Much like other areas of our cultural and social lives, academia has been heavily influenced by globalisation. Sociologist Nick Osbaldiston explains why it’s important to maintain an international flow of knowledge.
The development and advancement of information communication technologies has meant that we are now far more connected to our fellow researchers overseas.
It has also resulted in increasing avenues for communication in our research whether that be through peer reviewed academic journals, or amongst traditional and new media sources. Twitter in particular has become a popular platform for academics all over the world – for both the serious and not-so-serious.
However, our technological advances have created issues for us as a society that require systematic global thinking.
What are described as ‘wicked problems’, such as dealing with climate change impacts like rising sea levels, cannot be solved through discipline specific investigations nor simple localised studies.
Rather, what is now required is broad inter-disciplinary research that recognises that within these challenges there are multiple areas of impact – economies, societies, cultures, non-humans, ecology and so on – that need to be touched upon when trying to solve our global problems.
We also need to recognise that in many instances, there is a significant amount of uncertainty about what may well happen.
In an area like climate change for instance, scientific models attempt to give us some indication about what they predict will occur (for instance how much land the sea will reclaim in the future), but these are always predicated on a number of contingencies – such as the movement as a globe to a lower or even zero carbon emission future.
As such, science communicates to us, the public, what will potentially happen if we are able to come together and work through this global threat.
This is where academics need to work with not just other disciplines, but also fellow colleagues around the world, to build momentum and pressure on policy makers to shift their mentalities towards making good choices now, as a measure of precaution for what might happen if we do not.
A big component of this of course is science, but the nature of wicked problems and the capacity for political institutions especially to deal with them, means that we desperately need collaboration over continents.
This includes areas such as intergenerational justice or ethics for dealing with the future now – an understanding that whatever we do in this present day has an impact not just on other people across our world, but on future generations who are yet to be born.
Unless we can actively communicate and develop ideas with our colleagues overseas, these massive challenges for our future will be left under-researched and potentially not dealt with appropriately.
We need open channels across disciplines and continents to make the best of our present day choices, for those future generations who will have to deal with the results of them.
Cover image: Slava Bowman, Unsplash.