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- Researchers from SDU should be the agenda-setters of the future


The Faculty of Business and Social Sciences (BSS) has to become better at promoting itself to the outside world. Professor Dannie Kjeldgaard and Professor Eric Arnould from IMM have the ambition that SDU’s researchers will become the agenda-setters of the future

Already during the work on the strategy it became clear that BSS has to try to increase its impact in society. The group of researchers who are to make BSS more visible should be brought together in an “Academy” that should address not just Danish issues but issues affecting the whole world.

– Researchers from BSS traditionally have very good contacts, but we have never really been able to set the agenda for the big themes and challenges in society. Eric and I thought that we need to become better at this, and this is where the idea of the Academy arose, says Dannie Kjeldgaard.

Eric Arnould explains that the hope is to bring together a group of researchers as representatives of the best environments at BSS. The next step is to ask the stakeholders what they perceive as being the big challenges.

– This could include various themes that are important for a large part of the population. For example, how do we handle the growing group of elderly citizens? How do we handle the increasing diversity in the Nordic region? What are we to do about the new technologies from nanobots and drones, etc.? How can we reinvent the global economy, and in what ways can Danish/Nordic businesses contribute – we know that we have to find a solution, but we do not know what it is, he says.

The two researchers know that many of their colleagues already have good connections, but they wish to institutionalize these relationships. And this is also a matter of prioritization. Clearly, an Academy cannot contain everything.

Our responsibility
Many research environments have to be brought into play, and therefore the two researchers do not distinguish between public and private businesses when they talk about stakeholders. Interesting stakeholders range from, for example, the Confederation of Danish Industry to a large international company such as Lego or a ministry. Not forgetting the non-profit organizations.

– During the strategy process we have talked a lot about relevance and quality. The ambition of having a high degree of impact in society makes the Academy relevant. Our research already has a large qualitative impact. The important thing is to find out how our research becomes interesting – not only to our colleagues but also to the rest of society, says Dannie Kjeldgaard.

– We have to make our research known to the general public. This is our responsibility. We are an educational institution, and this does not just involve handing out assignments to bachelor students or supervising master students. We should not be a container of knowledge, we should be the platform, says Eric Arnould.

Both researchers emphasize the importance of the work universities are doing to redefine their role in society. Since 2003 it has been specified in the Act on Universities that universities have a duty to exchange knowledge with society.

– It is no longer a question of handing out diplomas or to publish research. We will have to move away from a mere production of graduates. This means that we have a new and broader role to fill. Which role should we play in society – what can, should or must we do?, they ask.

Driven by curiosity and passion
The goal for an Academy should be that the researchers are seen as an important source of knowledge. It also plays a role in attracting funding, for example through collaboration with public or private businesses. These things already exist, but the two researchers want to strengthen them.

– This discussion about the impact of the universities and how researchers should be more proactive is taking place all over the world. It is more fun to create an Academy now than to wait for somebody who knows less than us to come and tell us what we should do. We are the ones with the knowledge, and we prefer to make our own decisions. This is what makes our jobs more fun and rewarding and also what makes us more efficient, says Eric Arnould.

– The new Academy will be a place where we as researchers can have fun in a creative process that involves formulating lots of new questions. It should be driven by curiosity and passion, says Dannie Kjeldgaard.

Dannie Kjeldgaard and Eric Arnould have already defined a task force consisting of six-seven researchers who are to meet in August. Contact them to learn more about their idea for an Academy.

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