Will the division of labour between the academic sector and other sectors for innovation and science be transformed in a "knowledge economy"? Will (and should) academic research be concentrated in the future in a few higher education institutions? Will the "traditional" link between research and teaching continue to exist in the future? How does the evolution (and revolution) of science thanks to the computing revolution affect university research? And how does the growing internationalisation of science and research transform academic research? Here are a few questions that this strand of the project will address.
Past trends in academic research can be characterised by a growth in research funding and output, a large proportion of basic research and government funding. While the mode of allocation of public funding has changed in the past twenty years towards indirect funding, a noteworthy trend has been the rise of the private funding of academic research and of the performance of basic research by the non-academic sectors. Internationalisation of academic research has also grown significantly, with more collaborative research and the emergence of new poles of research outside the OECD area. At the same time, a new attitude of civil society towards research and new computing and networking opportunities offered by information and communication technology (ICT) are emerging as new driving forces for the future of academic research. These driving forces and others might change the face of academic research in the coming decades.
One outstanding question that ranks high in policy debates is the concentration or even distribution of academic research across higher education systems. Concentration of research already exists to a lesser or greater extent according to OECD countries. And the strength of the link between academic research and teaching also varies accordingly across and between systems. To what extent should a country concentrate its academic research (or let it concentrate)? And if this concentration is desirable, what would be the best means to achieve it? Linking academic research and teaching from the postgraduate level only? Separating academic research and teaching to a greater extent, as it is already the case in some countries? Redirecting incentives towards teaching (as the higher education economy is currently almost exclusively based on research)? What kind of effects would have these different types of differentiation on the different missions of higher education? Finding the right balance at system level for higher education systems to both produce high level research and meet social and educational objectives at a reasonable social price will indeed continue to be one of the challenges of the next decades -- and will have a prominent place in the debates on the future of academic research.