BC academic reps defend investment in research
Leaders from British Columbia’s doctoral and research universities published a commentary in today’s Vancouver Sun urging their newly reelected Liberal provincial government to invest in universities – arguing that the univerisites play a unique role in the province.
The leaders list three key contributions that their universities, like universities everywhere, provide to the province:
First, we teach the next generation how to reason, analyse and discover. Second, we engage in discovery ourselves, uncovering new methods, ideas and approaches to our world and its problems. Third, we reach out into our communities in a myriad of ways to make them better.
The authors then explain the frustration felt by many researchers in the relationship between the research community and government. I quote this section in its entirety, as I think it is a valuable contribution to the discussion:
The continued erosion of government funding for post-secondary education over the past two decades has made it extraordinarily difficult to share fully the breadth and depth of our knowledge and expertise with British Columbians. We hope the minister will understand that the full value of the research and doctoral universities cannot be achieved by government micro-management. Universities are valuable precisely because they allow us the freedom to innovate and the freedom to create.
Although university research may not always directly relate to government priorities or support government policy, that doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. There is no predicting which new discovery, new method or new idea may fundamentally change the way our world works.
Advise us, encourage us, challenge us and support us, but don’t try to force our research and teaching inside boxes defined by political or corporate interests. The public interest is best served by faculty members at our publicly funded universities having the freedom to blaze new paths.
Just because we don’t want or need government control doesn’t mean we want to ignore government — far from it. We want a continuing dialogue with government.
Voices from the research community are increasingly reaching out to government, attempting to build a bridge across which we can engage in constructive dialogue. A government willing to reciprocate will do much to gain the respect and cooperation of researchers.