The paper explores how academic research becomes divorced from wider society and the consequences of this for both society and academia.
They suggest 10 suggestions for policy-makers:
- Do not fund research again that comes to the conclusion that ‘more research is needed’.
- Funders should recognise the distinction between relevance and academic impact.
- Within peer review, encourage and protect research that aims to be relevant and interdisciplinary, and ensure that protection is effective.
- Stop using interdisciplinarity as a proxy for relevance and focus on relevance itself.
- Funders should end the ‘closed shop’ whereby academics have a monopoly on research funding.
- Funding bodies should insert explicit relevance criteria within the peer-review process, and provide guidance to reviewers on what those criteria are and how they should be treated.
- Only fund research that shows a clear and rigorous understanding of the diverse actors involved in the field of enquiry, and their questions and needs.
- Funding agencies should recognise that relevant research is intensive and requires long-term commitment.
- Funding agencies should recognise the inherent limitations of ‘knowledge transfer’.
- Policy-makers should recognise vested interests within the existing research community, and how they might invoke the three Sirens of: academic objectivity; academic autonomy; and academic quality, to avoid having to deal with relevance criteria.
Last sentence of the article: "Put a closer focus on society’s real research needs, rather than those agendas currently being defined and appropriated by a small coterie of professionals."