13: ‘Research on’ versus ‘research for’

Let us begin by asserting that any piece of research is concerned with a ‘system of interest’ – henceforth ‘the system’ (cf. Systems thinking). We can then make a distinction between the ‘science of the system’ and the ‘applied science relating to the system’. In the second case, the implication is that the system offers challenges and problems that the science (of that system or possibly also with ‘associated’ systems) might help with. In research terms, this distinction can be roughly classified as ‘research on’ the system and ‘research for’ the system. This might be physics on the one hand, and engineering on the other; or biological sciences and medicine. Continue reading

12: Excellence

I was Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council for 6 years up to December 2013. Like the other research councils, and like most universities, we always said that we funded research that is ‘excellent’ and ‘world class’. However, I was always troubled about how actually we defined and understood ‘excellence’ – both pre- and post-award – and justified our claims. In terms of citations of published papers, we could always say that we were second to the United States and that was some justification. Continue reading