Sunday, 27 November 2011

On reflection...

I should has started this blog when I registered for the PhD but in the absence of the great 'arountoit', the time has never been quite right - that is - until now. I am a p/t student with a f/t job in a reasonably large 1992 university in the UK. The university, like many at the moment, is in a period of transition and like me is reflecting on the past whilst trying to predict and prepare for the future. When I started my research the aim was to explore the organisational infrastructures required to support 3rd mission knowledge transfer. I was intrigued and unrelentingly curious about the notion of 'knowledge tranfer' being an activity in its own right.  Although this fascination has remained, the focus of my research is now on the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’. It seeks to explore the concept of the Knowledge Transfer (KT) professional, how they construct their identities and how they add value to the academy in their role in the exploitation of knowledge.

 My research is based on the assumption that knowledge has an intrinsic market value (whether this be student, community, business or political markets) and is a product that can be packaged, exchanged, modified and distributed. This is a stance which causes me considerable unease as I watch the relationship between 'business' and higher education strengthen....

So what is the subject of my first blog? Well it is a short reflection on the language of knowledge transfer...

 A couple of weeks ago I had my upgrade interview and in the middle of the discussions, I had an epiphany - apart from my supervisor and I, neither of the examiners could relate to the language and terminology I was using to describe the subject of my research.  Whilst terms and acronyms simply rolled off my tongue with a fluidity that even shocked me (deals, spin-outs, stage-gating, KT touch points, tech transfer etc...) - there was a real 'venus & mars' situation and an interpreter was required.  

Once the upgrade was over I reflected on this experience and a thought occurred to me, the institution where I am registered for my PhD does not have a comprehensive university offering, it is specialises in education and social sciences. Therefore, the opportunities for academics to be involved with or aware of the techniques surrounding the commercialisation of research outputs is limited. I had incorrectly assumed that after a decade of 3rd mission funding, the sector was fully conversant with the language of this world. This experience has caused me to examine my practice of the art of KT:

  1. When I am at work, am I speaking a different language to the communities I am there to support? Just how full of jargon am I?
  2. Do I use a secret language to exercise power and control, to protect boundaries, to distance myself  or a combination of all?
  3. If I do not speak the language of education and research, what language do I speak? Am I speaking the native language of Celia Whitchurch's the 3rd space?
I think I need to pull together a glossary of terms.... and then probably get hold of a Babel fish