Building Bridges Between Knowledge and Society and Improving Policy Effectiveness Is the Task of Think Tanks
On December 4, the International Advisory Board of the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of HSE University met for its annual meeting. It was an anniversary event, as was the X Foresight Conference that preceded it. Largely thanks to the online format, the assembled board was the most representative of the field in its history. Experts from 20 international partner centres assessed ISSEK’s activities over the past year and proposed a wide range of topics for new research.
The meeting was moderated by Nicholas Vonortas, Head of the ISSEK International Advisory Board, Professor of Economics and International Relations at George Washington University (USA), and Leading Research Fellow at the Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies at HSE University.
Despite all the difficulties of 2020, the pace in all research areas of the Institute for Statistical Research and Economics of Knowledge has not slowed down, and its quality has not decreased, stressed Leonid Gokhberg, First Vice Rector of HSE University and Director of ISSEK. 93% of the publications authored by ISSEK researchers were published in Q1/Q2 journals, and of these, 50 involved studies conducted in completely new areas of inquiry. These included the creation of the HSE Global Cities Innovation Index (HSE GCII) and innovative studies centred on Moscow’s creative industries, factors of digital inequality in the economy and society, motivation and career aspirations of those employed in Industry 4.0, and human development in the context of technological transformation, to name a few.
In 2021, these topics will receive renewed attention within the scope of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research of Human Potential, which brings together several divisions of the HSE University, RANEPA, MGIMO, and the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences as part of Russia’s national Science Programme. Leonid Gokhberg invited international partners — members of the Advisory Board — to consider joining at least three of the seven areas of research of the Centre which are coordinated by ISSEK: the emergence of new competencies and changes in employment, particularly due to the growth of the creative economy; the effects of digitalization for individuals and society; and natural and climate-related factors of sustainable development.
‘New areas of research will undoubtedly expand our research palette,’ said the First Vice Rector.
The pandemic has revealed previously untapped areas of research
Dirk Meissner, Head of the Laboratory for Economics of Innovation, spoke about ISSEK’s new Master’s programme in Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation, of which he is Academic Supervisor. In September, it was the first Master’s programme at HSE to transition fully online, and the pandemic has had no impact on the programme’s admissions. All in all, the faculty members of ISSEK faculty were prepared for the transition. Many board members agreed that online formats are here for good. This raises the question of finding new models of international cooperation in research and education and, in general, the way in which research teams distribute work.
The ability to connect from anywhere in the world and engage in dialogue with partners can certainly be counted among the positive changes brought by COVID-19. As Leonid Gokhberg noted, the meeting of the Advisory Board during the pandemic turned out to be the most representative in terms of the number of participants in attendance compared with all previous years as well as one of the most fruitful.
The pandemic has shown the readiness of international research to tap into previously unexplored areas in order to provide rapid solutions to acute problems faced by the world (see, for example, the presentation of Michael Keenan of the OECD, who also attended the board meeting, in an overview of ISSEK’s annual Foresight Conference). But is it possible in the future to expand this practice to other socially significant issues? There is a clear demand for the further development of the most open and, at the same time, the most meaningful formats for communication between researchers themselves, and models of more impactful dialogue with the end users of scientific knowledge. This demand was expressed by Raphael Popper, researcher at the University of Manchester and VTT Technology Research Centre of Finland.
The circle of innovation agents is expanding
The boundaries between private and public knowledge are also blurred: as the general level of education rises and academic discourse becomes more closely integrated into the life of society, the range of innovation agents also expands. Thus, even end users of knowledge often become its producers, noted Ian Miles, renowned user innovation researcher and Academic Supervisor of the Laboratory for Economics of Innovation at ISSEK.
Luke Georghiou, Deputy President of the University of Manchester (UK) and former head of the ISSEK International Advisory Board, noted the growing role of cities in the innovation chain. In this regard, the recently launched HSE Global Cities Innovation Index (HSE GCII) has great potential both as a research project and as a tool for practitioners in the field of innovation management, he said.
Many participants at the meeting expressed their willingness to collaborate on the HSE GCII project and assist with strengthening the methodology of the rating and collecting more complex city data in particular. These participants included Joe Ravetz, Co-Director of the Collaboratory for Urban Resilience & Energy at the Manchester Urban Institute, University of Manchester; Keun Lee, Professor of Economics, Seoul National University; Wolfgang Polt, Director, Policies, Institute for Economic and Innovation Research, Joanneum Research Ltd. (Austria); and Rongping Mu, Director and Professor of the Institute of Policy & Management of the Chinese Academy of Science.
Marcio de Miranda Santos, Executive Director of the Centre for Strategic Studies and Management of Science, Technology and Innovation (CGEE) (Brazil), pointed to one of the main tasks of think tanks, which he also attributed to ISSEK and the organization that oversees it: to build bridges between knowledge and society by participating in the development of more effective policy.
The participants of the meeting generally gave a very positive assessment of the results of the work of their Russian colleagues for the year and urged them to direct their efforts to the search for new, organic formats and methods for research (including digital ones), as well as ways to exchange research findings with various interested users. First Vice Rector Gokhberg responded to this call, reiterating for members the opportunity to strengthen cooperation within the International Foresight Centers Network.
From recommendations to real projects
Board members proposed a wide range of topics for new research, including those for potential joint projects, and also brainstormed formats of interaction with customers and potential consumers of research findings for the short term (at least a year from now), medium term (in 3-5 years) and long term (in 10-25 years). The brainstorming session was moderated by Ozcan Saritas, Head of the ISSEK Laboratory for Science and Technology Studies, and Joe Ravets, who collected and recorded ideas on a MIRO virtual whiteboard (a service, by the way, which was founded by alumni of HSE – Perm).
As if in response to one of the recommendations from last year’s meeting of the International Advisory Board (to strengthen foresight research methodology based on big data analysis tools), this year the iFORA big data analysis system, developed by ISSEK, was supplemented with a Chinese module. In 2021, a joint project with China on scientific and technological forecasting is planned. In the near future, a joint project with the Indian Technology Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) dedicated to the comparative analysis of Russian and Indian forecasts in science and technology, and a new joint foresight project with South Africa will also begin. The Institute’s Doing Science project, which examines the business climate in Russian research, will continue.
The way in which recommendations of the ISSEK International Advisory Board are put into practice can be illustrated by the launch of the Master’s programme in Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation. The first mention of the programme, which began in 2014, was made almost a year earlier — in an article summarizing the 2013 meeting of the Advisory Board.
This week, the visionaries will continue their dialogue at the UNESCO High-Level Futures Literacy Summit (December 8-12), where the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge will present its recent foresight-related work and breakthroughs. ISSEK invites interested parties to visit the exhibition booths 'HSE University' and 'Foresight and STI Governance' Journal and participate in two Foresight workshops: ‘Foresight 3.0: The Literacy for Transformation’ (December 10) and ‘Science, Technology & Innovation (STI) Foresight for South Africa’ (December 11).