Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Response to, "Some fields of research seem more ‘fashionable’ to government and the universities than others"

(From Funny Potato)

Response to, "Some fields of research seem more ‘fashionable’ to government and the universities than others"

I have given up looking for my saved but unsubmitted thread on this topic. I like these questions and will attempt to answer two of them first and the last cheekily before asking a few of my own. There is a dry, old and illuminating book "Globalization and Fragmentation: International Relations in the Twentieth Century" written by Ian Clark which could be applied to the national micro-cosmic innovation drivers at work in Australia's universities, research and business environments which mirrors his description of parallel but competitive forces described as internationalisation and globalisation.

"What drives and motivates certain fields of research to be more popular than others?"

On the international level self-interest or suspicious special interests determined Cold War "Iron Curtain" type philosophies of knowledge transfer and sharing between client or allied nations versus rogue or enemy states which Clark says is mostly maintained at a public policy level in national governments up to the present. Why would such perspectives not be engrained in political, societal and academic policies as well?

At the same time globalisation has also taken place first in the form of developmental international assistance programs and information or knowledge sharing to the benefit of trading partners followed by increased foreign direct investment reducing policy influences related especially to environmental and social justice. While national benefit is always an aspect of self-interest it is also an IP protection related topic as dissemination of pirated or stolen materials has never been higher (partially as a result of increased globalisation).

One aspect of these competing fashions "open source versus IP protection" mimics the original internationalisation versus globalisation described by Clark. Industries or innovations originators, designers and developers might lose more control over their IP the more popular it becomes thus heavily regulating IP rather than actually developing more of it. Similarly the US lost world economic dominance by offshoring its investments and industries no longer perhaps formulating its own policies but becoming an economic net debtor/sultanate-like vassal falling back on traditional international measures of political and military influences to make up the differences and divergences in policy. This would explain new quantitative or qualitative measures of fashionable research which no longer may be measured on strictly local terms. I often think the often individual business-oriented search for competitive advantage has so diffused and permeated our western cultural mindset to blind us to opportunities for collective benefits in conflict management and mediated dispute resolutions.

"Would it be in the long-term or short-term interests of society?"

In East Asia much evidence for increased IT and business management development may be directly traced to exponential increases in offshored western and/or Australian educational programs delivered for (short term ?) export profit gains. These new economic players have created developmental competition in areas of national competitiveness and research commercialisation which did not exist prior to relevant business and IT training and research based upon perhaps more highly successful rates of patent registrations locally (if these are to be considered relevant measures in innovation growth) and/or government directed innovation programs which appear soon outstripping those found in Australia or other western nations where the original learning and education were first developed. Even as early as the 1980s Mitsubishi Corporation was described as conducting more research and development than Canada as an entire nation. How soon before all of Asia (minus Australia once described by Lee Kwan Yew as "The Trailer Trash of Asia") outstrips the rest of the world's IP development?

This is another example of global versus international ends and means where one aspect of globalizing education has both long-term benefits and long term negative consequences for competitive research in countries such as Australia.

"Where and how is data collated to determine a particular research fields ‘popularity’?"

Thank Michael for exposing me to the Aalborg Project written about by Bent Flyberg in his book "Rationality and Power" which makes unbiased data appear impossible to collect and thus subjective. Here is a possible answer:

"Statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital." (Aaron Levenstein)


Kaka said...

I appreciate the labor you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

Daniel Costello said...

What can I say? I enjoy my studies and share what I can.

Anonymous said...

That's good.. Cheers..