face are complex: peace building, disaster response, global health in an era of
highly transmissible diseases, both obesity and starvation, increasing access to
education…the list goes on.
Entrepreneurial universities confront these challenges, and they do so by
building linkages across sectors and across borders—with governments, private
sector, NGOs, and communities. In our globalized world, one of the most
important roles of universities is and will be forging international connections.
Contemporary research and scholarly collaborations, such as the one that
mapped the human genome, often require a scale so massive, so daring, and
requiring such a wide range of expertise, that it would be impossible for any
single institution, organization, or industry to assemble the necessary talent
and infrastructure to tackle these on their own. To succeed in the 21st century,
countries, institutions, and companies need to tap into and contribute to
international knowledge networks. What better way to do this than through our
universities? Increasingly, the universities that flourish are the ones that actively
embrace this role and make it a priority.
Connection is not something that only occurs outside the university gates,
however. It begins within the university, by narrowing the boundaries that
divide disciplines. One of the hallmarks of research-intensive universities is not
only the array of disciplines found within them, but the depth of knowledge in
each discipline. It will remain important to deepen knowledge within individual
fields, but real-world problems do not fall into tidy disciplinary categories. And
as universities sharpen their focus on solving those problems, they are naturally
adopting more interdisciplinary approaches to research and learning.
Cross-disciplinary collaboration is often fortuitous, the result of a
particularly fruitful relationship, or a chance meeting of the right people at the
right time. But there is a great deal that universities can do to provide fertile
ground for this inherently unpredictable process:
• making space for interdisciplinary research and projects—which have long
suffered the stigma of being on the “fringes” of traditional disciplines;
• providing seed-funding streams that reward interdisciplinary projects;
• having quality resources that publish their interdisciplinary results; and
• creating tenure and promotion processes that recognize the value of high-
quality interdisciplinary collaborations.
The universities that flourish have seen progress in all of these areas.
Ahead of the Storm: Research Libraries and the Future of the Research University
C O N T I N U E D
SEPTEMBER 2011 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A QUARTERLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC