The Magazine for Leaders in Education: Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: Opportunities and Challenges for the Knowledge Economy – reviews: the $100 billion opportunity: continuing education

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: Opportunities and Challenges for the Knowledge Economy – reviews: the $100 billion opportunity: continuing education – Review

Shivaji Sengupta

Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy: Opportunities and Challenges for the Knowledge Economy Edited by Pedro Conceicao, David V. Gibson, Manuel V. Heitor, and Syed Shariq. International Series on Technology, Policy and Innovation. (Quorum Books, 2000)

We refer to our society as a knowledge society, its economy as the knowledge economy. In this knowledge economy peaceful prosperity will depend not just on the booming of e-commerce and the unprecedented development and growth of knowledge, but on whether academics, business, and government sectors can work together efficiently and effectively. Shared prosperity poses its own kind of sustainability and security challenges.

Professor Syed Shariq, one of the editors of this anthology, warns that our economic wellbeing will depend on how responsibly we deal with knowledge.

We need better understanding and management of the complex processes that underlie efficient and effective deployment and the use of world-class science and technology to enhance economic wealth, shared prosperity, and social and cultural endowments in developed, developing, and emerging nations. Knowledge creation, integration and diffusion in a range of subjects will go a long way toward creating this stability and balance.

Universities play an important role in a knowledge-based society and the wide-ranging articles in this book include many on the exploration of that role. Chapters focus on the importance of science and technology for development, proposing a research agenda to structure future efforts to enhance the understanding of issues relevant for policymaking and scholarship.

The 37 chapters are divided into seven sections: knowledge and development; the university- and the knowledge-based society; national and global perspectives on technology and innovation policies; challenges for the newly industrialized nations; opportunities for China; sustainability, environment, and business, policy and strategies; broadening perspectives. Some of the chapters were presented at the International Series on Technology, Policy, and Innovation at Macao in 1997.

Of specific interest is the university’s role in the knowledge-based economy it fosters, not just in the first-world countries but also in Asia, and particularly in China.

A knowledge society is a society of “knowledge workers,” giving the general public its character, its leadership, and social profile. Author Peter Kruger writes that the characteristics, social position, values, and expectations, differ fundamentally from any group in history that has occupied leading positions. Universities, scientists, research industries, and policymakers need to cooperate strategically toward knowledge management.

Contemporary epistemology is concerned with knowledge management rather than, as since the time of Plato and Aristotle, with the definition of knowledge–how do we know we know? Today, knowledge has become a factor in productivity, prosperity, and sustainability. From philosophy of knowledge our emphasis is shifting to the economics and management of knowledge.

What is the role of the university in the creation of knowledge? This is not merely a rhetorical question.

Shariq calls for the creation of a new discipline–Knowledge Management–to be taught in the university and sponsored by professional societies dedicated to the creation and management of knowledge. The technological and economic problems of the future will be open-ended, complex, global, and adaptive in nature, Shariq writes. He advocates “a new synthesis of knowledge, integrating hard and soft sciences to create the knowledge assets necessary for addressing the challenges in a rapid evolutionary area.”

He envisions a graduate interdisciplinary program consisting of subjects such as economics, philosophy, history, business, computer science, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, sociology, social and cultural theory, and business history, and a community of scholars, teachers, and professionals associated with this new discipline. What Shariq does not mention among the interdisciplinary subjects are ethics and other practical values clarifications courses, which will undoubtedly become critical because of highly controversial contemporary issues like intellectual property. Differentiating between personal and professional values should be an important aspect of knowledge-management curricula.

In order to fulfill their goals, professional organizations need to foster academic education, research, and advanced technology. Specifically, these would be a) an experiential, learning-based academic environment; b) a collaborative research community dedicated to life-long learning; c) a multimedia and information technology-based, knowledge-era-tools development program.

Shariq’s vision is taken up by Robert S. Sullivan, formerly of Carnegie Mellon University, in Part II of the book titled, “The University in the Knowledge-based Society.” Following Shariq’s suggestion of university, research and multimedia technology, Sullivan lays out the digital technology required by universities such as the personal computer, the Internet, the Local Area Network, and e-mail. Technologies are then combined via videoconferencing, electronic textbooks, and LANs to create highly effective virtual learning environments.

Sullivan suggests that unless universities can foster the knowledge economy and nurture new knowledge societies, they will be first challenged, and eventually replaced, by for-profit commercial industries that can easily procure state-of-the-art digital equipment to offer courses to millions around the world. However, rather than be threatened by this prospect, universities could commit themselves to ongoing research and development, extending themselves to industries. Two other chapters in this section address the feasibility of university-industry cooperation.

In this context, the case of China needs to be considered.

This book includes several sections on innovation policy and technology in Asia, and a whole section on China. The authors of this section, Bing Wang, Zhu Qin, and Zi Cheng Guan, write about “University Technology and its Commercialization in China.” The article explains how China developed an infrastructure for information technology and invention creation, and discusses in detail the policies and procedures by which the central government in China cooperates with universities involved in invention creation.

In Western Europe and in the United States, there is often a robust resistance to governmental involvement in private and technological enterprise. (We become especially aware of this during presidential elections!) It was instructive to read about the positive way in which the government in China cooperates with the universities and industries. Together, they are taking Chinas knowledge-based economy to the next level, slowly creating a knowledge society, without giving in to some of the disadvantages that a high-tech society usually brings.

The contributors to this anthology warn about the mismatch between the need for scientists and engineers who can continue research and development, and the dearth of higher-education graduates in these areas, especially–and ironically–in the developed countries. This should be a major concern of universities in the West: to create resurgence, on the one hand, of scientists and engineers and, on the other, to slowly foster graduate degree programs in knowledge management.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Professional Media Group LLC

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group