The 1st EuroScience Policy Forum, with its four partners EuroScience, The Stockholm Trio University Alliance, The Wellcome Trust and the University of Vienna together with the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF) will discuss the changes in societal expectations on academic institutions and identify potential new pathways to a more sustainable academia in the future.
Academic institutions today are confronted with numerous wide-ranging challenges and increased societal expectations : ensuring a steady flow of new knowledge and breakthrough innovation, providing high-quality up-to-date education to all students, attracting motivated creative talents from all over the world to renew and develop teaching and research excellence, and contributing to socio-cultural well-being. Can the academic community respond effectively to these growing (and sometimes conflicting) demands, while continuing to preserve the values of scientific freedom and independence that have characterized public research institutions and universities for decades? In short, is academia as we know it today sustainable in the mid- to long-term?
To be sustainable, academia must adapt to changing societal demands, but without losing its heart and soul. The EuroScience Policy Forum on Sustainable Academia will examine whether the future can offer the necessary diversity of knowledge creation and dissemination, while continuing to provide a sufficiently stimulating work environment for its teachers and researchers and ensure the resources required to respond to the challenges of tomorrow. Today’s modern societies largely benefit from the knowledge and innovation created decades ago in a context of more open funding, less tightly structured research environments and less intense focus on immediate impact.
The EuroScience Policy Forum will provide an opportunity to reflect on what organizational frameworks are required to strike an appropriate balance between short-term responses to urgent societal needs and long-term academic visions and goals. How can universities become more open to society and still maintain a protected space for knowledge generation? What support structures and assessment mechanisms need to be put into place to develop both healthy competition and fruitful collaboration across disciplinary boundaries? How can we ensure a research culture that fosters both excellence and inclusiveness? Striking the right balance among these various factors will be key to attracting the brightest minds to a future sustainable academia, indispensable for our societies not only to address their most urgent needs today but to flourish over time.
This policy forum touches on a few discussion points that have come up about academic research over the last year - I’m actually surprised to see serious discussion about adapting traditional academia to be more sustainable and address societal needs. I wonder if there will be any serious intent for change or if proposals will just be superficial window dressings.