Running Hot 2010: Enhancing Value

The final session of the conference was called “Enhancing Value,” and began with a group discussion to “identify lessons learnt during the conference, and identify the challenges and opportunities confronting a new generation of researchers.”

Helen Anderson began with the incredibly refreshing perspective that new researchers may not be brave or bold enough to ask the hard questions, and suggested we need to increase the “stroppiness quotient.” (Oh, how I wish more managers believed that!) She said it’s poor leadership to expect emergent researchers to spend all our time applying for funding, and that there should be the institutional courage to support winners and perhaps not others. But ultimately, she said we need support for the first five years–even if it means making/taking it ourselves.

Richard Bedford spoke of leadership and knowledge. He said leaders need to show respect for other knowledge, and be able to empower and mobilise other people. He emphasised the need for mutual respect and mutual trust, and how important it is that the new Ministry of Science and Innovation not lose sight of the social sciences and humanities.

Bryan Gould took the optimistic view that research value is now firmly embedded in popular culture and government priorities, but noted that while science is heroic in the sense that it tells us what we want to know, social science is a nuisance in the sense that it tells us what we don’t want to know. And although we are open to research knowledge in so many ways, we still struggle to view its value in other than economic terms. He noted the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, rather than GDP, as a measure of success and told us to take the money but remember that we are standard-bearers.

Juliet Gerrard asked how to nurture young researchers. With great humour she suggested that energy, enthusiasm and creativity decrease with age but support increases–so how to change this ridiculous situation? Give everyone money to start but only continue to give them money if they provide results and not just promises. In other words, pick the winners and go.

After coffee we got back together for final reflections and discussion of issues facing the future:

Shaun Hendy spoke about tracking publication and patent networks to predict the future of NZ research. His research suggests that inventors tend to come together in bigger cities–something that poses a challenge to NZ. But the largest collaborative network they’ve found stretches from San Francisco to San Diego, California, and involves a large number of companies, and if NZ could produce a large-scale collaborative network across the country then it could definitely compete. Still, per capita R&D spending needs to increase, new research strengths need to be developed, and spatial transaction costs need to be removed. Vic Arcus talked about the data deluge, the reinvention of the polymath, and the power of exponential growth compared to incremental growth. Tracey McIntosh began by suggesting that we might be more wary of attempts to colonise the future. She said that before we redistribute the pie amongst new and established researchers, perhaps we should be more mindful of those who have yet to participate at all. She called for greater awareness of who and what we serve and a recognition of how our research always involves power differentials. She also asked that our research always support social and environmental justice. She suggested that we do not continue with current models of knowledge production; we need more inter-disciplinary, cross-cultural, inter-generational, transformative, evidence-based and shared research.

Catherine Mohr and Stuart Cunningham then joined the group for a final discussion moderated by Bryan Crump, who began by asking what will actually incentivise researchers to collaborate. What I took away from everyone’s comments was that complex, cross-sector issues are what best bring us together. This reminded me of the work of Bruno Latour and Noortje Marres, and how it has informed my own research, whether in sociology or anthropology, technology or design.

Running Hot 2010: Transforming Value
Running Hot 2010: Creating Value
Running Hot 2010: Imagining Value
Running Hot 2010: Early Career Researcher Symposium (Pt. 1)
Running Hot 2010: Early Career Researcher Symposium (Pt. 2)