Cambridge leader warning: going for growth will harm long-term contributions
Author:Science and Technology Division, UK
Article Source:Adapted from: THE 10th May 2012
Leszek Borysiewicz, the Vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge said that economic benefits are “by-products” of teaching and research and shouldn’t become the primary goal of universities’ efforts as it may compromise future academic research.
At the 10th anniversary conference of the League of European Research Universities, Leszek Borysiewicz was to say that although universities hold the key to growth, it must not become their driver. It should remain as by-products of teaching and research. Despite institutions increasingly touting their ability to support the economy when making their case for funding, the message must be that universities’ wider goals and blue-sky research are what make them successful. He stressed that universities are not the research and development branch of Big Industry.
Leszek Borysiewicz said that today’s pharmaceutical research relies on yesterday’s blue-skies research and the basic research we do now will be applied by our successors in the years to come. Even though the pipeline from one to the other is long, the pipeline must not be broken.
UK academics fear that the government’s desire for short-term gain will harm basic research. Despite the budget ring fence for public research funding, academics are increasingly encouraged to demonstrate evidence of their work’s impact, while at least one research council has aligned its portfolio according to areas of national importance.
Leszek Borysiewicz took as an example the commercial success of the University of Cambridge: the “Cambridge phenomenon” of high-tech companies built up around the university is something that was both unplanned and unexpected. He said it is hard to imagine that it would have been more successful if the university had deliberately set out to create that economic effect. However, he was also due to say that there was a place for applied research in universities, and that Cambridge’s success lay in being able to offer companies in its cluster access to a spectrum of research from fundamental to applied.
Leszek Borysiewicz was also due to appeal to the European Union to recognise that 2014-2020 funding for all types of research would be needed.