Welcome to the BU Research blog! We hope that in time the blog will become the main way of communicating research matters to BU staff and students; a way of sharing information, research intelligence and getting your feedback on ideas, strategy and the way forward for research at BU. If you wish to get involved please post a comment or submit your postings to Corrina Dickson (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Research Development Unit.
So what is research? Or put it another way, what is the scope of the blog and I hear some of you cry what about enterprise? Over the last few years BU has struggled with the term enterprise, it conjures an image for many of sharp suits, the hard sell and a dirty dollar rather than the intellectual freedom to create and explore new ideas. Yet the application and dissemination of knowledge is one of the things that BU excels at; we do more applied research than any other type of activity and pride ourselves on the service we provide to the professions. For me there is no distinction between research and enterprise other than an esoteric definition driven in part by the ‘VAT Man’ around whether new knowledge is created or not; if it is created then VAT is not usually applied and it defined as research. Is research not all embracing?
Well a quick web search on the definition of research brings back such things as ‘any investigation intended to extend the limits of human knowledge’ or ‘a carefully planned and performed investigation, searching for previously unknown facts’. Yet for me these definitions are only part of the problem; it is no good having created ‘new knowledge’ if no one knows about it and it is left on a dusty shelf unpublished and unloved! Communication, application and dissemination of knowledge created are an essential part of the process especially if it is to be of use to society at large. For me the last point is an important one; as a publically funded organisation we have a duty in my view to serve society, providing solutions to societal problems ensuring that our work has impact within it.
It is for these reasons that I believe that ‘research’ is in fact a continuum of activity as illustrated in the cartoon below, ranging from the creation of new knowledge at one end of the spectrum through it application and dissemination via applied or contract research, past entrepreneurial education to professional practice at the other. Any of these activities can be conducted for a profit and making a profit in order to re-invest in more research is a good thing and to be encouraged what ever the activity. Of course we still have to report certain activity in externally defined categories to government but these are reporting functions not things to inspire and motivate action. So in my view research is the correct term to use; an all embracing term for the creation and dissemination of knowledge which sits in parallel with education as the core mission of any university serving society.
I would welcome your view and comments on this definition and look forward to engaging with you in the coming months to create a new Research Strategy for BU based on a broader definition and linked to the concept of societal impact.