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opinion - Citizen Scholars Research universities must...

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10 | January 17, 2005 | U P F R O N T | The Scientist P ublic research universities face enormous challenges in the 21st century, perhaps none more compelling than the obliga- tion to serve society. A 2004 National Academy of Sciences report, for example, represents the latest in a series of calls for increased commitment to interdisciplinary, socially relevant research. 1 And yet service is often portrayed as a university’s third function— taking a back seat to and competing with research and teaching— instead of as academic engagement, in which collaboration and partnership with the community produce solutions to society’s most vexing problems. Service is, after all, the ethical imperative driving research and teaching as well as a principal product of these enterpris- es. Discharging this duty in an ever-changing world requires radically rethinking “service,” finding innovative ways to leverage academe’s intellectual capital to transform lives for the benefit of society. While accomplishing this will be arduous, the payoff could be enormous. Fortunately, at my own institution there is a critical mass of faculty poised to meet this challenge, viewing themselves as citi- zen-scholars—researchers supplying more than narrow, theoretical disciplinary knowledge. Several of these faculty—a poet, an econo- mist, and a neurobiologist, to name but a few—along with distin- guished members of the community, including a US cabinet member, a corporate executive, and two educational leaders, are contributing to a newspaper series exploring how to engender greater connections between the university and community.
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