January 10, 2013, 12:33 pm
An infrared camera is used to study a 16th-century painting. Arts and humanities research like this is under more pressure from policy makers to demonstrate its value to society.
How can universities demonstrate the benefit that arts and humanities research provides to society? It’s a perennial question and one that has become more urgent in Europe in recent years. I belong to a European consortium, supported by the Humanities in the European Research Area, that is investigating ways to better understand, capture, and measure the impact of the arts and humanities on society.
The arts and humanities have traditionally explained themselves in terms of intrinsic value; this has arguably been so since academe’s earliest days. While universities may differ in the emphasis they place on different disciplines,…
October 3, 2012, 11:31 pm
August 15, 2012, 10:19 am
A Ph.D. student in the Department of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science at Virginia Tech.
In recent years, there has been a noted policy shift towards measuring the value and benefit of university-based research. Rather than measuring inputs (e.g. human, physical, and financial resources), the emphasis has switched to looking for outcomes (the level of performance or achievement including the contribution research makes to the advancement of scientific-scholarly knowledge) and ultimately to requiring an impact and benefit (e.g. the contribution of research outcomes for society, culture, the environment, and/or the economy). This marks a move away from seeing higher education as a vehicle of human-capital development to being an arm of economic policy.
Traditionally, the emphasis has been on measuring…
August 7, 2012, 9:40 am
The European Science Open Forum, or ESOF, came to Dublin the other week. ESOF is Europe’s largest general science meeting and is held in a leading Europe city every two years. The Dublin event followed that of Stockholm in 2004, Munich (2006), Barcelona (2008) and Turin (2010). Copenhagen will host the event in 2014.
It was hugely successful, provoking wide-ranging discussions and debate about science and technology, not only amongst the 4,000-plus delegates but also the wider Irish public. I had a great conversation with a taxi driver about James Watson, the American molecular biologist, geneticist and zoologist, best known as a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA in 1953, who was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
An underlying theme of ESOF was the role of science and technology in society and public policy. The balance – or rather the tension …
June 5, 2012, 4:40 pm
A march in 2009 to protest the Irish government's handling of the economic crisis.
Over the last two decades Ireland has experienced a remarkable transformation in fortunes. The boom years of the “Celtic Tiger” made Ireland the poster child of the 2000s. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, Ireland became the symbol of economic collapse, before being rescued by the “troika” of the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank.
Our higher-education institutions, which climbed slowly but consistently upwards in world rankings to great public acclaim, plummeted last year. In 2009, we had two universities in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings; now we have just one in the new QS Top Universities Ranking. All eight of our major…
May 15, 2012, 3:28 pm
The university rankings debate is heating up – again. Hopefully, this time it will be different and with better outcomes for everyone.
At a time when many nations are experiencing high levels of public and private debt and higher education is in great demand, university rankings have encouraged a preoccupation with the trials and tribulations of a handful of “world class” universities. This is having a profound–and perverse–effect on higher-education policy making, universities, and public opinion.
Rankings privilege the most resource-intensive and expensive universities on the assumption that such universities offer the best panacea for success in the global economy and world science. Thus, governments worry their institutions are not elite or selective enough, while university leaders say too much attention has been directed at widening participation. As a result, many …
October 24, 2011, 5:00 pm
As I watch the deluge of press releases and media reports reacting to the latest rankings, I am reaching the point of despair. At a superficial level, we can all join in the ridiculous state-of-affairs as governments and universities vie with each other to promote their institutions and—in reality—their country as a place worthy of investment and talent recruitment. But there are more insidious currents at work.
A confluence of factors has heightened policy, public and student interest in higher education—at the organizational level, and also at the level of the individual faculty member and student. In the post global financial crisis world, calls for greater accountability and transparency are driving change across systems and institutions, in academic contracts, in service-level agreements with students, and with society at large. While higher education yearned for the time…
September 15, 2011, 3:57 pm
It’s that time of year again. Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Academic Ranking of World Universities, the QS Top University Ranking, and U.S. News & World Report’s annual list have just been published, and will shortly be followed by the Times Higher Education world rankings. Despite pages of critique, rankings still have the capacity to create fear and loathing in the higher-education and policy worlds – even before the ink is dry. Surely no one really believes that universities can move up or down the rankings scale in any meaningful way, on an annual basis – so why such hysteria?
It seems to me that the common denominator is status and wealth. Rankings bring vital visibility to nations and universities in an increasingly competitive world. The more globalization drives a single market in education, as it does in most goods and services, the more higher education is a…
August 16, 2011, 4:01 pm
Ranking academic journals is one of the more contentious aspects of research assessment, and a foundation stone for university rankings. Because people’s careers and aspirations are on the line, it was only a matter of time before someone challenged the findings. Their implications go far beyond recent events in Australia.
Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Science, Elsevier’s Scopus, and Google Scholar have become dominant players in a rapidly expanding and lucrative global intelligence information business. The first has identified another opportunity, the Global Institute Profile Project: collecting institutional profile information, and then monetarizing it by selling it back to the institutions for strategic planning purposes or on to third-parties to underpin policy/decision-making or classification systems – similar to the way in which financial data was turn into a commodity by …