German university to open museum to showcase research impact

President of Humboldt University of Berlin says new public laboratory will help drive the ‘production, preservation and communication of knowledge’

September 26, 2018
Sabine Kunst speaks at the World Academic Summit

One of Germany’s leading universities is set to open a “museum of knowledge” next year as part of a drive to better interact with the public.

Sabine Kunst, president of the Humboldt University of Berlin, told delegates at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in Singapore that the university was set to open a new “Humboldt laboratory” in December 2019 to highlight the many ways that its academics create impact.

She said that the new site would “serve as a museum for knowledge, as a venue for any number of meetings, performances and events relating to the global exploration of the world”.

During a panel discussion on bridging the gap between research outcomes and social good, Professor Kunst added that she expected the laboratory – which will offer exhibitions, lectures, guided tours, workshops and experiments – to attract between 3 million and 4 million visitors a year.

“The Humboldt lab will be the public showcase for academic research at our university,” she said. “The expertise of Humboldt University scholars will not only be publicly communicated but the mechanism of such communication will be reflected, analysed and further refined by the university’s scholars.”

Professor Kunst added that the laboratory would not simply celebrate scientific achievements, but would provide insights on scientific practice itself.

“Interaction with society at our university will not be reduced to a PR exercise. It touches the actual core business of the university – the production, preservation and communication of knowledge,” she said.

Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and president of the University of Glasgow, who also spoke on the panel, said that his institution has “embodied the whole element of third mission into academic careers”.

“If you are a professor, you will be rated in terms of not only your research and your teaching, but also your work on knowledge exchange and third mission. That could be industrial innovation if you’re a scientist, or it could be the fact that you’re working on an important project around dealing with migrant crises,” he said.

“If you’re a civic university, you’ve got to integrate yourself in the civic community.”

Sir Anton added that the UK’s research impact agenda – which he acknowledged has received criticism from the higher education sector – has been a “huge success” in “helping to change the culture of academic life in the UK, where a large amount of the funding we get for research now comes because of evidence that we’ve managed to turn that into impact”.

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