Newsletter 6/2011

The globalisation of knowledge

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s International Advisory Board invited participants to the Academy of Arts in Berlin for the 5th Forum on the Internationalisation of Sciences and Humanities.

5th Forum on the Internationalisation of Science in Berlin
5th Forum on the Internationalisation
of Sciences and Humanities in Berlin

Photo: Humboldt Foundation /David Ausserhofer

On 13 and 14 November, some 60 distinguished international experts in the fields of science, science management and politics accepted an invitation from the Humboldt Foundation’s International Advisory Board to share their knowledge on the impact of globalisation on scientific and research structures. Under the heading “The Globalisation of Knowledge and the Principles of Governance in Higher Education and Research” the participants discussed core developments for the future of science and research: What does increasing global competition for the best minds, universities and research institutions mean for national science systems against the backdrop of decreasing financial resources? How can efficiency and competition be reconciled with freedom of research and the desire for scientific progress? And, finally: What does the globalisation of academic markets mean for individual researchers?

The participants at this year’s Forum discussed how politics could contribute to supporting universities and research institutions in their endeavours to offer attractive general conditions to globally mobile researchers and to fulfil their various tasks in the national framework. The participants were agreed that the increasing commercialisation of universities across the world was leading to a reduction in the scope for independent research, while the interest in drawing universities closer to industry and seeing them as engines for economic development was continuing to increase. In the USA, market-oriented ideas already had such an enormous influence on the structure of university research that the balance between the disciplines was in danger and students were looked upon solely as consumers rather than knowledge-producers. Consequently, more than ever before, universities now found themselves doing a balancing act between serving regional (national and local) economic interests on the one hand and being forced to line up with global competition on the other. Although there was no argument about the significance of universities in the modern knowledge society, efforts to create top universities were often set against austerity measures – to the detriment of science and research. The participants also discussed how the differing academic cultures and value systems in Europe, Africa, America and Asia could be harmonised sufficiently to ensure that science and research continued to enjoy the necessary freedom to produce new knowledge and be beneficial to development worldwide.

The participants included high-ranking representatives of science organisations and research institutions in India, Nigeria, the USA and Germany such as the Chancellor of the University of California at Davis, Linda Katehi, the Secretary General of the European University Association, Lesley Wilson, and, as guest of honour, the spokesperson of the Bündnis 90/Die Grünen parliamentary party for science and research policy in the German Bundestag, Krista Sager.

The International Advisory Board is an independent body composed of international experts who advise the Humboldt Foundation on strategy issues. The board focuses on themes relating to researcher mobility and internationalisation and, in establishing the Forum on the Internationalisation of Sciences and Humanities has created a platform for discussing current research policy issues.

The core contents of the Forum’s discussions and the International Advisory Board’s recommendations will be published. The documentation of previous meetings is available online or can be obtained in printed form from the Foundation.