Tag: literature tips

Guest blogger: New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge

Dr. Meng-Hsuan Chou and Dr. Inga Ulnicane-Ozolina

Dr. Meng-Hsuan Chou and Dr. Inga Ulnicane-Ozolina

In this entry we feature two guests. Inga Ulnicane and Meng-Hsuan Chou are guest editors of the special issue ‘New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge’. Dr. Inga Ulnicane is Assistant Professor at the Institute for European Integration Research, University of Vienna, Austria. Dr. Meng-Hsuan Chou is Nanyang Assistant Professor in Public Policy and Global Affairs at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

What are the boundaries of the Europe of Knowledge? Does a specific conceptualisation of scientific excellence lead to a more divided Europe of Knowledge? How are diverse aims of research policy such as economic competitiveness, societal relevance and research excellence reconciled? Do universities increasingly behave like private companies? These are some of the key questions addressed in a recent special issue ‘New Horizons in the Europe of Knowledge’ published in Journal of Contemporary European Research.

The six research articles, two commentaries, three book reviews and an editorial in this special issue explore major topics in European research and higher education policies. Most contributions have been presented at conference panels organised by the Academic Association of Contemporary European Studies (UACES) collaborative research network on European Research Area (ERA CRN) in 2013. This special issue seeks to provide timely insights in knowledge policies, which have played an increasing role on national, supranational and global political agendas.

Changing research and higher education policies in Europe and beyond

In the editorial, Meng-Hsuan Chou and Inga Ulnicane explore the historical expansion of the Europe of Knowledge including both supranational (EU Framework Programmes) as well as intergovernmental (the Bologna Process and research infrastructures such as CERN) initiatives. They demonstrate that the shifting policy, political and geographical boundaries of European knowledge policies include interactions among diverse policy fields, governance levels and world regions.

Literature tips: How far do academics live in social bubbles?

Filipa M. Ribeiro  (University of Porto)

Filipa M. Ribeiro
(University of Porto)

In this edition of the literature tips, Filipa M. Ribeiro, PhD researcher and science writer from University of Porto writes about a new paper on academic social networks. 

By now, it is not a surprise that we live in social bubbles, especially when it comes to social media. It is not uncommon that we discuss with our colleagues the fact that, in practice, we live in social bubbles, in the sense that we relate in an homophilous way unless organizations and institutions give us no choice to do otherwise.

If no other, this is an excellent reason to read the paper published in mid February, by Dimitar Nikolov and colleagues: Measuring Online Social Bubbles, which is a nice follow-up of a doctoral thesis that was reviewed in an earlier post on the Hedda blog.

The paper by Nikolov and collegaues points to the fact that the current web-based systems (eg.: recommendation systems and search engines) based on previously declared social relations amplify the effect of a social bubble, which has previously been argued by Figueiredo (2014). The authors studied data from an American University online traffic, looking at applications of social media, email and search engines. The conclusion is that the level of diversity of information, both at individual and collective levels, is low in the first two and higher in the third (search engine for words or texts). The diversity of information is measured by the number of necessary clicks to connect two content. 

Hedda literature tips: The question of Openness

Filipa M. Ribeiro  (University of Porto)

Filipa M. Ribeiro
(University of Porto)

In this edition of our Hedda literature tips, Filipa M. Ribeiro, PhD researcher and science writer from University of Porto reviews the book “Education Science and Knowledge capitalism – creativity and the promise of openness” by Michael A. Peters. 

The book Education, Science and Knowledge Capitalism – creativity and the promise of openness takes up the idea of knowledge as something that needs to be explained, rather than what does the explaining. Michael A. Peter’s book traces how diverse processes of modernisation of science and knowledge systems involved inscribing and reinscribing a complex domain of ‘the social’ upon a world of heterogeneous concepts of education.

As the several essays assembled in this book show, in what regards education and knowledge production, ‘the social’ has changed radically in the last decades and continues to change rapidly. ‘The social’ is not only made of social stuff as several trends and mechanisms try to reduce it to phenomena like marketization, privatization and commercialization of knowledge, of ‘knowledge workers’, of knowledge institutions and of knowledge policies. As the author puts it, the best hope and the best way against such reduction is openness, which is defined as an orientation “towards change and experiment, collaboration and sharing, tolerance and the acceptance of criticism”.

In a way or another this basic idea of ‘openness’ permeated a great deal of sociological thinking; it enabled sociology to continually stress the irreducibly ‘social’ aspects of diverse knowledge phenomena. But this way of thinking about ‘the social’ in science and education also has its attendant problems, and these have begun to be felt more acutely in recent decades. The author, thus, explores what it takes for us – as individuals, as a society, even as a civilization – to cultivate the capacity of openness so vital to countering uninhibited impulses of neoliberalism and capitalisms within educational and scientific settings.

Literature tips!

In this September edition of the Hedda monthly literature tips series, we asked Hilde W. Afdal (University of Oslo / Østfold University College) and Jelena Brankovic (CHEGG, Ghent University) about their recent literature tips.

Here are their recommendations:

Comparing university organizations across boundaries
by Bleiklie, 2014

10734This article by Ivar Bleiklie takes a methodological perspective, discussing comparative organizational studies. Articles that take a specific methodological focus are not very common, and as such the contribution is highly needed in the field. The focus is mainly (but not only) on studies that compare organizations in different national settings. To begin with, Bleiklie discusses advantage and challenges of international comparative research in general. Secondly, he develops a typology of approaches to comparative research (based on earlier attempts to develop such), distinguishing between meaningful interpretation of single cases, juxtapositions, thematic comparison, identifying causal relations, and grand theories. The five approaches are illuminated by examples of empirical studies representing each approach.

In his discussion, three main arguments are highlighted about comparative research strategies. Firstly, the approaches above are not mutually exclusive, and a wide range of studies representing and overlapping the strategies is needed. Still, the choice of strategy need to be argued for. Secondly, the issue of generalization is more complex then usually disused in international comparative studies and need to be dealt with thoroughly according to the aim of the specific approach. In continuance of this, he finally argue for a need of more carefully conceptual development in comparative studies to avoid “conceptual stretching” which may lead to vague and amorphous research outcomes.

Hedda monthly literature tips

In this first post of the Hedda monthly literature tips series, we asked two doctoral fellows from University of Oslo – Rachel Sweetman and Jens Jungblut about their recent literature tips.

Here are their recommendations:

Does Education Matter?
by A. Wolf, 2002

9780141935669HThe book’s full title, ‘Does Education Matter? Myths About Education and Economic Growth’ sums up what this book is getting at, and why it’s asking such important questions for anyone interested in contemporary higher education. Wolf is an economist and policy analyst who turns her acute evidence-based gaze on the accepted orthodoxy that universities should be approached as drivers of economic growth.

This argument has underpinned many politicians enthusiasm for expanding and investing in mass higher education around the world. However, as Wolf argues through historical analysis, economic data and also more polemical discussions about the way the value and uses of universities have been presented over time, there is not really a very strong case to support this. There is little to suggest that more higher education leads to more growth or prosperity, although these sometimes accompany each other.

It’s a book that shows how important it is to check assumptions about higher education against evidence, and not to assume that the most influential voices, or accepted opinions are correct. It is also a book which does an unusually good job of combining careful and clear empirical evidence with argument and discussion. Wolf is not just interested in arguing that the case for universities as drivers of growth is weak, but seeks to convince her readers that by pursuing policies based on these assumptions, we may do harm; we risk failing to achieve aims related to growth while undermining more important and real functions and values which universities have served over time, such as the development of knowledge and new ideas. We also risk investing money in universities that might be better spent on other or earlier forms of education.