Thursday, July 28, 2005

Academic Research in the Era of Globalization

Globalization is not only a world-wide economic phenomenon that binds developing economies into perpetual underdevelopment but obliterates even institutions with values and traditions seemingly impenetrable in the light of rapid economic changes such as the academe. To be an academic in this era of rapid liberalization of goods and services such as education and research, is to live constantly under the watchful eyes of the hand that feeds him/her funding, more especially so in the educational institutions in the Third World.

As a result, a truly independent, objective and scientific research will soon be a thing of the past as the primary drive for research will not be that of the discovery of new knowledge as an offering to the world, but the production of knowledge as an offering to the altar of the multi-billion dollar multinational conglomerates funding academic research. A market driven research environment will soon lose its best and brightest to patrons who can bid the highest their services and lose track of the values and ethics that were once fundamental to academic institutions. Instead of local physicists and chemists discovering indigenous ways of acquiring fuel as an alternative to oil, they would rather be at the mercy of big oil monopolies such as Shell to harness and exploit the natural gas reserves in Malampaya, Palawan and further conduct feasibility studies on undiscovered potential oil deposits for the corporation. It loses sight of the primary function of science and technology research as an essential backbone of the country’s economic takeoff firstly through genuine land reform and national industrialization.

Research then would inevitably be covertly biased for the corporation that gives funding instead of scientific research being value-free. It can also lead to the censoring of a new discovery, hidden from the public eye and kept in the corporate vaults, if it is deemed a better alternative to the corporation’s current product in the market, only to release it after many years of superprofits. It can dictate to the researcher what to research and what not to research, more so that there are rarely times when foundations or the universities themselves are the ones that offer funding. At its worst, it stifles the very heart and value of academic research, that of academic freedom. This is what separates university research from the R&D departments of the corporations as academics are free to produce knowledge that is relevant to their specific fields, as an offering to society and humanity, if at all, for themselves! And they do this without a market agenda but simply to generate new knowledge.

Corporate intervention to academic research also marginalizes fields such as the arts and social sciences, which are deemed irrelevant by organizations driven by profit. They are relegated to the periphery in terms of funding and prioritizations because more often topics in these fields do not sit well with the corporate profiles of the funding agencies. These fields are known to be purveyors of social critique and inquiry, which would always target corporations like such for superprofits at the expense of worker exploitation and Third world underdevelopment. There are also no concrete gains from tapping the researches of social scientists as they can only provide at best, an overview of the target markets, their socio-cultural profiles, which can easily be done by corporate marketing researchers. Thus, the potential wealth of knowledge that can be produced at this time of market-driven research is dwarfed by endless technological outputs from the scientific side of the academic community.

Market driven research such as these obfuscate the need for researches that would definitely alleviate poverty in society and prescribe effective strategies towards genuine economic development. As such, researches such as these are gibberish garbage in the eyes of the people. It is research without a soul, with the sole intent of thr production of profit through knowledge. They do produce new gadgets but they do not produce and empowered people. Researches like these are even willing accomplices to the overpricing of essential drugs needed by a hungry populace. But academics play blind to these ethical considerations and continue producing knowledge that benefits only a few of those who exploit and oppress. It will never have any social value and relevance even if they discover the cure for AIDS or cancer. The drug companies will keep them high above the affordable prices anyway. It will never be beneficial to the people even if they discover oil deposits in Tarlac. Shell will keep the prices of oil high anyway.

We do research, even scientific research, as an offering to humanity, as a tool for economic emancipation from foreign domination and social emancipation from ruling classes that has historically deceived, oppressed and exploited the great masses of people.

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