Letter: No, minister 3

November 2, 2001

Paul Ormerod is concerned about Estelle Morris's exhortation to universities to work with regional development agencies and local industry groups to produce research and teaching that is "relevant" to industry (Letters, October 26).

It is right to point out that universities must provide graduates with thinking and learning skills - these allow them to be re-equipped by short courses, continuous professional development or other experiences. But what is missing from this view is the need to focus research on specific business and community needs at the individual project level. This might mean identifying ways to exploit science through new products, processes, businesses or services. Such projects require collaboration of industry, scientists, engineers, managers, society and government across a range of disciplines.

Current assessment of research rests on purely academic grounds that largely ignore industrial needs and encourage researchers to stay within safe disciplinary boundaries. What is needed to encourage "relevant" research is a framework that encourages universities and the academics in them to collaborate with industry and between disciplines and to undertake research arising from an industrial agenda not a methodological tradition.

Stephen Childe
School of Computing
University of Plymouth

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