Describing Research at Academic Institutions

“The research enterprise of a leading academic institution is a complex system of human, physical and digital infrastructures that functions to support the production of new knowledge and the advancement and training of research practitioners.”

When I read this sentence, the first thing that came to mind was “Well, they summed that up very nicely (almost a bit too nicely).” This sentence is something I could imagine reading in an academic brochure or strategic plan concerning research, due to the way it sounds composed and well-rehearsed. Despite how “smooth” the sentence is I do mostly agree with what it is saying, I just believe it is summing it up too nicely, glossing over the complexities of research at leading universities. It is trying to be too much, say too much.

Even though the sentence admits that the human, physical and digital infrastructure system is “complex”, it is still glossing over the term. I have a problem with the term complex in this situation because it is counterintuitive to the overall summation tone of the sentence. It is admitting to being complex but then not going into detail what makes the system of infrastructures complex. For example, it fails to mention how these infrastructures interact and/or what each of these infrastructures encompass. A better choice of word for me would be “rich system” or “rich network”.

Another way the the language in the sentence is counterintuitive to the overall summation tone is through the phrase “production of new knowledge”. What makes knowledge new? Is knowledge produced, discovered, or experienced? How is new knowledge produced? How must the system of the three infrastructures operate in order for new knowledge to be produced? Knowledge does not seem like a simple concept to me, yet this sentence expresses the idea of new knowledge in a straightforward way.

Despite the issues I have with this sentence, I still mostly agree with what it says. And the language used is good for certain situations, like an academic brochure or a strategic plan. In a way, it is a statement that a leading academic institutions could endorse without hesitation.

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One Response to Describing Research at Academic Institutions

  1. cyberprofgus says:

    Knowledge is not a simple concept to me either, and you’re right to call out the oversimplification. But we’ll soon talk about some explicit examples, which I hope will help. Remember that *intent* is a key aspect. I don’t think knowledge is primarily “experienced”, as that just sounds too passive.

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