How to manage complex processes of engagement

The League of European Research Universities LERU has just released a new report on how research can effectively engage towards society.

The report draws attention to two of society’s grand challenges – health and ageing. LERU thus aims to stimulate the discussion in Europe on the precise role of scientific advice in framing policy.  The publication is the product of a LERU and Science-Business symposium held earlier in 2009 with EU policy makers and LERU experts. The meeting, entitled “How long will you live?” drew on case studies from health and ageing. LERU has identified the following set of 15 keyfactors for ensuring that the processes of engagement between researchers, policy makers and society are fruitful and effective.

  1. Universities – use their wealth of wisdom
  2. Be prepared – be able to fill the ideas gap
  3. Serendipity – if the time is right capitalise on the moment
  4. Evidence – make sure it matters
  5. Policy makers – understand the personal background of the politicians
  6. Communication – ensure research find-ings are accessible
  7. Provide answers – not more problems
  8. Relevance – ensure Europe invests in the right research
  9. Integration – anchor research in society
  10. Foresight – look at what is coming
  11. Distinguish – between push and pull
  12. Long-term culture – is required to ensure adequate data
  13. New bodies and new posts – to help impart the findings of research to policy makers
  14. Mapping – Europe’s science advisory bodies
  15. Focus – on Knowledge Transfer

Although I think it is very good to work together on developing good criteria for the engagement between research and society, from my perspective these lists of keyfactors are much too general to be effective for research policies at an institutional level. I think it would be better to develop more actionable concepts and indicators for research organizations to work with. But maybe this will be the next step of LERU in trying to help their member institutions to deal with this difficult task of really engage with society.

Does it Take an Expert to Lead Experts? Professionals versus Managers in Universities

Amanda H. Goodall argues in her PhD thesis (March 2007) that where expert knowledge is the key
factor that characterizes an organization it is expert knowledge that
should also be key in the selection of its leader.

There is a special chapter on business schools.

Page 70: results

It offers simple evidence that the higher a business school is in the FT Top-100 ranking the higher are the lifetime citations of its dean. The correlation is found for the international group of 100 business schools, for 58 US schools, and, in a different data set, for 38 UK university business schools in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise.


Although this thesis focuses on those who lead universities, the
theoretical explanations outlined here are more general. They could also
apply to other heads of key strategic units within institutions, for example,
department chairs. But another question of importance to the university
system as a whole is that of whether top scholars should be leading
national research institutes and funding bodies? These are organizations
such as the National Institutes for Health and the National Science
Foundation in the US, the research councils in the UK (e.g. Medical
Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council) and also
bodies such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England
(HEFCE). The importance of such bodies seems indisputable, and some
might argue that their leaders are among the guardians of the higher
education sector, and therefore that they should have extensive inherent
knowledge about scholarship, and be seen to be credible by those they
serve in universities.
The research findings of the thesis can, arguably, be directly applied to
the real world. This leads us to ask: who might be interested in the
thesis? There are a number of potential beneficiaries. Universities as
institutions do not differ substantially the world over. It is anticipated
therefore, that interest may come from universities and also policy
analysts, government officials and politicians in countries considering
making changes to their higher education systems — for example,
Portugal, Italy and Germany32.
There is limited public information about what research universities
should be looking for in their leaders. Thus, it is anticipated that those
who appoint to the top university jobs, such as members of university
governing boards and also head-hunters from recruitment firms, should
be interested in these findings.
This empirical work is about leaders of institutions dominated by experts
and professionals. Hence, the findings are also relevant to firms such as
architects, lawyers, accountants and management consultancies. It could
also be argued that the recommendations will be of equal significance to
arts organizations such as theatres and galleries.
This study will make an intellectual contribution that will be of benefit to
the academic community. Specifically, the thesis will add to the body of
work in leadership and strategic management. The work also contributes
towards education research and furthers our understanding about the
appropriate selection of leaders and the important role of governance.

Does it Take an Expert to Lead Experts? Professionals versus Managers in Universities
Amanda H. Goodall
Warwick Business School
University of Warwick
Dissertation submitted for the degree of
MARCH 2007

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