The role of research at universities: Why it matters

By David Rosowsky, Forbes

Teaching and learning, research and discovery, synthesis and creativity, understanding and engagement, service and outreach. There are many “core elements” to the mission of a great university. Teaching would seem the most obvious, but for those outside of the university, “research” (taken to include scientific research, scholarship more broadly, as well as creative activity) may be the least well understood. This creates misunderstanding of how universities invest resources, especially those deriving from undergraduate tuition and state (or other public) support, and the misperception that those resources are being diverted away from what is believed should be the core (and sole) focus, teaching. This has led to a loss of trust, confidence, and willingness to continue to invest or otherwise support (especially our public) universities.

Why are universities engaged in the conduct of research? Who pays? Who benefits? And why does it all matter? Good questions. Let’s get to some straightforward answers. Because the academic research enterprise really is not that difficult to explain, and its impacts are profound.

So let’s demystify university-based research. And in doing so, hopefully we can begin building both better understanding and a better relationship between the public and higher education, both of which are essential to the future of US higher education. Read more …