thought this was a perfect opportunity to introduce the topics to an EU audience. The reason for this is because we believe these two policy sectors have much to offer to those interested in regional integration dynamics. Moreover, I thought it would be interesting to spotlight the policies that are quite important to academics, as European knowledge policies affect how we teach and carry out basic research.
Q2: The book analyses two central pillars of the ‘Europe of Knowledge’, research and higher education policies. Have the processes of European integration in these two policy areas developed similarly or differently?
European cooperation in the fields of research and higher education has followed different pathways. We describe these developments in Chapter 1, which is available here for readers, but they can be summarised in a nutshell as follow: knowledge cooperation started very early in the integration process. Research cooperation has, however, evolved much further due to the overall national sensitivity surrounding higher education issues. A key development for research policy cooperation occurred in the 1980s: the institutionalisation of the Framework Programmes, which is now synonymous with EU research policy even though this area of cooperation is more than just about funding.
Higher education entered the political and policy spotlight with the signing of the Sorbonne Declaration and the launch of the Bologna Process at the end of the 1990s. Cooperation in this area has been very practical, e.g. establishing common degree structures and transferring course units, but of course it is also political. It is important to note that Bologna, with 47 members, is not an EU process, even though the Commission is heavily involved. The knowledge policy portfolio is spread across several of the Commission’s Directorates-General (DGs) and this contributes to the complexity of the governance process. I believe it is this very complexity that makes studying European knowledge policy cooperation so interesting.
Q3: One of the chapters looks at the establishment of European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), which has to bring together research, higher education and innovation. What does the specific case of EIT tell us about the challenges for interaction among the different pillars of Europe of Knowledge?
The EIT chapter, by Åse Gornitzka and Julia Metz, tells us that creating an institution under ‘inhospitable conditions’ is possible, but it requires very powerful promoters at the very highest political level – in this case, Commission President Barroso. These ‘inhospitable conditions’ reflect precisely the governance division between research, higher education and innovation – the respective political and policy actors defended their sectoral turfs and perceived the establishment of the EIT as a ‘threat’. Barroso was able to successfully secure its establishment, but, in the end, he also did not have the EIT he initially wanted (i.e. the MIT model, university with top researchers). After the EIT was created, another set of actors came on-board and took over its daily operations. What the EIT case reveals is that the different pillars of the Europe of Knowledge may require heavy political steering to interact if new institutions were to deliver the intended outcomes.
Q4: European integration in research and higher education policies is characterised by the soft modes of governance such as the Open Method of Coordination (OMC). What are their advantages and limitations?
The OMC injects flexibility into compliance and allows different interpretation of agreed standards to co-exist. While the OMC may succeed in bringing people to the ‘mutual exchange’ table with some progress towards collective objectives, it does not generally latch on to another process to ensure continuity in some areas where progress is indeed being made. Therefore, in Åse Gornitzka’s chapter on the OMC, she argues for approaching the OMC from another perspective: what it tells us about how political and administrative institutions interact with this process and their respective experiences. She finds that, in the case of Norway, the OMC has become a ‘transmission belt’ for generating policy information as well as policy learning and ‘teaching’.
Q5: Some chapters of your book look at national responses to European integration processes in knowledge policy areas. Do you see any major national differences, for example, between Scandinavian countries and Spain?
Yes, there are major differences between countries and not just between the so-called Northern countries and those in the South. For instance, in Hanne Foss Hansen’s chapter – ‘“Quality agencies”: the development of regulating and mediating organizations in Scandinavian higher education’ – she demonstrates that, even though the Nordic countries share a tradition in how they perceive the role of higher education in society, they ultimately adopted different systems for quality assurance. In my chapter with José Real-Dato, which looks at how Norwegian and Spanish institutions approached the EU Commission-promoted Human Resource Strategy, we show that diverse national strategies and translation capacity explain variation in the speed and the extent of uptake. The domestic arena is significant in understanding how European integration in the knowledge sectors evolves, or does not.
Q6: You have worked and studied in the United States, Europe and Asia. Are knowledge policies in Europe considerably different from those in other world regions?
Yes, there are differences in terms of the emphases within debates about how knowledge should and could be used. For instance, in the US, I hear more about how knowledge could be used to advance the society’s wellbeing. The question being raised includes ‘How can we ensure equal access to high-quality education?’; this debate resonates with the phenomenon of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) sweeping the world. In Europe, solving the ‘grand challenges’ and the role of science in policymaking are central themes. In Asia, the focus is more on how knowledge could be used to increase the national overall economic competitiveness and to secure a lead in the decades to come. But, of course, these differences are very subtle and nearly all countries in the world are concerned about all these aspects. What I find surprising is that there are less talks about the role of higher education in ‘citizen making’. Indeed, it appears as if overnight we all became global citizens, moving seamlessly around the world, which is simply not true.
Q7: What are the main messages for scholars and practitioners of knowledge policies emerging from your book?
Since European integration takes place under different conditions and parameters, its evolution continues to attract considerable interest. This is especially the case for emerging policy areas subject to integration because these developments shed new light on the direction, dynamics and, an increasingly debated aspect, the very sustainability of Europe’s political order. Knowledge policies are one of these emerging areas. For scholars, I think what is especially interesting is that European knowledge policy governance occurs through supranational, intergovernmental and transnational processes in which the EU has different roles: as a key actor, an observer or merely one of several. These multiple avenues of integration provide a unique case to explore the different facets of integration dynamics – especially for refining concepts such as ‘differentiated integration’.
For practitioners, I believe that our book provides theoretically grounded explanations as to why knowledge policies are extremely difficult to regulate. The chapters in this volume go beyond the conventional argument that ‘knowledge policies are too sensitive for the EU to regulate’. Indeed, the cases demonstrate that other factors matter; for instance, from sectoral competition in the realm of knowledge policies, and a Commission President’s vision to European higher education institutions’ diverse motivations to participate in OMC-like processes. There are general lessons to be extracted, not least for European integration, but also for other regional processes.
Q8: What would be promising research lines for future studies on regional and global governance of knowledge?
I think the most promising research approach would be comparative. As Europeanists, we tend to study EU as n = 1 and are entirely focussed on explaining its developments and nuances. But this perspective actually harms European integration studies because we overlook the interesting developments occurring elsewhere. Pauline Ravinet and I are currently discussing the global phenomenon we call ‘higher education regionalism’ and deciphering ways in which we can begin to identify, understand, and explain the emergence of ad hoc regional higher education initiatives throughout the last few decades (and seemingly more in the making!).
Another promising approach would be interdisciplinary collaborative work. There are many researchers working on issues concerning knowledge governance, but we are scattered across many disciplines. I think this is where UACES’s (Academic Association for Contemporary European Studies) collaborative research network on the European Research Area is so useful – it really facilitates sharing ideas and findings across disciplinary boundaries.
In terms of specific topics, I think it would be fascinating to compare how different world regions address or attempt to regulate the digital revolution sweeping higher education and research. What questions are being asked? What ideas are given prominence? Is there any policy learning involved? Have we moved beyond competition? Indeed, have the world’s geographical regions been reconfigured into new constellations of alliances? If so, who governs?
Dr Meng-Hsuan Chou is Nanyang Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Global Affairs at NTU, Singapore and an Associate Fellow at EU Centre Singapore. She is the Academic Coordinator for the UACES Collaborative Research Network on the European Research Area. Hsuan chaired the Europe of Knowledge section at the 2011 and 2013 ECPR conferences and will be co-chairing the 2014 section. Her articles have appeared in the Journal of European Public Policy, Journal of Contemporary European Research and PS: Political Science & Politics. She is currently researching how governments in Asia, Europe and North America compete for foreign talent in a globalised era and how scholarly networks are organised across time.
This entry was simultaneously posted on Ideas of Europe blog platform.
Yoav Freidman, Hannah Moscovitz and Hila Zahavi
The conference “Approaching Europe: Israel and the Knowledge-Based Society”, jointly organized by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Bologna Training Center (BTC) and the Israel office of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation, sought to examine the European experience in higher education policy and reform, focusing on the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and Bologna Process in particular, in order to shed light on this global process and explore the implications for the Israeli higher education system. Against the backdrop of the diverging trends in Israel; the lack of a clear governmental policy on the one hand and the strengthening of ‘bottom up’ initiatives on the other, the conference aimed to draw lessons from the European experience and to strengthen the understanding of current patterns in order to better grasp the policy implications for Israel. To this end, this year’s conference brought together faculty, students, practitioners and governmental representatives for a joint discussion on these matters.
From left to right: Inbal Avnon (NUIS), Fernando Galan Palomares (ESU), Anne Boddington (Brighton University), and Meng-Hsuan Chou (NTU)
While Europe has developed policies towards its higher education systems based on the vision of academic institutions as engines of growth for both economic and social development, Israel has yet to bring higher education policy to the forefront of the public debate. This is clear with regards to the development of academia-industry links. Although Israel is considered as a global power house for high-tech industries, the governmental level has yet to develop a strategy for binding the industry to academia for mutual benefit. While activities and programs promoting ties between industry and higher education in Israel do exist, they remain mainly local and sporadic initiatives within institutions themselves.
There is great potential for Israel to learn from the European experience in the area of higher education. However, in the absence of an articulated national policy towards the European Higher Education Area and the Bologna Process, the Israeli higher education system risks floundering as Israel’s society and economy distance themselves from global trends. Similarly to the case of the industry-academia collaboration in Israel, the academic cooperation with the European Higher Education Area is primarily driven by “bottom up” initiatives. There is an increasing interest and desire by Israeli higher education institutions to strengthen ties with Europe in the academic sphere. That being said, such initiatives have yet to be led by the National Council for Higher Education or other governmental bodies.
A missing perspective: Students are stakeholders
At the forefront of the conference discussion was the increasing importance of including student bodies as equal stakeholders in the various processes shaping higher education policies. Representatives from both the European Students’ Union (ESU) and the National Union of Israeli Students (NUIS) presented their perspective on the issues involved in the development of ‘knowledge-based’ societies. The growing European- level student platform was described by the ESU representative. Through its wide-ranging activities, the ESU underlines the importance of considering students as full members of the university community as opposed to “consumers”. As highlighted by the NUIS representative, the Israeli system lags behind in encouraging student involvement in policy issues related to higher education. Consequently, the student perspective is not typically represented in discussions on higher education policy and reform. Including the student view set the stage for a continued discussion on the importance of student representation and involvement in higher education governance in the country.
The student representatives were asked to assess the distinction between the concept of knowledge-based economy and that of knowledge-based society. Are these terms inter-changeable? Are there contradictions between them? Both the European and Israeli representatives discussed the fact that the idea of a knowledge-based society incorporates the economy but not necessarily vice-versa. Using the term knowledge-based society allows a wider perspective of the university’s missions. The student representatives also related to the issue of employability as a major concern. However, they noted that while economic factors are important, they should not come at the expense of the university’s social mission. The fact that higher education should also be concerned with preparing students for active citizenship, personal development as well as maintaining a broad and advanced knowledge base was highlighted.
Beyond ‘bottom-up’ initiatives: developing an Israeli national strategy
Another important message highlighted by several speakers, was the fact that Israel has yet to develop a clear position vis a vis the Bologna Process and other global trends in the field of higher education. The importance of promoting ties and cooperation with Europe through various channels like Tempus and Erasmus Mundus projects was emphasized. While Israel is not a signatory member of the Bologna Process, there is a growing interest in participation in European funded projects as well as strengthening ties with European institutions in the academic sphere. In particular, Israeli institutions are increasingly interested in understanding the Bologna Process and its various features in order to potentially implement them within their programs. For instance, in order to promote student mobility between European and Israeli institutions, it is crucial for Israeli universities and colleges to understand the ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) and to have a compatible system in place for credit transfers from Europe to Israel and vice-versa. The conference lectures strengthened the fact that these initiatives, while growing, have until now remained at the institutional level.
The comparative view between the European and Israeli discourses on the role of academia in society shed light on the fact that Israel is lacking a genuine debate over the future missions of academia. The discussion which evolved during the conference highlighted the fact that an articulated strategy for an “Israel of Knowledge” is crucial. The Bologna Training Center hopes that this discussion, relating to the overall quality, modernization and internationalization of higher education systems, will continue to develop through future events and activities in Israel.
Yoav Freidman, Hannah Moscovitz and Hila Zahavi are PhD students in the Department of Politics and Government in Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. They also work as project coordinators at the Bologna Training Center.
This entry was simultaneously published on Europe of Knowledge blog.
CFP: Internationalization of Science, Technology and Innovation: Politics, Cooperation and Competition (28-29 November 2014, Vienna)
We are happy to invite submissions for the panel ‘Internationalization of Science, Technology and Innovation: Politics, Cooperation and Competition’ at the Austrian Political Science Conference to be held on the 28th -29th November 2014, at University of Vienna.
For enquiries, please contact the panel chairs:
- Inga Ulnicane, Assistant Professor, Institute for European Integration Research EIF, University of Vienna email@example.com
- Lisa Sigl, Lecturer, Science and Technology Studies Department, University of Vienna firstname.lastname@example.org
- Thomas König, Fulbright Scholar, Harvard University email@example.com
- Nina Witjes, Scientific Researcher, Austrian Institute for International Affairs firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to receiving your submissions!
Inga Ulnicane, Lisa Sigl, Thomas König and Nina Witjes
Panel 8 ‘Internationalization of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI): Politics, Cooperation and Competition’; Austrian Political Science Conference, Vienna, 28-29/11/2014
Contemporary polities often are described as ‘knowledge societies’ or ‘knowledge-based economies’ highlighting the key role assigned to knowledge. Political choices have a major impact on the way knowledge is produced, diffused and utilized. Relevant political decisions are made at multiple and interconnected levels – organizational, regional, national, sectoral and global – and policy fields, in particular in areas of science, technology, innovation and higher education. In the context of global financial crisis knowledge policies have been seen as a road to the future growth and a tool to tackle major socio-economic problems.
During the last 10 years, international orientation of national and supra-national (EU) STI strategies has been further strengthened to take into account importance of Big Science projects as well to address ‘global challenges’ (e.g., climate change, health). Additionally, globalization of STI is facilitated by international organizations and forums such as OECD and the Global Research Council as well as private initiatives like the Gates Foundation. Complex interactions involved in global production and circulation of knowledge require a delicate balance between cooperation and competition (over scientific priority, talent, and resources), reviving scholarly interest in hybrid notions such as ‘a competitive cooperation’ (Merton 1942).
Overarching questions to be addressed include: What ideas, interests, values and formats are involved in designing STI internationalization strategies? How the main knowledge policy frames and paradigms (e.g. competitiveness, excellence, Grand Challenges, Responsible Research and Innovation) are interpreted and implemented in diverse contexts? What STI co-operations have been developed to address global challenges such as energy dependence? What new power relations are emerging in global production and circulation of knowledge? What are opportunities and risks of increasing international STI cooperation and competition?
Interdisciplinary papers are sought that build on and further develop theories, concepts and methods from the fields such as (but not limited to) political science, international relations, sociology of science, Science and Technology Studies and innovation studies.
The aim of the panel is to explore potential for interdisciplinary co-operation. Dedicated comments will be provided to each paper and cross-cutting issues will be addressed in general discussion. The panel will be held in English and German.
Higher education and research have come to the forefront of international debates about economic growth. There has been a growing consensus among policy-makers that post-industrial society requires more highly-educated people with technical and professional skills in a knowledge-based economy. Doctoral education has become of paramount significance in a world where knowledge becomes the new ‘fuel’, the ultimate economic renewable to economic growth leading to a knowledge-based economy (Brinkley, 2006; Leadbeater, 1999). While there is still no consensus on the relationship between human capital and economic growth, PhD holders who have accumulated substantial human capital through education have been identified as ‘one of the key actors behind the creation of knowledge-based economic growth’ (Auriol et al., 2010, p.13).
From the individual perspective, investment in doctoral education is rather costly – in terms of fees, subsistence and foregone earnings – and lengthy. Considering that individuals might yield less returns to doctoral investment compared to a Master’s degree in some subjects[i] (see O’Leary and Sloane, 2005) and also the increasing criticism that the doctorate has received by the media in terms of career prospects and doctoral attrition (FP, 2013; The Economist, 2010), it is important to identify and highlight benefits that doctoral experience entails beyond financial and career returns for the PhD graduates and a broader knowledge-based economy.
Limited information exists about the value of the PhD for the individuals beyond pecuniary terms. Raddon and Sung (2009) have remarked the deficiency of information on the personal value of the doctorate together with the social and cultural impact of studying at this level in order to highlight the impact of PhD graduates. In their synthesis review of career choices and impact of PhD graduates in the UK they wrote: ‘..we still lack in-depth examinations of some complex areas including: In-depth examination of the direct impact of PhD graduates in the workplace and the ‘value added’ of employing these individuals; …Close study of the personal impact and value of the PhD, particularly over the long run’ (Raddon and Sung, 2009, p.iv)
Among the research objectives of my PhD project (Tzanakou, 2012) was to examine the benefits and impact that the PhD had on Greek PhD graduates[ii] from both UK and Greek universities in their early career paths. This was a mixed methods research project including an online survey (244 responses[iii]) and 26 semi structured follow up interviews with a subsample of the respondents[iv].
Enhancing transferrable skills
PhD holders identified further benefits of doctoral education beyond acquiring specialised knowledge. Such benefits include a set of transferrable skills: problem-solving, critical reasoning, thinking in-depth and from different angles and perspectives. While these skills were emphasised by most respondents irrespective of the current workplace employment, those in non-academic settings were more likely than their counterparts in academia to report that the PhD – and mainly these skills developed during the PhD – enabled them to make a difference in the workplace.
This seems contradicting but it might not be. Doctorate holders can be innovative individually but might not be able to make a difference in the academic setting being at an early career stage in universities that are resistant to change. In contrast, in non-academic employment where a more diversified workforce in terms of qualification levels can be expected, the PhD experience was perceived as added value in distinguishing oneself from colleagues. For example, a PhD graduate, working in a Greek Ministry reported that the PhD had helped him to be more critical and use research skills to fulfil tasks compared to non-PhD graduates. Respondents working in the private sector also emphasised how their ability to think from different perspectives and solve problems during their PhD were points that made them differentiate from their counterparts.
The interviewees felt that they provided added value and their advanced abilities were recognised and appeciated in non-academic workplaces. This suggests that there were wider benefits for employers entailed by deploying such highly qualified personnel, suggesting reputation enhancement and knowledge spill overs through the diversity of personnel.
Social impact of the PhD
The social impact the PhD had on the respondents could be decomposed in three ways: a) development of social skills (communication, presentation), b) accessing professional networks and building personal relationships and c) societal recognition. During the PhD period, PhD candidates find themselves involved into teaching undergraduates and postgraduate students, presenting their research to colleagues and different audiences and networking during conferences and academic events. These activities enhanced interpersonal and communication skills of respondents and facilitated them in becoming a member of highly esteemed networks that were considered invaluable for social and professional life beyond the PhD.
When respondents were asked about the impact and benefits of the PhD, all female respondents referred to social relationships reporting how during the PhD they met their partners and very good friends and how they boosted collaboration and cooperation with colleagues. From a less positive perspective, they perceived the PhD as an activity that limited their leisure time and the ability to socialise beyond the academic community. Only two men working abroad shared a similar concern about limited opportunities to make a family and reconcile academic career with living near to family and friends. Interestingly, a small number of male respondents – who were working in the Greek private sector – reported that the PhD provided high status to societal circles possibly because the PhD is not a degree often required in the private sector as illustrated in the example below:
‘For example in some social circles, I believe it is considered as an advantage, let’s say as social status […] when they introduce you somewhere, it is mentioned that you have also done this.’
Participants highlighted personal development gains through their PhD, such as maturity and independence. In addition, they reported further development of perseverance, persistence, time management and organizational skills among others. These skills were utilised not only in the workplace but also in their everyday lives. For example, respondents reported how a purchase of a domestic appliance was often completed after extensive research and increased scrutiny and how they thought methodically even about bureaucratic processes (e.g. completing and submitting documents to public services) in order to optimise time and effort involved.
In addition, personal satisfaction in their doctoral achievement, self-awareness and self-actualisation through meeting their professional aspirations and performing self-fulfilling employment roles were also reported as invaluable aspects of pursuing this qualification.
To sum up, research has been pre-occupied with the returns of doctoral degrees in financial terms but there is limited information about the impact of the PhD beyond these terms. This research provides examples of PhD gains and impact in terms of transferrable skills, social life and personal development. In this way, it is shown that PhD graduates in their reflective accounts identify a plethora of different benefits, which reflect the unique and individualised experience of a doctoral degree.
It should be mentioned though that these findings are limited to Greek PhD graduates in their early career paths and larger scale research is required to get a better understanding of the PhD incorporating ideally the perspectives of other stakeholders (employers, colleagues, etc) beyond self-perceptions of PhD graduates.
Dr. Charikleia Tzanakou is a Research Fellow, University of Warwick, UK. She is interested in transitions of higher education to the labour market, academic careers and gender.
- Anonymous. 2010. The Disposable Academic. The Economist. December 16
- Auriol, L. (2010). Careers of Doctorate Holders: Employment and Mobility Patterns. OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers, No. 2010/4. [Online] Available drom: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5kmh8phxvvf5-en. [Accessed 03/03/2014].
- Brinkley I. 2006. Defining the knowledge economy. Knowledge economy programme report. The work foundation.
- Drezner D. 2013. Should you get a PhD. Foreign Policy. April 15.
- Leadbeater, C. 1999. Living on thin air, London: Viking, Penguin
- O’Leary, N. C. and Sloane P.J. 2005. The return to a university education in Great Britain. National Institute Economic Review, 193(1), 75–89.
- Raddon, A. & Sung, J. 2009. The career choices and impact of PhD graduates in the UK: A Synthesis Review.
- Tzanakou C. 2012 Beyond the PhD: the significance of boundaries in the early careers of highly qualified Greek scientists and engineers. PhD Thesis, University of Warwick.
- Walker, I. & Zhu, Y. 2010. Differences by degree: Evidence of the net financial rates of return to undergraduate study for England and Wales, Discussion paper series // Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit, No. 5254
[i] For example, a Masters in Engineering and Technology (7.76%) provided a greater premium rather than a PhD (4.97%).
[ii] Doctoral education in Greece, in contrast to European countries, has maintained the master-apprenticeship model and seems not to have been influenced by doctoral reforms in Europe, which aimed at improving the quality of PhD studies. This supervision model along with the limited funding available for doctoral studentships and the absence of a regulatory framework are included among the main reasons that lead Greek PhD candidates either to dropout or to prolong their degree compared to those in the UK.
[iii] The profile of the survey respondents is summarised as following: 80% of the respondents completed their PhD in Greece, 20% in the UK, 75% men, 25% were women, more than 75% were 30-40 years old.
[iv] There is no comprehensive database of this population with contact information readily available, so a database of Greek PhD graduates in natural sciences and engineering from Greek and UK universities was developed for the purposes of this research. The data for Greek-educated PhD holders was derived from the National Documentation Centre which holds approximately 80% of doctoral theses. Due to the Data Protection Act, in terms of UK universities, Alumni centres and societies of foreign-educated Greek graduates forwarded and promoted the survey on behalf of the researcher. By those means, doctoral graduates were contacted to participate in an online survey to collect data on their PhD experience and transition to the labour market, achieving 244 responses. Unfortunately, it was difficult to identify Greek PhD graduates who completed their studies in the UK, thus only 50 of these had been UK-educated
Image: “The Large Hadron Collider/ Atlas at CERN. Source: Flickr.com”
The New Year of 2014 in European research policy comes with a couple of high profile events: launch of Horizon 2020 – one of the largest research funding programmes worldwide and envisaged completion of the European Research Area – so far the most comprehensive initiative in transnational knowledge governance. These major events involve a lot of activities at the organisational, national and global levels to facilitate effectiveness of research organisations and funding, to promote mobility and to support collaboration.
The year 2014 also marks a number of interesting anniversaries in the European research integration. It is the 60th anniversary of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research where among other things 25 years ago World Wide Web was invented. Moreover, 30 years ago the first European Framework Programme providing funding for research and development was launched. These events provide an opportunity to reflect on why and how transnational governance in the field of research has evolved and what kind of benefits has it delivered.
Context: why does transnational knowledge governance matter?
Research is a unique area of transnational governance because at the micro-level of the scientific community and research practice it has a long-tradition of internationalisation. Already in the Middle Ages learned institutions of the time – universities and monasteries – were linked by religious institutions having a broad pan-European scope (Crawford et al. 1993). Major university cities such as Paris, Bologna, Padua, Oxford and Toledo attracted faculty and students from all over Europe. During early professionalization of science in the 17th and 18th centuries researchers exchanged information in self-organising networks known as “invisible colleges” (Crane 1972; Price & Beaver 1966; Wagner 2008) and co-authored publications (Beaver & Rosen 1978). The late 19th century and the early 20th century witnessed active formation of international science associations (Crawford et al. 1993). Scientific community has developed a worldwide system of journals, associations, conferences, and personal and institutional networks. Some disciplines such as natural sciences have longer and stronger traditions of international interaction than others, e.g. social sciences and humanities. Thus, the scientific community already historically has been more internationally connected than most of the other professions. International links have facilitated scientific discoveries by ensuring circulation of knowledge and bringing together necessary expertise.
In the recent decades international collaboration among scientists have increased as shown for example by the growth of internationally co-authored publications (Adams 2013) due to a number of scientific and other reasons such as increased specialisation in science, growth of interdisciplinary research, need for complex instrumentation, growth of information and communication technologies, globalisation of industry, policies supporting internationalisation and easier travel (Katz & Martin 1997). Recently, focus on the need for research to solve the so-called grand challenges – major socio-economic problems of global scope in areas such as health, environment and energy (Cagnin et al. 2012) – provides an additional push towards international collaboration.
In parallel to trans-national research networks and practices, science is also characterised by diverse national systems and strong national interests. Most of the research funding is allocated nationally. Nedeva (2013) conceptualises relationship between internationalised research community and predominantly national research funding as a “tension between inherently global research fields and largely localised research spaces”. According to her, transnational research governance is emerging as an attempt to alleviate this tension. Important steps in the development of trans-national research governance started in the aftermath of World War II. These include intergovernmental initiatives in developing large-scale research infrastructures, gradual development of EU level research policy and global initiatives such as recent establishment of the Global Research Council.
Some milestones in transnational research governance
One of the major intergovernmental international science initiatives started in 1954 with the establishment of CERN, the biggest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established by 12 European countries and strong involvement of the United States (Krige 2006) it has grown to 20 member states, many collaborating countries and some 10 000 scientists from more than 100 countries doing research there. Large-scale scientific infrastructure at CERN has enabled complex experiments such as observation of the Higgs boson in 2012 confirming the theory for which the Nobel prize in physics was awarded in 2013. Unexpectedly, in 1989 a major breakthrough far from the field of particle physics took place at CERN when in order to connect CERN’s internationally mobile staff Tim Berners-Lee invented World Wide Web; it was made freely available and lead to fast growth of the web. During its history CERN has experienced tensions between collaborative needs and national interests of its member states, which are present also in ongoing efforts to build a large scale scientific infrastructure such as the European Spallation Source (Hallonsten 2012).
In the gradual development of EU research policy, the launch of the First Framework Programme in 1984 was one of the major milestones. Initially, the Framework Programme mainly brought together existing initiatives such as the Joint Research Centre budget and the ESPRIT funding program for IT (Peterson & Sharp 1998). Moreover, increased involvement of the European Community in research experienced strong opposition from the major member states such as Germany and the UK. However, during 30 years the Framework Programme (with the Eighth Framework Programme known as Horizon 2020 starting in 2014) have expanded considerably, gained support from diverse stakeholder groups and experienced considerable shift in priorities, e.g. if the First Framework Programme was heavily dominated by funding for energy (50% of the budget) and ICT (25%) then in subsequent programmes funding for aims such as human capital and mobility experienced sharp increase.
The Framework Programme has facilitated cross-border collaborations and developed innovative research funding modes. However, a significant question is whether EU research policy can move beyond narrow focus mainly on EU level funding programmes (Banchoff 2003). The Framework Programmes/Horizon 2020 alone cannot address all the important issues in European research governance; having a more comprehensive mix of policy initiatives is important.
Completing the European Research Area in 2014: a realistic target?
The European Research Area initiative launched by the European Commission in 2000 is so far the most comprehensive initiative in developing transnational research governance (Edler et al. 2003; Delanghe et al. 2009). The key priorities for the ERA in which “researchers, scientific knowledge and technology circulate freely” are more effective national research systems, optimal transnational co-operation and competition, an open labour market for researchers, gender equality and circulation of scientific knowledge via digital ERA. The aim of ERA is to make European research more efficient, competitive and better able to address major socio-economic problems.
To achieve ERA aims, a number of revised and new funding and “soft” governance instruments are used. Funding instruments include not only new instruments within the Framework Programme (e.g. Networks of Excellence, Joint Technology Initiatives) but also joint research programmes among the member states and opening up of national programmes for international participation (Lepori et al. 2014).
Additionally, the ERA is developed by using “soft modes” of governance, i.e. the so-called Open Method of Coordination OMC which involves setting joint targets, monitoring how they are implemented in national policies and ensuring mutual learning. Such method of coordination is deemed to be appropriate to accommodate diversity of national research policies and heterogeneity of involved institutions; however its efficiency has been questioned (De Ruiter 2010; Kaiser & Prange 2004; McGuinness & O’Carroll 2010). The task of overseeing ERA-related OMC activities has been assigned to the European Research Area and Innovation Committee (ERAC) consisting of the EU Member States’ representatives. As the ERAC was formerly known as the CREST, Scientific and Technical Research Committee – advisory committee of national representatives established in 1974, an interesting question is if there is continuity of accumulating experience of mutual learning in EU research policy over 40 years.
While there have been considerable efforts to strengthen ERA governance as a partnership between the member states, stakeholders and the Commission, an important leadership function is undertaken by the Commission. For example, the Commission has undertaken the leading role in monitoring the ERA by publishing the first comprehensive ERA progress report in 2013; it remains to be seen if the monitoring exercises will enhance mutual learning and deliberation among the member states and stakeholders or will be seen merely as an additional reporting burden.
An important question remains about the usefulness of legal instruments in achieving the ERA aims. While the legally binding instruments can facilitate specific ERA priorities such as open labour market for researchers, it is less clear how much they can help in achieving “effective national research systems”. In 2013, new proposals (including the manifesto “A Maastricht for Research” by two members of the European Parliament) for legally binding measures to implement ERA were put forward. A possibility to make decisions in 2014 about the need for specific legal measures has been mentioned.
The year 2014 is a deadline for completing the ERA, as set out by a number of EU documents including the Innovation Union flagship. This deadline has been widely criticised by experts and stakeholders either as being set too early or as unnecessary for a very broad long-term agenda of ERA. As stated in the Science Europe Roadmap, ERA “is a long-term project, and to strive for its ‘completion’ would be to lack ambition”. Thus, in 2014 it is important to look beyond predictable headlines of “missed target” on how a comprehensive agenda of ERA can be implemented in a sustainable way.
Trends to watch in multi-level knowledge governance in 2014
Globalisation: some interesting ongoing developments at global level include an emerging worldwide network of research universities as well as activities dedicated to research integrity and open access by the Global Research Council – a voluntary cooperation among about 70 national and regional research councils established in 2012. At the times when new players (e.g. emerging economies like BRICS, MINTs[i], Asia) are shifting the balance of power in global science and higher education, it is interesting to observe new patterns of international collaboration and competition and Europe’s changing role and place, e.g. in Global University Rankings.
EU level: 2014 comes with important institutional and leadership changes in EU research governance. DG Research and Innovation is undergoing major reorganisation and will have a new structure. In May a new European Parliament will be elected and the Euroscience is planning to use the momentum to organise debates to raise the profile of science in Europe. The new Commission will come with a new Commissioner for Research and a new Commission’s president. In 2014 the European Research Council has a new president Jean-Pierre Bourguignon. It remains to be seen if new leaders and new EU presidencies – Greece (January-June) and Italy (July-December) – bring new priorities to research policy.
National level: a number of events in 2013 led to questions about how much national governments and society value research. Austerity measures hit science in countries such as Greece and Spain, while new cabinets in Austria and Australia omitted dedicated science minister portfolios. In 2014 one of occasions prompting debates about value and evaluation of research at national level could be the completion of the Research Excellence Framework in the UK.
Stakeholders: in 2013 a number of European stakeholder organisations such as Euroscience, Eurodoc, Voice of the Researchers and others continued to raise their voices on core issues such as research careers, mobility and doctoral training. Further debates can be expected at one of the major biennial stakeholder events this year, i.e. ESOF 2014 Euroscience Open Forum.
Research organizations: last but not least – how universities and research institutes will be affected by and respond to the changes at global, European and national level and how are they going to use their autonomy to participate in and shape them?
These ongoing developments in trans-national and multi-level governance of knowledge lead to a number of scholarly and policy relevant questions, for example: the ERA is presented as a Single Market for research but is the market model relevant for organising research systems (Georghiou 2006) and scientific community (Hagstrom 1965)? What are the underlying ideas and values in the European knowledge governance? How research policy priorities of “excellent science” and “societal challenges” are defined and implemented? How multi-level research governance interacts with governance in related policy areas such as higher education, innovation, environment, regional development and economy?
In 2014, UACES’s ERA CRN will address these and other questions in a number of workshops and publications. We look forward to engaging with other scholars and practitioners interested in the multi-level knowledge governance.
Dr.Inga Ulnicane is a political scientist and European studies scholar specializing in multi-level governance and policy of science, technology, innovation and higher education.
This entry was initially posted on Europe of Knowledge blog.
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[i] “BRICS” stands for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, but “MINTs” stands for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.
After being in the back front of higher education policy making for a good decade – between 80s and 90s of the past century (Corbett, 2006, 2011), the European Commission got a new opportunity to establish itself as an influential actor in the European higher education sector[i]. And it managed to do so quickly and strongly. In 2001 it became a full member of the Bologna Follow Up group with voting rights (the only non-state actor) which enabled it to co-create the Bologna agenda. The Bologna Process proved to be an important drive for higher education reforms on the European continent as well as a legitimation arena for certain projects (e.g. financial support for establishing the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education EQAR, or progressing EU’s work on transparency tools like the multidimensional ranking of higher education institutions U-Multirank). In other words, the European Commission (EC) could legitimate its financial support for projects that were established based on the Bologna Process. Through it the EU financed many initiatives and programmes to progress its vision of higher education.
But besides the Bologna Process, other events and strategies turned European higher education into a strategic tool for the economy, which are circling mainly around the Lisbon agenda of 2000. In our analysis, we have integrated two approaches: the analysis of main higher education related documents of the EC and the Council of the EU released since 2000 (17 of them) and 9 interviews with various officials ranging from civil servants to external experts responsible for higher education or involved in the creation of the texts in the EC and the Council of EU. Our main approach was the Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA) and more broadly Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). In our findings we identified three categories of ideational and discursive practice of the EU that connected higher education to the knowledge economy hegemonic imaginary (Jessop, 2008; S. Robertson, 2008; S. L. Robertson, 2010). These are: (1) instrumentalisation of higher education for economic goals, (2) ideating the new governance and steering of higher education, and (3) ideational and normative convergence – towards new constitutionalism.
In the first category – instrumentalisation for higher education for economic goals – we show that higher education turned from an untouchable field under nation states’ subsidiarity to the instrumental field for realising the Europe of Knowledge. The latter is constructed as the ultimate goal connected to economic prosperity in the global competition. Higher education is thus said to be essential means to reach European goals. The dominant discursive topic is the flow of (applied) knowledge from universities to business and society. Connecting universities to industry or enterprise is strongly promoted and proposed in different ways (spin offs, start-up companies, attracting talents from other regions, more and employable graduates, innovation). The normative background is created by pointing to many problems within European higher education which paves the way for contextual legitimacy for the proposed policy and programs. The offered ideas are thus presented as rational and feasible solutions to the outlined challenges. As if there are no other possibilities. In the mid 2000’s the discursive argument is complemented with the key word ‘excellence’ which emerges from competition and ensures attractiveness. The term ‘relevance’ appeared as a new discursive element which created an idea that it is in the public interest for universities to respond to such demands of society. In 2011 jobs became a central discursive item which further presented higher education as responsible for creating jobs, economic growth, providing appropriate skills, building human capital.
In the second category – new governance and steering – we present the discursive image or legitimation for governance reforms. The discursive strategy is to create a notion of inevitability and urgency to reform the European higher education system as ‘European universities are not fit to compete’. This is done through the messages like the ones that European universities are poorly positioned at the world rankings and lag behind their US counterparts. Consequently the ‘modernisation’ of the governance structures and financing systems are proposed in parallel to the revision of the concept of autonomy. The European Commission was advancing policy proposals in the fields of funding and quality assurance – the two strongest steering mechanisms of the higher education system. The funding is proposed to be based on multiyear contracts that would set out strategic objectives. The idea is to change it from basic to outcomes based, competitive and relevance rewarding. The funding is supposed to urgently increase, but from the private sources (i.e. industry and students). In the field of quality assurance a common European market is seen to be created with national agencies complying with the European standards and becoming members of the European register EQAR. Such agencies would operate in other European countries and higher education institutions would be free to choose. Autonomy is conceptualised as a management tool for achieving efficiency. Universities are thus expected to reform in line with the principles of the New Public Management to become more efficient, productive and economically relevant.
In the third category – towards new constitutionalism – we note that the EU indirectly creates an imaginary in which nation states alone are not able to compete at the global scale which requires regional solutions, thus creating an argument for ‘enter EU’. Moreover, higher education is compared to other economic sectors (it is mentioned that the EU has successfully supported conversion processes of steel industry and agriculture and that it is now time to modernise its ‘knowledge industry’). There are clear tendencies to shift some regulatory competences for higher education to the supranational level with the result of increasing ‘soft regulation’ such as harmonising criteria/standards, guidelines, comparisons, monitoring reports, states’ reporting etc. In other words, it is still the competence of nation states and higher education institutions to regulate and make decisions, but they do so in line with the guidelines, objectives, procedures and technologies created at the European level. Moreover, we notice institutionalisation at the European level – e.g. support for the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education ENQA, creation and strengthening of EQAR and EU transparency tools such as U-Multirank.
With such normative legitimation the ground is made fertile for reforms; solutions are proposed and presented as the only feasible and most logical; and consequently certain reforms are materialised. In addition, the EU is gaining competence and power over higher education at the regional level successfully circumventing national sovereignty. Our analysis illuminates the constructed direction of change of the European higher education. It is indeed in coherence with the hegemonic economic imaginary. It includes a variety of narratives, constructed realities, problems and proposals which seem to be obvious, rational and appropriate courses of action. What societal effects this will have in the future is still to be seen.
Janja Komljenovič is a Marie Curie PhD fellow at University of Bristol, UK.
This post has been initially published on “Europe of Knowledge” blog.
Corbett, A. (2006). Key Moments of the European Political Debate on Higher Education The Politics of European University Identity. Political and Academic Perspectives. Proceedings of the Seminar of the Magna Charta Observatory, 14 September 2006. Bologna: Bononia University Press.
Corbett, A. (2011). Ping Pong: competing leadership for reform in EU higher education 1998–2006. European Journal of Education, 46(1), 36-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-3435.2010.01466.x
Jessop, B. (2008). The cultural political economy of the knowledge-based economy and its implications for higher education. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the knowledge based economy in Europe (pp. 13-39). Rotterdam: Sense.
Komljenovič, J. and Miklavič, K. (2013), ‘Imagining higher education in the European knowledge economy: Discourse and ideas in communications of the EU’, in Zgaga, P., Teichler, U. and Brennan, J. (eds.) The globalisation challenge for European Higher Education: Convergence and Diversity, Centres and Peripheries. Bern: Peter Lang, pp.33-54.
Robertson, S. (2008). Embracing the global: crisis and the creation of a new semiotic order to secure Europe’s knowledge-based economy. In B. Jessop, N. Fairclough & R. Wodak (Eds.), Education and the knowledge based economy in Europe (pp. 89-108). Rotterdam: Sense.
Robertson, S. L. (2010). The EU, ‘regulatory state regionalism’ and nre modes of higher education governance. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 8(1), 23-37.
[i] This text is a summary of findings that are discussed in depth in Komljenovič, J. and Miklavič, K. 2013, where we analyse how the European Commission and other EU bodies created an economic imaginary around higher education.
Diana Jane Beech
A high-level round table of important players in the European Research Area took place earlier this month to discuss the ethics and values that should lie at the heart of the forthcoming Horizon 2020 programme. At stake is the future of European research.
The European Research Area, or ERA, is bracing itself for a major change on the ‘horizon’. On 1 January 2014, the way the European Union (EU) selects and supports science projects will be superseded by the ‘Horizon 2020’ framework programme.
Equipped with a long-range budget of over €70 billion, Horizon 2020 can already lay claim to being Europe’s largest research programme.
With ‘Excellent Science’ clearly earmarked as one of its three priority areas, Horizon 2020 specifically seeks to raise the level of excellence in Europe’s science base and to foster a steady stream of world-class research, primarily to create new jobs and growth in Europe, and to secure the EU’s long-term competitiveness.
Over the course of the next seven years, then, hundreds of thousands of researchers and entrepreneurs in the EU – together with their partners across the globe – will receive funding to carry out frontier research of the highest quality in both academia and industry.
The intention is to open up new and promising fields of innovation, while working to overcome many of the world’s ‘grand challenges’ such as pandemics, climate change, security threats, and food and energy shortages.
Values and ethics
The strategic importance of science to the EU’s political agenda is clear.
Yet, while European officials and stakeholders in the research area are busily counting down to the launch of Horizon 2020, has anybody spared sufficient thought for what the role and place of values and ethics will be in the EU’s new research programme?
Until now, the focus of policy discussions has been firmly fixed on the potential of the new framework programme to break down barriers to create a genuine single European market for knowledge. Little thought has been given to defining and maintaining the ethical boundaries of European research that are so vital to its future flourishing and success.
A select group of leaders in Europe’s research and innovation community are, however, beginning to change all this and put attention back on the ‘big’ questions inherent to European science.
As recently as 5 November, some 30 ‘big names’ in the ERA got together in a high-level roundtable – the first of its kind dedicated to discussing the most pressing questions of values and ethics in the construction of ERA policy.
Forming part of a wider research project run by the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, in the UK, the workshop was generously hosted by the Norwegian Mission to the EU under the auspices of Science Business.
The purpose of the day was to bring together leading figures from academia and industry, with members of the European parliament and scientific advisors, to reflect on the core values that are needed to drive European innovation in the ‘right’ direction for the future – and, ultimately, to draft an ethical charter for European research.
ERA’s moral purpose
Acknowledging the fact that Europe’s larger pot of public funding for research brings with it an increased number of ethical quandaries, participants were asked to think seriously about what sort of projects the EU should be funding, under what terms, and for whose benefits. At issue in the debate were the broader values of European science, and not merely its economic or social value.
As such, discussions brought to the fore some of the biggest questions surrounding the nature of Europe’s growing ‘knowledge economy’, as participants grappled to define the moral purpose of the ERA: Where is it going? Where should it be going? And what is needed to keep it on the ‘right’ track for the future?
Specific questions were asked about Horizon 2020 funds. In particular, participants debated whether the money should be used to support excellent research wherever it may be in the EU, or whether it should be distributed among the EU-28 and its respective research communities according to shared principles of fairness and equality.
Questions were also raised about the wider purpose of the money – specifically whether it should be used to promote research that generated ‘pure’ knowledge, or to support only those projects that clearly demonstrated European ‘added value’ such as the creation of new jobs, products and services.
Dichotomies of modern-day research dominated discussions, and participants debated at length the issues raised by private gain versus public good, trust versus accountability, and freedom versus solidarity.
Central to all of these issue clusters were questions of responsibility. For example, what responsibility, if any, do ERA policy-makers have to ensure that Europe’s research outputs are used for the good of the wider society?
To what extent do researchers receiving EU funds, and their institutions, share this responsibility? And how do we ensure a basic level of scientific integrity, particularly in the light of Horizon 2020’s emphasis on collaborations across borders, disciplines and sectors?
The detailed results of the round table are due to be published in an official report by Science Business at the end of this month. The results will form the basis of a new charter for European research that seeks to ensure the aims of Europe’s new framework programme remain as holistic as its intended approach.
The future and success of European science policy is about much more than science itself. It stems from a rich post-war history of scientific diplomacy continually bringing people together for purposes of peace and prosperity and the common good.
To move effectively into the future, then, Horizon 2020 needs to embrace this value-driven approach, not simply developing Europe’s science, but developing Europe’s con-science as well.
* Dr Diana Jane Beech is a research associate at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, UK, where she is currently working on a project exploring the role and relevance of values in the European Research Area, or ERA. She is also an active member of the ‘Voice of the Researchers’ multipliers group and the communications coordinator of a collaborative research network dedicated to the study of the ERA.
Filipa M. Ribeiro
Ideals help us to see not only the trees or the forest but also the space between the trees. So, what is scientific research compromising?
388 researchers from humanities and social and natural sciences around the globe were asked about their highest ideal as a researcher. Results show that 33% of researchers and teachers from natural sciences (n=189) and 25% researchers from social sciences and humanities (n=199) say they have no ideals regarding their careers or science itself. Europe is the continent with the highest percentage of researchers with “no ideals”, whereas Africa is the continent where the ideals mentioned are more related to knowledge itself and to a common good of local communities (Ribeiro, 2010).
The next question was to know how these ideals influence researcher’s work. I looked into 30 knowledge networks of researchers working in 4 higher education and scientific institutions in Catalonia. Findings showed that the majority of researchers choose their most important ties for their knowledge creation according to human values. The analysis showed a high correspondence between the personal knowledge networks and a permanent structural aspect of knowledge networks that is based on the role played by values in knowledge creation. Amidst the turbulence of academic life, respondents stick to their personal networks whose strongest ties are based on human and scientific values. Thus, scientific and personal values tend to be more appreciated as drivers for strongest ties than collaboration or expertise. However, and not surprisingly, these values and ideals were more highlighted by older researchers than by younger researchers. Scientific generosity, openness, guidance, true friendship, companionship and purposeful research were the main values named by the informants.
In any scientific endeavour or in any education institution structural relationships must have a certain degree of duration and permanence. When these structural relations are embedded in useful and practical human and transdisciplinary ideals, they become the permanence and refuge in every quest for knowledge in face of any conjunctural fluctuation. Structural relations and scientific inquiries embedded in ideals are comparable to the circulatory system of an organism, in which liquids move faster or slower, but those moves don’t imply a deep modification of the veins. That is the permanent structure that entails the circulation and, analogously, that structure is a stable support to the continuous agitation and variability of scientific research and educational practices. This permanence dimension provided by ideals and values plays a crucial role in the characterization of the structural models (as shown in the analysis of their knowledge networks) and complements past and current educational models.
Ideals and values are present when we ask researchers about why they started doing research on a specific topic and also about their working and thinking styles. However, regarding their working styles there is a clear mismatch between what and how they would like to work and how they actually work. This mismatch is a result of several constraints and struggles that researchers face (Rostan &Vaira, 2011[i]). It is also important to notice that ideals and values become subjectified objects that afford layers of professional meaning and significance and undertake symbolic and actual confrontations that have never been intended or even conceived by their creators. The other side of this is raised by the new features of modern education (e.g., the MOOCs (massive open online courses) and the increasing technologization of teaching) that leads to the reciprocal objectification of subjects. Against these struggles, researchers tend to resist or shape their action conceding with something of their own sense of autonomy. This ‘something of their own’ should be, I argue, universal ideals as a means to rise above a conventional research perspective which is unable to make the transition from dualistic analytic categories of subject and object to the familiar complexity of a surrounding world that makes the most of scientific research.
In fact, development ought to be diverse with ad hoc strategies oriented towards defined goals that benefit each and every one. Ideals in higher education can be rewarding if applicable into the criteria to evaluate scientific achievement. Ideals get us in the habit of questioning the status quo by constantly playing devil’s advocate. Taking the contrarian view of a research project or an educational policy or even a theory can be difficult at first, but if we start to question why the author thinks this way and what happened in the sector that triggered this viewpoint, we begin to think more critically about the contents we are teaching, learning and applying. And critical thinkers make greater institutions.
Figure 1: Ideals at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of any innovation system.
Helga Nowotny recently reminded that “excellence requires reforms and the willingness to implement them in the best possible way”. Both in terms of its epistemological and ontological options, Science has sometimes a strange reputation of not really forming part of what ordinary European citizens call “culture”. As a consequence, scientists find themselves out on a limb and there is a serious need to reconstruct the relationship between science and other forms of higher civilisation. Since C.P. Snow the response from scientists and policy-makers has been, at best, clumsy demonstrating that the relationship to other branches of culture has become somewhat distended. Basically, researchers have reacted to public hostility by arguing that science is relevant to the European citizen in terms of added value, where “value” is the financial return on investment which should, in the future, fund our expensive social welfare system in the “knowledge society”. This is not what the European citizen wants to hear, and he can probably guess it is a bit of a pipe dream. The proverbial man in the Clapham omnibus is fully aware of the difficulties of the modern world. What he really wonders is where Science stands with respect to more fundamental values and ideals. Is it inside or outside our heritage and, if inside, how does it relate to our cultural identity? Until this question is clearly answered, the European citizen will continue to harbour doubts. So, is turning ideals into vivid drivers for science and higher education just a vain utopia? It’s up to each one of us to decide.
Filipa M. Ribeiro is a PhD researcher at the University of Porto.
This post was initially published on Europe of Knowledge blog.
[i] Rostan, M., Vaira, M.(2011). “Structuring the field of excellence”, in Rostan, M., Vaira, M. (eds.) Questioning excellence in Higher education. Sense Publishers.