Research on the Arab World and the lack of Social impact

Research on the Arab World and the lack of Social impact 2017-12-18T14:12:55+00:00

The Arab world has more problems in knowledge use than in knowledge production. (ACSS 2016; Hanafi and Arvanitis, 2015) Without translating academic research into policy and public awareness, research will be kept read by few people who constitute an elite that is disconnected from their society and thus does not have impact on it. It is rare to hear professional social researchers speak in the public sphere. Here I am using Michael Burawoy’s (2005) typology of knowledge: professional, critical, public and policy. This is due not only to the absence of their products in the mass media or newspapers but also to the difficulty of converse with the policy makers. Historically we have tended to consider the importance of the social impact as being of relevance exclusively to the social sciences and Humanities. However, while admitting that not all research can have an immediate relevance to local society, the social impact of scientific research concerns all sciences including applied ones (e.g. Engineering and Medicine).

As Bourdieu once wrote, “standardization benefits the dominant”, and the university international and regional rankings want to consolidate the idea of one for all standard, a measure that fits all, independently of contents, orientation, location or resources. Instead of thinking about universities as a social institution that fit a certain environment, in terms of ecology, it is thought of in terms of hierarchy. Limited to this elite formation function, the University becomes a caricature of itself. Effects in the country or the territory, activities beyond publishing, research, community services, participation to public debates, influence of policy decisions, contribution to local political life, dissemination of both knowledge and arts, social organization, become invisible in these one-dimensional rankings. Ranking is thus part of an academic celebrity model that operates at a global level, in a selective way, as globalization itself.

While we are not enthusiasm to any ranking, if a ranking is a must we can think on alternative ways of conducting ranking or promotion criteria for individual professors. In this paper, after diagnosis the problem of knowledge disseminations. I will suggest a potential solution through an open depository of social impact of research result targeting research on the Arab World or research based on the Arab World.

Sari Hanafi
Sari Hanafi
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