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Dormant studies on shelves or research that impacts society?

Sep 16,2023 - Last updated at Sep 16,2023

Encouraging communities to cultivate their intellectual economies within the knowledge-based economy is precisely what these communities require from higher education institutions. If universities fail to effectively fulfill their roles as the cornerstone of scientific research and learning, as well as engines for progress and development, they will be unable to usher in the necessary renaissance and modernisation amid the current exponential knowledge transformation. Knowledge economies have become intimately intertwined with creativity and innovation in knowledge production, as well as with problem-solving through critical analysis, anticipation, proactive approaches, and inventive solutions. This orientation guides research and studies to be more responsive and actively engaged with real-world circumstances and experiences.

The EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) in the United Kingdom, the Excellence in Research for Australia Framework (ERA) and The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) have implemented evaluation frameworks to assess and enhance research quality. These frameworks aim to align research excellence with its strategic impact on society. Research assessment now considers not only its scientific impact factor, but also the value it brings in positively impacting society and promoting societal progress. This shift is evident globally, including in countries like South Korea, Japan and Singapore. In Germany, emphasising societal impact is a key focus for policymakers and research funding sectors. For example, the German Ministry of Education and Research emphasises in a policy document that addressing societal challenges and risks, and anticipating solutions for them, should be foundational to the core values and scientific reputation of universities.

Research in the fields of humanities and social sciences has introduced a pioneering model that heralded a shift in how we perceive the relationship between science and society. This transformation, often summarised as a move "from deficit to dialogue", has gained support from various studies. According to this viewpoint, science now goes beyond imparting knowledge to address deficits in societal, developmental, or technological trajectories. It also calls for the development of "robust social knowledge" through collaboration with stakeholders from government, societal institutions, and relevant sectors, demanding a precise conceptualisation of the crucial nexus between science and society.

To drive societal change, an active research pipeline is essential, bridging the conceptual framework to practical implementation. This shift is facilitated through collaborative efforts involving stakeholders, universities and higher education institutions. This cooperation is crucial in nurturing "productive and innovative interactions" between science and society. Furthermore, it establishes an ethical framework that guides industrial and technological progress to align with societal interests and the well-being of our planet, thus mitigating potential apocalyptic scenarios.

In academia, knowledge transfer units should emerge soon to play a pivotal role as instrumental catalysts in amplifying the social impact of research in social sciences and humanities. These units facilitate the transferability of research and studies into tangible, actionable pathways, providing pragmatic solutions that, when applied systematically, effectively address systemic issues like poverty, unemployment, and other societal challenges. As a result, this research serves as a potent driver for societal development and revitalisation, markedly elevating the well-being of individuals and communities, and fostering avenues for sustainable growth and prosperity.

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), a government-backed endeavour, emerges as a highly needed critical trajectory. It serves as a conduit for invaluable collaboration between universities and businesses, particularly on pivotal strategic development endeavours, standing as a linchpin for an organisation's enduring viability. In this endeavour, seamless coordination and cooperation among a diverse array of stakeholders, including government entities, universities and industries, prove instrumental in streamlining and fortifying the process of transmuting academic research into potent developmental projects. Moreover, channeling the insights and recommendations garnered from these studies towards domains aligned with community needs and aspirations not only elevates living standards but also propels economic expansion and propels societal advancement. Ultimately, a central aim lies in narrowing the chasm between theoretical research and its pragmatic implementation in real-world contexts.

The transformation of research from dormant studies on shelves into research that leaves a positive imprint on society represents a pivotal milestone in Jordan's journey toward modernisation.

 

The writer is an associate professor at the American University of Madaba and an academic activist

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