WANTED – Brave Men & Women for hazardous journey towards a better transfer culture in science & research

September 5, 2020 6:00 - 7:30


Facetious voices portend that the research establishment, despite its emphasis on curiosity driven enquiry, is more conservative than the Catholic Church. If a time travelling academic was teleported from the 19th century into a university of today, the labs would certainly look differently. However, most of the behaviours, value systems, hierarchies and career progression mechanisms would probably look uncannily familiar. How come?

Career progression and reputation in research still very much depend on publications, citations and grants secured whilst other types of activity, such as spin-off activity, engagement with industry, the media or other forms of outreach are often not valued or, in the case of industry, even viewed with suspicion. Those who can allow themselves the luxury of outside engagement are usually found at the top of the research hierarchy.

Researchers who do seek outside engagement are either discouraged from doing so or are exposed to some degree of tongue wagging of ‘having sold out’ or ‘gone over to the dark side’. Sometimes they are even viewed as Class B scientists not truly committed to the endeavour of pure knowledge production. Paradoxically though, when asked, many researchers profess strong interest in seeing their work creating impact. Yet current structures, value systems and behaviours seem to contravene this intrinsic motivation to become reality. So, where are things stuck?

Outside pressure is increasingly being applied to the system. Politicians are demanding that taxpayers should be getting a better ‘bang for their buck’ from their investment into research in the form of products and services that enhance their well-being and quality of life. Yet, within research the climate and incentives are still largely misaligned with heeding such demands. In many settings a ‘yes to transfer’ still effectively amounts to saying ‘no’ to a research career. This results in less projects being moved forward from lab / library to application and in less collaborations between research institutions and industry or other societal stakeholders. This, in turn, often engenders in unproductive finger pointing and talk about research ‘ivory towers’ and ‘research for research’s sake’.

In this panel we will discuss with researchers and practitioners what it means to encourage and build a culture within research that values and recognises the translation into practice as something to be encouraged and not to be feared or sanctioned. How do we move towards a more inclusive notion of research without jeopardizing the research establishment’s self-regulatory and quality control mechanisms? What is the role of policy makers, funding organisations and research leaders in this debate? How can societal stakeholders and industry engage more productively with research organisations and what does this mean in terms of skill-sets and competencies that research organisations and universities need to foster and develop among young and mid-career researchers?

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