Full-spectrum knowledge exchange

February 1, 2018

It would not be out of place to state that the detractors of the knowledge exchange framework share the same misgivings as their research and teaching assessment counterparts (“The shape of KEF to come”, Features, 25 January).

Central to all the criticism is the silo mindset that separates research, teaching and knowledge exchange. This effect is perpetuated in our learning systems, despite talk of interdisciplinarity, and in a failure in academia to recognise asymmetrical trajectories of the development and application of science and technology development through numerous iterations and the circuitry of what Alex Pentland refers to as “social physics”. Research, teaching and knowledge exchange are all embedded in social learning. We cannot lift our capacity for learning if we do not do research that engages “others” and offers new sources of enquiry, know-how and techniques by means of exchange. So much new knowledge in advanced technologies is being created outside academia that our collective humility to acknowledge the value of knowledge exchange might enhance our higher education.

But instead of a neoclassical-style metrics model that relies primarily on measuring association with large public and private organisations, it would be useful to have a fine-grained evaluation of varied forms of interaction with smaller organisations, the users of knowledge and citizens. It would be worthwhile to evaluate the range and depth of knowledge that flows from the world outside to universities, the frequency and type of universities’ involvement with the global community and the intellectual coverage of topical issues on different platforms. Would it be too outrageous to suggest that inclusivity become a principal measure of assessing knowledge exchange that can identify how institutions recognise new knowledge creation in the counter-narratives and acts of those ignored because of their race, gender, disability or sexuality? We are looking to change things, are we not?

Jay Mitra
Professor of business enterprise and innovation
University of Essex

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