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Does research provide insights to many of the global challenges we’re facing? A publisher’s view

  • 18 December 2023
  • By Priya Madina
  • This HEPI blog was kindly authored by Priya Madina, Director of External Affairs and Policy at Taylor & Francis.
  • In June 2022, HEPI and Taylor & Francis hosted a successful dinner discussion around open access and evidence-based based policymaking which produced a co-authored Policy Note, and webinar.
  • On 21 September this year, a second joint roundtable discussed how policymakers can better use research to improve the UK’s skills base.
  • This blog provides viewpoints from Taylor & Francis, a global academic publisher and draws from remarks shared at the roundtable to open discussions.

There are many global challenges that we face. These include meeting net zero targets and building a workforce for the future. For example, having appropriate skills and talent pipelines in place to support a green transition. The same is in the health and social care sector, especially in the face of an aging population.

How can research help to tackle these global challenges? The UN’s Higher Education Sustainability Initiative sees a clear link between research and scholarship and building a workforce for the future. Its Education for Green Jobs initiative brings together researchers, industry and educators to outline workforce needs and support curricula to build the workforce needed for the future. 

As an academic publisher, Taylor & Francis is particularly interested in exploring what role research and scholarship can play in helping improve the UK’s skills base. Do we need to think differently about how we do, communicate, and incentivise research? Is there also a role for the arts, humanities, and social sciences (AHSS) to play in meeting future skills and workforce needs? We publish both basic and applied research across the disciplinary spectrum and are creating more avenues for interdisciplinary research. We believe that research does – or will – provide answers to many of the challenges that we’re facing globally. So, what have we been doing to help realise the full potential of research?

Research accessibility

One of our focuses is to make research outputs more accessible and usable to a non-expert audience through new formats such as plain language summaries, video abstracts, and policy highlights. By extending the reach beyond academia, we support greater engagement between research, policy and general public, and foster an informed society.  It encourages more people to actively participate in discussions such as the future workforce needs and make decisions based on research findings. Making research more accessible also enables cross-disciplinary collaboration. Researchers from different disciplines can work from a wider knowledge base and tackle real world challenges more coherently and effectively.

Mission-oriented research

We strive to support more mission and challenge-oriented research, including research linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. We are also keen to see how research can positively influence policy, practice, curricula, and skills, from early years education to those in the workforce. One of our experiments is to use new content formats and presentations and explore how to curate research to make greater policy impact and help solve societal problems. For example, to address the global climate crisis, we’ve curated a collection of peer reviewed research on climate change and made it freely accessible through our F1000 Climate Action Gateways and Sustainability Hub.

The value of arts, humanities and social sciences

As the biggest publisher of arts, humanities, and social science research, we believe that continued support of these disciplines is of paramount importance in solving this skills and workforce puzzle, as understanding our history, culture, and way of being is essential – particularly as the fourth industrial revolution continues. In considering the future of AI, we need the voices of philosophers and behavioural scientists as well as computer scientists and technologists. Earlier this year, we co-convened a workshop in Brussels on translational research with our European partners the European Alliance for Social Sciences and Humanities, and the European infrastructures for translational medicine. There were many thought-provoking ideas raised around how to support the translation of research throughout the research process, and across the disciplinary spectrum. These included creating more opportunities for collaboration across sectors, systems design, and curriculum reform.

Closing comments and reflections for further discussion:

  • Research & impact: how can we better understand and facilitate the link between research and impact and provide an evidence base to justify policy interventions needed to address global challenges? 
  • Collective action: what’s the best approach for academia, policy, and industry to work together to bridge the innovation gap and forecast workforce needs? Is this about people (building translational capability), place (bringing together people to work cross-sectorally), or process (establishing the frameworks and metrics to measure impact)? Or all / none of these?

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