Drinks anyone?

For those outside Europe that think that there is one European Social Model: there’s not. According to the Economist they got champagne, grappa, aquavit and beer. Germany and France have the champagne: strict labour laws and general unemployment benefits. The Mediterranean countries have the grappa model: low benefits but strict labour regulations. The aquavit model is applied in the Nordic countries and the Netherlands. These states have a Protestant work ethic. They will help you find a job, but you must work if you are able to. While the benefits are generous, job protection laws are quite weak. England and Ireland have the beer: no generous benefits and no strong protection of jobs. They do however spend a lot on job centers and the like and have reasonable unemployment benefits.

The European Social Model will be the topic discussed at the next EU summit. Somehow, after Wim Kok’s (somewhat negative) review of the Lisbon Strategy – emphasising competitiveness and innovation – it seems like the emphasis (or the discourse) is shifting towards the European Social Model. Maybe there we have more chances of gaining a top ranking..

Imagining Academic Job Markets

Daniel Nexon gives some useful tips for those of you on the academic job market. Although he knows you’re gonna ignore his advice, it is worth a read. I liked this one:

Do not start to build an imaginary life for yourself at Big Research University, Medium-Size State U, Small Liberal Arts College, Tiny Remedial Institute, or whatever. This advice applies even once you have gotten an interview. I recommend not looking at real estate websites, finding out every last detail about the area the institution is located, or doing anything of this sort.

Might be useless but I remember I liked checking the climate in Wisconsin, inspecting the diving in Florida and finding out the amazing housing prices in London….           

After iPod, iTunes, iPod nano….there is iBridge

I just received a message that the Kauffman foundation just announced a new product: iBridge. Nothing to do with MP3’s this time. It’s not even an Apple product. It is an application designed to ease the transaction burden on university technology transfer offices and it encourage more open and efficient access to research by academics and other interested parties. Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Kauffman Foundation explains it like this:

“Universities are tremendous wellsprings of knowledge. The iBridge program encourages widespread access to that valuable information, linking researchers with interested parties, and ultimately helping to more fully realize the innovation potential that research offers.”

The iBridge application initially will be piloted by selected universities throughout the United States, including Washington University in St. Louis, University of North Carolina ot Chapel Hill, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Cornell University and the University of Kansas. It is expected that a total of seven U.S. universities will participate in the initial pilot in the coming months.

Here is how it works…or is supposed to work

The iBridge platform complements their existing processes for collaboration and technology transfer. Universities may use the iBridge application to license and distribute a variety of information, including software, research tools, databases, teaching materials, surveys and reference materials that by themselves do not rise to the level of an ‘innovation home run’. Postings may also include a variety of research artefacts, as well as descriptions of ongoing research activities. Most of these innovations are deemed not worthy of patents and are therefore shelved. But many of these shelved innovations are, in fact, valuable research tools or software that can be utilized to either accelerate research, or, if bundled with other innovations, developed as a commercially viable innovation for licensing. Unfortunately, these shelved innovations rarely find their way into the hands of interested third parties. Posting a discovery on the iBridge Web site not only formally discloses that a discovery has been made, it also safeguards the university’s interest in its intellectual property by starting a record-keeping file.

I haven’t seen it and don’t know exactly how it works, but it sounds a bit like a forum or an online academic community, doesn’t it? Wasn’t that the way the Internet started? On the other hand, I do think a lot of research is duplicated because we don’t know that it’s done already or is being left unused altogether. Time will tell if it works…I’ll keep an eye on it.    

White Australia Policy: the story continues

The past months Australia has witnessed an interesting example of the tension between academic freedom and freedom of speech versus the principle of non-discrimination. Andrew Fraser, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Law at Macquarie University in Sydney stirred up a debate on the re-introduction of the White Australia Policy through radio and TV appearances a couple of weeks ago. This time however he is going through the academic channels to get his ideas across.

His paper was accepted by the Deakin University Law Review after being peer reviewed. But, after a threat from an Australian lawyer acting on behalf of the Sudanees community, Vice-Chancellor of Deakin University, Sally Walker, directed the editor of the Law review not to publish the article.

Let me be clear: the content of the paper is despicable and the academic credibility is at least doubtful, as these comments show. But the question remains whether research on for instance the genetic influence on criminal behaviour should be conducted. To me, the starting point is that everything is worth of investigating, just for knowledge sake. But academics also have an ethical obligation towards society. So let’s assume that serious research on the issue is conducted, what then? What to do with the outcomes? Not admitting a Sudanees surgeon, but welcoming a British troublemaker, based on their genetic codes? Of course, using such research results as a basis for policy making, contradicts agreements that we have made and international norms that (fortunately) have emerged in the last 60 years or so.

So what would have been the best option? Of course the article should just have been published. If a wider group of peers – the readers of the Deakin University Law review and legal scholars in general – questions the academic credibility of the article, the journal will just loose its own reputation and the editor will look for other reviewers for the future. And then Fraser can just upload the paper himself to whatever website or blog, so it can dissolve in the dark corners of the Internet.    

One thing needs to be added here. A poll from Channel Nine showed that Frasers ideas have a lot of support in Australia. Neglecting this will not take these feelings away and a political solution needs to be found for that. As someone that lived in the Netherlands until early 2005, I have seen what happens if such feelings are continuously neglected and then find a mouthpiece. And that sight wasn’t pretty. But I am pretty sure that solutions can be found within the agreements and norms that we have now.

Global Cosmopolis?

The past days, Singapore seems to be under the spell of Global Entrepolis @ Singapore, a gathering of entrepreneurs, technopreneurs and the ‘venture capital community’. Here, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong outlined a strategy to power Singapore’s economic growth through innovation. The strategy is to enlarge Singapore’s economic space through free trade agreements, education, and research and development.

“Some people believe in the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. Here in Singapore, our belief is ‘innovate or vegetate’. We break the old mould when faced with a different situation and innovate to stay ahead,” Mr Goh said. Mr Goh said a culture which encourages risk-taking and tolerant of mistakes is critical to innovation. But he admitted this will not happen overnight.

Singapore has done a remarkable job the past decades. It has turned into one of the most prosperous nations in Asia. It is also seen as an embodiment of the ‘knowledge for development’ thinking and a model country for future knowledge economies and societies. The country has been very successful in making the transition from low wage industrial production to a high tech economy.

It has done so under tight controls on public speech and political activity. And maybe thanks to this tight control it has been able to emulate western models and mould them into a Singaporean version of the knowledge society. However, also the Singaporean government recognises that this has its limits. In a 2003 article in TIME Asia it was already stated that:

Singapore’s “nanny-state” technocrats recognize that imposing a Silicon Valley-like mind-set on the population through social engineering won’t be easy. “We cannot create entrepreneurs,” says Lee, Singapore’s founding father. “We can only facilitate their emergence.”

The article then points to some examples where the government is creating ‘little Bohemias’ and is experimenting with relaxing rules in relation to artistic expressions, alternative lifestyles and homosexuality. Two years further however, artistic and political expression seems to be still under attack. This becomes clear in the case of the investigation of Singaporean film maker Martyn See for a political documentary called ‘Singapore Rebel’. Would Martyn See agree that a culture which encourages risk-taking and tolerance is critical to innovation?

The bigger question here is whether it will also be economically necessary for the Singaporean government to relax its rules vis-à-vis political activity and social criticism. In other words: to what extent is a critical attitude in society – and also in academia – a necessary precondition for what we call a knowledge society? No entrepolis without the cosmopolis?    

Another Blog

Why another blog? Paradoxically I got the idea after reading Ivan Tribble’s column in the Chronicle of Higher Education and his recent follow up as a reaction to the critique of the whole ‘blogger community’. According to Tribble – whoever that may be – a blog easily becomes a therapeutic outlet:

“Worst of all, for professional academics, it’s a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution.”

Welcome to the 21st century! I guess that’s what the Internet is all about, and even academia needs to live with it. Don’t worry, I’ll continue to let peers judge my work through the official channels of journals and conferences. I do however have enough trust in professional academics – including myself – to use new media in a responsible manner.

But still, ..why start blogging? Just because it’s a good way to keep track of the developments in the fields that I research: higher education and research policies, science & innovation policies, and the globalisation and transnationalisation of (public) policies. Blogging will hopefully give me the opportunity to continuously link my more theoretical and conceptual work to current affairs.

That said, what is the blog about? It is a blog on higher education, science and innovation, all from a global perspective. These are three keywords that best express my research interests. But every now and then I will make a jaunt to other interests like Dutch, Australian, Southeast Asian and European politics, books, music or movies, and other fun things in life like diving and travelling.