9 Testing Assumptions

The chapter is a survey of the literature on the current analyses of Australian S&T research environment. It identifies a number of hypotheses and assumptions about Australian S&T research which have led to a number of suggestions that aim to redress some aspect or other of the environment. The chapter investigates these assumptions and whether they are consistent with the empirical findings of section two.



1 Suggested Solutions

Micro level: Parameters
Financial: Budget of universities is balanced by income generated from attracting international students
We maximize the revenues from international education
Minimize its impact on our system
(Marginson 2009)

Meso level: Buffers
Financial: “It is inescapable that the present incentive for hyper-growth of international students will continue to skew the whole system in favour of exports at the expense of domestic capacity…”
(Marginson 2009)

Population dynamics do not involve rationality.

Macro level: Feedback Loops
Research: Move away from basic research and towards applied research
Financial: Reticence to change the structure: “The fear is that if the incentive structure changes export growth will level off or trend downwards.”
(Marginson 2009)

Micro level: Delays
Research: Commercialisation of research is counterproductive on the long term.
If universities lock breakthrough discoveries in long patent chains it slows the rate of innovation overall.
Commercial R&D and knowledge intensive industries should be developing IP, not universities.
(Marginson 2009)

Meso level: Flows
Financial: More financial resources need to be allocated to research.
Extra funding for identifiable areas of research strength, plus the most promising new ideas.
It would be much better to provide extra research funding on the basis of research groupings rather than institutions.

Interactions: Research networks are instrumental in the diffusion and creation of new knowledge
Interactions/collaborations happen at all levels of granularity in the HE environment
Interactions also take place with the public/private sector

Reasons for collaboration
  • Cross fertilisation across disciplines
  • Increasing specialization of science
  • Access to expertise
  • Pooling knowledge for tackling large and complex problems
  • Enhancing productivityPedagogical
  • Educating a student
  • Learning tacit knowledge about a technique
  • Improving access to funds
  • Obtaining prestige or visibility
  • For fun and pleasure
From (van Rijnsoever, et al. 2008)

Types of collaborations with the private sector
Research: the relation can involve collaborative research
Applied research: the company can be an object of a case study
Consulting: researcher can be a supplier of knowledge
Financial: the company can fund the chair of the researcher
Entrepreneurial: the company can be a spin-off of the university
Technical: a researcher can be a customer for materials
From (Carayol 2003)

Close collaborations means the possibility of collective action (such as umbrella organisations fighting for the survival of an individual agent or unit).

Forming communities based on shared ontologies.Forming communities based on shared topological features.Community as percolation.Temperature is a metric that reflects turbulence of heterogeneity in the system?Content providers distribute through hubs because of the small world effect.

Macro-level: Constraints
Financial: Financial incentives reward applications
ARC science/technology research
NHMRC health/biology research
CRC problem-solving/technical
Research is under-funded
Under-funding drives exports, this is why Australian governments are chronically unable to re-invest in universities.

Research: ERA rewards publication in areas where there is:
Abundance of journals
High rankings journals

Interactions: Hypothesis that the topology of the Network affects short- and long-term survival
Network Hubs (determinants of growth)
Network Brokers (determinants of survival)

self-organisation usually serves to achieve proximate goals that have been imposed by central planners. sharing ultimate goals justifies proximate goals and sometimes allows agents to supercede them if they do not contribute to the ultimate goals (or they achieve ultimate goals more directly). But for this to happen, ultimate goals must be aligned with agents' needs otherwise agents will not feel bound to participate since the ultimate goals have no meaning or use to them.

Laws prevent monopolistic behaviours/collusion.

Micro-level: Self-Organisation
Interactions: Natural tendency to collaborate (although it varies)
Motivations for collaborations
  • Research output
  • Career advancement
Deterrents for collaborations
  • Overhead
  • Opportunity cost

Research: Mushroom pattern

Finacials: Rich-gets-richer

Meso-level: Patterns
Interactions: Some networks are more important than others for innovation
“Strategic information” networks are most important
Advice networks are less so
Centrality in strategic information networks is a good predictor of recognition for innovation
(Considine & Lewis 2007)

Innovation in academic collaboration networks
Most strategic
  • Research
  • Pedagogy
  • Technical
  • Social
Least strategic

Collaboration and career advancement are strongly correlated
Collaboration with academic institutions is most beneficial
Collaboration with the public/private sector is least beneficial
(van Rijnsoever et al. 2008)

Innovation in collaborations with the private sector
Most innovative
  • Research
  • Applied research
  • Consulting
  • Financial
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Technical
Least innovative

Community engagement is a product of a healthy ecosystem

Macro-level: Paradigm Rules

Change can be brought about top-down or bottom-up.

Financial: Research geared towards economic output

Research: Basic research capacity is more vital in the k-economy: the OECD has shifted its main priority for university research from the nurturing of intellectual property by universities, to the creation and dissemination of ‘open science’.
(OECD 2008)

Interactions: The government policy did not create competition but conformity and loss of diversity
There is a lack of differentiation at the university level
(Marginson & Considine 2000)

Systematic solutions
Financial: Three issues need to be tackled by the government’s funding policy
  • indexation
  • the unit level of public funding
  • full cost research funding
(Marginson 2009)

Research: Universities should give their main attention to what they are best at, which is curiosity-driven basic research, its dissemination, and research training.This leaves Australia at something of a disadvantage because our policy settings have focused on shifting university research out of basic research and into commercializable activity. As if basic research and industry innovation are ‘either/or’, instead of ‘both and more’.(Marginson 2009)

Interactions: Ensure the sustainability of the research environment because:> Address short-term problems as part of the long-term survival of the environment
  • It plays an increasing role in Australian economy (as an attractor to international students)
  • It faces increasing competition from external HE research environments

2 Hypotheses and Assumptions

Influence of big pharma on medical researchresearch is becoming more inter-disciplinaryIn hard economic times frivolous patents are filedERA rankings reflect political support for certain disciplinesco-authorship does not give a true sense of collaboration (viz. philosophy versus geology)Individuals do not see themselves as belonging to a collective: "others" control research output, funding, collaboration

3 A Systemic Solution

all suggested solutions have to do with system oversight and they are not integrated in a cohesive whole.Knowledge is transferred via human bridges
Identifying distinctive research features of universities/groupings
Developing ways to maintain the diversity of the system
Promote a paradigmatic shift to make the research and financial solutions possible

Endowment funding as a way to implement Haldane principle.

Co-opt close collaboration between regional universities and state government sector: a way to plug funding deficit?

For policy: adopt a mixed-strategy. Sometimes adopt ecology (resilience and robustness) as an organising principle, but at other times, economics (effectiveness and efficiency) and politics (success and satisfaction) are organising principles.

Collaboration as a form of group power
High level of connection stifles high-risk long-term research (Viktor Mayer-Schonberger Science v. 325 p.396)

Produce S&T innovation entrepreneurs