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close this book Laying the foundation - The institution of knowledge in developing countries
close this folder Part III Institutional performance: what can be said, what should be leaned
View the document Chapter 8 Factors affecting institutional success
View the document Chapter 9 Elements for a research agenda

Chapter 8 Factors affecting institutional success

Benjamin Alvarez

Certain themes and hypotheses have recurred in the case studies in Part II of this book. These case studies analyzed how science became institutionalized in organizations devoted to research on the basic sciences, agriculture, health, economics, industrial technology, and education in Latin America. Other chapters presented and systematized recurrent themes and hypotheses from different perspectives.

The purpose of this chapter is to synthesize the key factors in institutional success and to illustrate their validity with case studies of research institutions in Africa and Latin America. Also, in addition to confirming the findings of the case studies presented in Part 11, this chapter also attempts to extend the arguments to two more institutions of knowledge: the university and the private firm. Although these institutions may not be engaged in scientific-technological research, they do confront related challenges in their performance.

Much of the analysis in this chapter is based on the following studies: The Consortium Graduate School of Social Sciences: the process of building an institution (Bernard 1993); La formación de recursos humanos en la fundación para la educación superior y el desarrollo de Colombia (Lore, E., unpublished, 1991); Estudio de cave: el Centro Rosarino de Estudios Perinatales, Rosario, Argentina (Rigoli, E, unpublished, 1991); Estudio de cave de la maestria centroamericana en sociologia de la Universidad de Costa Rica (Campo, R., unpublished, 1991); and Appui institutionnel en matière deformation et de recherche (Amoussou, J., unpublished, 1991), which analyzes three cases in West Africa. All of the institutions in these studies have received support from IDRC and have programs for training researchers.

 

Factors in Institutional Success

The case studies exposed five crucial factors for success in research institutions:

· Human competence and motivation;

· Clarity of objectives and capacity to adapt (the supply perspective);

· External pressure (the demand perspective);

· The culture of knowledge; and

· Management strategies.

Three of these factors overlap with the literature on complex organizations and more specifically, with factors identified by Israel ( 1987) in his work on institutions of knowledge. Clarity of objective is similar to Israel's notion of specificity; external pressure is similar to his notion of competition; and the concept of management strategies seems to be almost identical. The other two factors - human competence and motivation and the culture of knowledge - pertain more to institutions whose primary activity is intellectual creation.

Human competence and motivation

As might be expected, experience managing institutions and empirical evidence seem to agree that the human factor is the most important aspect of scientific production, as it has been throughout the history of science. Because the heart of a research centre's work is the development of thought, the quality and professionalism of its research staff is critical to its success. Ardila (in Chapter 4) observed that "An institution's ability to achieve significant results and use its resources efficiently depends on its capacity to retain qualified staff...high-quality technology requires highly qualified staff...."

However, the training and experience of researchers, although necessary, is not sufficient to sustain scientific research. Individuals and groups must be motivated to persist with the work. According to Urrutia (Chapter 5), "The principal challenge of any research organization is to keep its research staff motivated." Motivation brings personal commitment. There must be a reward that matches the effort made, but productivity seems to be motivated more by ethical or ideological commitment, the commitments to the institution, and personal professional development (see Chapter 6). Lack of motivation on the part of researchers was cited as one of the main obstacles to institutional development in research on rural economics, health, and social management in Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal (Amoussou, J., unpublished, 1991).

The competence and motivation of the research staff must be matched by academic or scientific leadership that is accepted by members of the organization. Leadership directly affects all institutional development activities and is even more important in environments where ideas are constantly under review, where rationality is emphasized, and where formal authority is not readily accepted.

The characteristics of the leadership required changes as the organization evolves. As pointed out by Bernard (1993):

It seems reasonable to hypothesize that, over the course of an institutional development process, the characteristics constituting an appropriate leader,, would change; moving from an initial emphasis on charismatic professional competence with some managerial capacity, through more of a balance as a wider band of staff and community come to accept the idea of innovation and to expect effective and efficient application, to an essentially management focus with professional expertise useful for enabling expression of an overall coherent framework but no longer necessary to stimulate interest or commitment.

Besides the individual characteristics of staff and leaders, the most efficient research centres can boast a critical mass of researchers with a sense of collegial identity.

Just as the success of an institution of knowledge depends on the competence of the people who work in it, the professional and scientific success of a researcher and the application of research results is closely linked to the overall capacity of the institution. A recent study of a group of researchers in several countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America found institutional capacity to be one of the most consistent variables explaining individual success.

The study, conducted by Benjamin Alvarez with the support of IDRC, attempted to identify the variables associated with professional and scientific success and with the impact of research on development. The analytical model was based on the following independent variables:

·Personal characteristics of the researchers such as age, gender, previous education, and work experience before winning a fellowship;

· The general environment (the country and perception of the labour market);

· The institutional context of the work done (type of institution, type of work, position in the institution, and capacity of the institution); and

·The characteristics of the researcher's postgraduate training (country of specialization, discipline, level, duration, and participation in research during training).

The study found that the capacity of the institution most consistently explained the personal success of researchers; as well, other important factors included the labour market, the place where training was received, and the level of previous education. These results suggest that training is not enough to strengthen a country's scientific capacity in support of social, economic, or human development; there must also be a solid institutional infrastructure and an environment favouring scientific activity.

It can be concluded that four variables comprise the human competence factor in institutions of knowledge:

· Individual capability;

· Critical mass or collegiality;

· Academic leadership; and

· Personal motivation and commitment.

The supply perspective

The nature of the research supplied by institutions of knowledge is critical to their legitimation and potential impact on society. In Chapter 5, Urrutia noted that "the supply often determines the demand. Highly qualified economists can create a demand for research by promoting the need for it within various social sectors." The same seems to be true of other disciplines (see Chapter 6).

The main requirement for a viable supply of scientific research seems to be clear objectives (Bernard 1993):

Goal analysis is an important component in understanding institutional development. It serves to provide an idea of the magnitude of the task being undertaken: its scope and complexity, the potential for mismatch between goals and methods, the potential conflict among different goals or perceptions of the same goal... They provide guides to managers, designers, clients and founders as to the appropriateness of methods and mechanisms, because these are variables which can only be assessed on the basis of their effect.

On the other hand (Bernard 1993):

In this context, goals need not, and should not, be seen as immutable or unidimensional, however. In thinking about the validity or value of procedures for achieving a goal, it may be determined that the importance or definition of the goal itself needs to be reconsidered. In this sense, the process of congruence testing or negotiating between goals and means in the institution becomes itself an indication of the quality of that institution's design and implementation.

The capacity to review and rethink objectives and to consider the philosophical basis of research in light of changing environments is characteristic of the most dynamic research institutions.

The analogy of intellectual development, as well as Piaget's concepts of assimilation and adaptation, may help to explain how institutions of knowledge change in relation to their environments, structure institutional awareness, and pursue strategies for acquiring knowledge.

Extrapolating on the theory of human development, it can be hypothesized that institutions simultaneously resist change and need change. Resistance promotes stability, change produces growth. Human beings resist change through the mechanism of assimilation, which incorporates new perceptions of experience into our current frame of reference. If this mechanism is dominant, the mind creates stable categories to manage the information it receives. The mechanism of adaptation and accommodation allows humans to modify their frame of reference. If it prevails, the mind creates so many categories to handle new information that generalization becomes difficult. The status of equilibrium and disequilibrium between stability and change results in high levels of understanding. An institution's capacity to adapt to contextual changes within a clear institutional awareness allows it to go beyond its own understanding, thereby enriching its cognitive strategy.

The research supplied by a given institution naturally depends on the size and quality of its research staff. Institutions must also find their own market niche, in terms of content or focus, and be able to differentiate themselves from other institutions to meet unsatisfied needs. As Rigoli (unpublished) proposes:

The identification of a field of knowledge which will help to legitimize the institution may be guided by two criteria: the knowledge must be of use to other members of the scientific community, as a permanent and practical resource; and it must be sufficiently esoteric (that is, not too widely known and able to accept new methods) for the institution's members to want it.

Clear objectives help an institution to define an approach that differentiates it from its peers or competitors. The more the members of an institution share a common understanding of its goals, the clearer will be the institutional profile and supply of knowledge to users.

An institution that does not conduct its own theoretical research has more difficulty developing its thinking, interpreting its context, and responding to social demands for knowledge. An ongoing assessment of an institution's relationship to its social and theoretical context creates a balance between assimilation and accommodation, stability and change. This requires ready access to information.

The variables related to supply that seem to affect institutional success are

· A clarity of mission and objectives;

· A niche in a specific, differentiated area of knowledge;

· An institutionally shared level of congruence;

· An articulation of research and instruction, and a social need for knowledge;

· In-house theoretical research;

· Capacity to assimilate and adapt; and

· Access to information.

The demand perspective

The success of an institution of knowledge is shaped by many external forces. Its interlocutors, or significant others, comprise a wide range of groups, such as peers, sponsors, users, and competitors. All of these help to form the pole of demand.

The scientific community is an important point of reference for research, but not the only one. Funding organizations also exert a strong influence on management, choice of research topics, and purpose of scientific research. The decisive role played by North American foundations in the development of Latin American social sciences is a case in point.

Governments contribute to the development of scientific and academic institutions through policies and direct sponsorship - they are also clients of institutions. In economics, for example, "The demand for economic research is affected by the technical development of the government sector; the development of the university, the degree of democracy in a society...." (Urrutia, Chapter 5).

Industry, trade, social services, and public opinion are all potential users of science. Research institutions must establish a niche and position themselves in the complex environment of specialized and constantly changing organizations. The capacity of an institution to form relationships can be depicted as a series of "Venn circles," each representing a different environment, with the lines that separate them changing position depending on the degree to which the circles overlap.

Institutional development requires that an institution define, accept, analyze, and manage changing relationships with its surroundings. An institution that does not take into account the goals and capacities of external organizations cannot be assured of receiving the resources or cooperation it needs, or of attaining a legitimate status in the community (Bernard 1993). This ongoing evaluation is as important to organizations engaged in basic research as to those engaged in social research and training. Vessuri (in Chapter 3) argues that institutions must develop research strategies based on a continuing analysis of scientific, technological, and industrial trends. Institutions can no longer function if they do not monitor developments in other sectors. They must explore and, if possible, anticipate the intellectual market in search of research and development niches that they can actively turn to their advantage.

An institution can increase its legitimacy and longevity by interacting continuously with its context. Competition often greatly improves the quality of research. An overconcentration of researchers in a single institution may increase its risk of becoming rigid and conservative and reduce its potential for innovation and relevance. An institution that participates actively in the local and international scientific community becomes more truly a part of it, turning competition into a positive element. In some fields, such as agricultural research, there has been a division of labour (Ardila, Chapter 4):

Although the international centres have focused on basic technology, the NRIs have concentrated on applied technologies for public use, and the private sector has concerned itself with profit-making technology, there is a complementary relationship between all three.

Although there is no formally organized scientific community, there are informal networks of researchers or what can be called invisible colleges. Their role in the evaluation of scientific activity is not yet clear.

Vessuri (in Chapter 3) contends that "Scientific institutions in Latin America must develop close links with the productive sector to attain legitimacy." This suggests that an institution should know its clients and understand how they want to access its knowledge. The logic and rhythm of scientific knowledge do not always correspond with the needs of users. The competition between research centres has helped to differentiate scientific production as well as stimulate high-quality research, the formation of specialized scientific communities, and the expansion of opportunities for researchers. Competition provides funding bodies with a broader spectrum of alternatives and encourages research institutions to improve their negotiation skills.

A capacity to negotiate is vital to the relationship between donor agencies and recipient institutions. An institution that is not capable of promoting a mutually enriching relationship with donor agencies, contractors, local governments, or private sources of support, may experience inappropriate interference. The potential support of different social sectors tends to increase in democratic environments. This is particularly true with respect to the social sciences. Variables related to external pressures include

· The identification of significant others;

· Mechanisms for ongoing interaction with the environment;

· The presence of competition;

· Participation in the scientific community;

· Capacity to negotiate with donors;

· Local sustainability (government, private policy);

· Identification of clients and an understanding of how they acquire knowledge; and

· A democratic environment (in the social sciences).

The culture of knowledge

The quality that best defines an institution is less its physical presence than a shared understanding among members that it is one and the same across a set of dimensions that can be only partially defined (Douglas 1986). Two features that distinguish an institution of knowledge are a climate of learning and the existence of intellectual values.

An institution that clearly expresses its standards, attitudes, values, and expectations finds it easier to change and learn. The learning process also calls for evaluating goals achieved and modifying the objectives and assumptions that govern the behaviour of members.

Whatever emphasis an institution places on the application of its scientific work, one of the most attractive incentives for researchers is the opportunity to lead an active academic and intellectual life. The director of one well-known research centre in the region put it succinctly: "The salaries are not good, but we offer intellectual adventure" (Lore, E., unpublished, 1991).

According to the same case study, even if researchers carry on with their intellectual work:

After a few years they find they have stopped applying their advanced knowledge and have lost track of theoretical development in their subject. The basic reason for this situation is that most research projects are totally for application; there is pressure of time, little connection with the international academic world, little teaching activity, and an absence of academic environment in national terms.

The learning environment is present in formal and informal training programs for young researchers, as well as in vehicles for publishing studies and disseminating innovations. The socialization of future generations of researchers occurs in the context of this work. As explained by Rigoli (unpublished), common interests, values, and expectations produce a sense of belonging to the institution which is seen as a most welcome place to be...a sort of home which they are prepared to support beyond the call of their conditions of contract.

Researchers frequently develop a sense of ownership of the results of their efforts and reap rewards only in the long term. As a result, symbolic incentives are important to research careers and to an appreciation of institutional success. They also play an important role in the creation of a learning climate and the nurturing of a culture of knowledge. Institutions that give their members opportunities to expand beyond organizational boundaries through participation in scientific events, academic exchanges, publications, and direct contact with international and national agencies help to maintain a culture of knowledge and a climate of learning, which, in turn, lays the groundwork for the training of new researchers. Values such as creativity, innovativeness, and an acceptance of delayed rewards are inculcated through this process of on-thejob socialization.

The culture of knowledge in an institution is composed of

· A climate of learning;

· Intellectual values;

· A sense of belonging;

· A sense of ownership for work done; and

· An acceptance of delayed rewards.

Management strategies

According to Israel (1987), management joins specificity of purpose and competition as a key incentive to institutional performance. Management includes both organizational structure and management per se (staffing policy, management techniques, and training). Management may, in fact, be the main incentive in institutions with unclear goals and little competition.

Institutions of knowledge vary significantly in the type of research they undertake. For example, social science research tends to be less specific than research on industrial technology or agriculture. Regardless of these differences, management strategies play a decisive role in creating an environment that breeds success.

Bureaucratic red tape is a major impediment to the innovation essential to scientific discovery and experimentation. As detailed in Chapter 6, we need the right combination of autonomy in the pursuit of our individual academic interests and practical work in interdisciplinary teams. This autonomy demands a flexible management style.

The decentralization of decision-making gives researchers a twofold responsibility, both inside and outside the organization. As Lora (unpublished) explains:

It would seem desirable that internal and external academic responsibility should be decentralized. Internally, this means that project management and project orientation are decentralized. Externally, it means that each researcher is responsible for the dissemination, publication and discussion of his or her research and opinions.

This responsibility for the research product and process, whether individual or collective, requires internal mechanisms for adaptation and evaluation as well as a system of incentives. The incentives must include appropriate remuneration, a fact too often overlooked by universities and government research centres. Urrutia (in Chapter 5) argues that

Economic incentives also play a decisive role in research It is relatively easy for a researcher to find employment in the productive sector or with the government; therefore, income from research cannot be too much less what could be earned in alternative employment.

Although a degree of uncertainty may serve to stimulate new ideas and proposals, long-term scientific efforts and social impact depends on financial stability. Private research centres, whose financial support depends almost entirely on specific projects, need to develop and implement long-term financial strategies. The most stable centres in the region have done this. Just as theoretical research helps to clarify an institution's research supply, internal evaluation systems and administrative assessments allow it to adapt its managerial style to continuous internal and external changes. A consideration of management strategies includes

· Flexibility and adaptability;

· Economic stimulus;

· Reduction of red tape;

· Mechanisms for self-correction;

· Long-term financial strategies; and

· Decentralization of decision-making.

Success Factors and Dilemmas

Institutions of knowledge face a series of dilemmas within each group of success factors. Solving these dilemmas is the main focus of institution building and development. Some tensions between opposing trends show up more clearly at different stages in an institution's development. They become more or less critical depending on the nature, the environment, and the loyalties of the organization. For example, personal commitment is critical early in the development of a private research centre; later on the division of labour becomes a more important factor. Tensions and dilemmas manifest themselves differently in various types of institutions Research in health institutions offers a good example. Health research tends to be done in state institutions, public universities, private universities, private institutes, or health-service centres. Government centres can offer stability, but find it difficult to introduce innovations or maintain scientific independence. The health-service centres provide a setting for the immediate application of research, but they "do not have a research culture that recognizes scientific work, provides incentives, or motivates new researchers" (Carrasquilla, Chapter 8).

The first success factor mentioned - human competence and motivation - requires that stability, commitment, and cooperation be balanced with innovation, external influences, competition, and regulation. The tensions between stability and change can show up on several different levels: the individual (the professional career versus institutional commitment), the labour force (the stability of research staff versus the need for innovation and change), scientific cooperation (team commitment versus internal competition and division of labour), and education (dedication to research versus dedication to complementary activities such as training researchers). To summarize this discussion, the following are dilemmas for research institutions:

· Stability of employment versus innovation;

· Personal advancement versus commitment to the institution;

· Personal commitment versus division of labour;

· Stability of employment versus new social influences;

· Cooperation versus internal competition; and

· The relative size of the senior versus junior group of researchers.

Specific research supply is based on clear research objectives. An institution that cannot negotiate or adapt runs the risk of obsolescence. Objectives are the reflection of ideals that must be constantly scrutinized against reality. A clear awareness of the ideas that underlie a research enterprise is perhaps as important as the capacity to reformulate them. This seems to be valid for priority themes, research methods, and the use of research results. The most frequent dilemmas here are

· Stability versus change;

· Convergence versus divergence in issues and methods;

· Emphasis on content versus emphasis on method or approach;

· Priority on research versus teaching;

· Practical versus theoretical research;

· Stability versus academic stagnation; and

· Utopian versus realistic approaches.

With respect to the definition of significant others, an institution may prefer the international community to local users, may choose to look after the interests of the funding agencies rather than follow a set work program, and may prefer the market to the dynamics of scientific development. Obviously, these are not mutually exclusive choices but they represent competitive pressures. They are typified by the following:

· A focus on local versus international significant others;

· Autonomy versus influence in a wider context;

· Independence from government versus closeness to policy;

· Autonomy versus dependence on donors; and

· Individual interest versus market interest in research.

A culture of knowledge requires accepting some characteristics inherent in the scientific process, such as uncertainty, rigour, criticism, the value of dedication, free discussion and prestige, and the capacity for constant re-evaluation. The typical dilemmas here are

· Individual motivation versus impersonal bureaucracy;

· Organizational rules versus new priorities;

· Personal prestige versus teamwork;

· Utopia versus reality in the organization; and

· A competitive approach versus institutional identity.

In addition to the dilemmas encountered by all organizations with respect to management strategy, the institutions of knowledge have to compensate for a dearth of incentives caused by lack of specific products, the long-term nature of results, uncertainty, and internal specialization. This can lead to dilemmas around

· Symbolic versus financial incentives;

· Size and power of administrative versus academic-research groups;

· Continuity versus adjustment to new circumstances;

· Systematic planning versus inductive planning; and

· Safety versus risk.

 

Institutional Appreciation of Success

Because success does not mean the same thing to any two people or any two institutions, it is difficult to appreciate and evaluate systematically. To some, a successful institution is one that achieves its objectives. For others, a successful institution is one that has achieved a level of development or strength that allows it to stand on its own feet. Nonetheless, it is not easy to define "strengthening," a complex process of updating or building infrastructure for research, defining research objectives, preparing projects, and having the capacity to relate to other institutions (see Chapter 8). Those who work in institutions of knowledge tend to define institutional success in terms of three broad concepts: scientific, organizational, and social.

Scientific success is the same as the production of knowledge: the development of theory, analytical tools, technologies, and global insights. This production takes the form of publications, presentations, demonstrations, and, occasionally, objects that have been developed or transformed. Success is measured by the products' qualify and characteristics and the institution's capacity to innovate.

Organizational success is evidenced by an institution's strength and evolution and by an overall learning process that engenders collective commitment and continuous self-improvement. The questions here centre around the profit taken from comparative advantages, competitiveness, stability, and growth.

Social success is more varied. It may take the form of shaping public opinion, creating a critical mass of researchers or users, gaining acceptance of policy recommendations, achieving the use of new technologies or products, or modifying social services or practices. Institutional development is not enough to measure success, because it relates more to answers to environmental needs, practical knowledge, and the potential of society to make use of the products of research.

There is often tension between these three kinds of success. Scientific success does not always go hand and hand with organizational or social success. This topic deserves special consideration in assessing strategies to build and develop institutions.

 

The University and the Enterprise as Institutions of Knowledge

The changing world economy and the leading role played by science, technology, and information systems place the subject of relationships between educational institutions, the productive sector, and the government in the context of growing interdependence. Knowledge, the area where the three intersect, is our most important tool for progress and social equity.

The university and industry, representing speculative and practical knowledge, are both in the throes of changes taking place at the dawn of the 21st century. Both need to rethink their identities in light of the close relationship they will be required to form in the future.

Traditionally, the university's role in relation to production was quite simple: the universities trained the professionals needed by the labour market and the development process. A surplus of unemployed university graduates was considered the fault of the education system. What has happened is that the dynamics of the educational system and the labour market have not been running in parallel (divas and Rod as 1991); each is changing and increasing in complexity. Also, the aims of a university are different from those of an enterprise - the university trains professionals for a professional life, one of its traditional missions, as well as something more. The university needs to be aware of what is happening in other areas of society to feed its flow of knowledge and improve its capacity to satisfy external demands. At the same time, it must accommodate other forces pushing to create knowledge whose purpose goes beyond solving specific or immediate problems.

The relationship between the university and productive enterprise is circumscribed by the university's appreciation of the balance needed between the purpose of knowledge and the exercise of power, between basic research and technology, between general and specialized instruction, and between benefits and services and research. The balance of all these factors determines the curriculum, the nature of scientific production, and the budget.

According to formal statements, universities have three missions: teaching, research, and providing services to the community. Yet most universities in the developing world focus almost exclusively on teaching. The research option demands decisions that have a major impact on the university: its purpose and value system, the type of human resources needed, as well as its structure. Several universities have tried to solve the problem of hosting research activities in an environment developed for other purposes by adding postgraduate programs to support research. They have not all been successful

Universities have a choice in the way they relate to knowledge. They can house it and pass it on; create it and develop it; or encourage its practical application. If the primary objective is to house knowledge, the curriculum will follow the logic of specific disciplines, and research will be largely descriptive. If the goal is to create knowledge, basic research will be a pan of teaching activity, and lecturers will divide their time between teaching and research. If applying knowledge is the priority, technology will be a laser beam pointing inward and outward to energize activity.

Similarly, an institution of higher education must establish its views on political power, and these will affect its extension and service activities. Although most universities have paid little attention to this mission in the past, there is a definite trend toward opening up relations with other educational institutions, research bodies, and society in general. As a result, their organization needs review. Table 1 shows the choices a university might make in relating itself to knowledge and power.

The theory of complex organizations has never provided a coherent explanation of university life. Many theorists call the university an "anarchic environment" in which there are no specific objectives or incentives. The fresh emphasis now being given to research and practical knowledge and the alliances being formed with other institutions will allow universities to become more efficient and to develop the capacity to manage new nontraditional activities.


Table 1. Knowledge and power: the university perspective.

From university to productive enterprise

Universities have started, albeit timidly, to build bridges to business. They have taken various approaches:

· Changing the direction of research in the schools most closely related to industry so that the research is more innovative and more closely linked to production or services;

· Searching systematically for opportunities to use research results obtained in the university, including creating special units to search;

· Offering training programs to businesspeople and specialists;

· Offering academic accreditation for corporate activities;

· Providing consultancy services to private companies;

· Integrating material on the content and processes derived from innovations made in the business world into university curricula;

· Providing specialist conferences and seminars for company employees;

· Offering leave for students to do practical work on their degrees;

· Organizing visits of university teaching staff to industry;

· Using the laboratories of private industry for teaching and scientific purposes; and

· Giving university administration the opportunity and capacity to make research contracts with private enterprise.

This kind of activity carries risks for the university. These risks include placing excessive importance on one area of activity at the expense of others, overemphasizing technological research, losing teaching staff time to business-related activities, and facing the increased potential of conflicts of interest.

Enterprise and knowledge

The objectives and methods of business are usually more specific than those of research centres and universities; they tend to be defined more by competition and economic motives. Evaluation systems pay special attention to efficiency and good judgment among senior staff. Structures are more inflexible and predictable.

Postmodern business is rapidly becoming aware of the advantages of research and information. As the line between action and knowledge becomes more and more blurred, education requirements change along with factors related to productivity and competitive edge.

Training, once a grudging concession to workers, has become a fundamental corporate need A survey of industries in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Panama showed that more than half had launched some form of training activity to encourage expansion, product diversification, improvements to quality, and the introduction of advanced technologies (FICR 1991).

Research, far from being a luxury, has now become a basic part of corporate activity. Radical changes have been made to institutionalize an atmosphere in which knowledge can be created, assimilated, and applied and in which the results of research efforts will be promoted on the market Research is also being contracted with associations or interest groups. In either case, business will soon become more like institutions of knowledge.

From enterprise to university

Case studies (Potworowski 1989; Blais 1990) show that business seeks to cooperate with universities and research centres in many different ways, by

· Inviting university scientists to be members of corporate consultative committees;

· Sending staff and management to continue their studies under special agreements with the universities;

· Developing contracts with universities to support research with donations;

· Sponsoring faculty posts on subjects of interest to industry;

· Providing financing or support for degree thesis work;

· Offering students the opportunity for practical work on leave from regular courses;

· Offering research opportunities to teaching staff;

· Organizing corporate units to establish links with universities or research centres;

· Contributing laboratory equipment; and

· Supporting programs for "technology parks" and "incubators" for new ideas from universities.

The main reasons companies approach universities and research centres are to gain access to technology, to increase institutional capacity, to develop improved procedures, and to secure better qualified personnel. The interests of many companies extend beyond technological innovation to encompass the social and economic problems of production, issues of education and training, and types of occupations.

Although the incursions of industry into higher education have increased, industry still provides universities with proportionately less funding than other sources and has less influence on academic life than did the classical disciplines of theology, medicine, or law in the past (Kerr 1990). However, the signs indicate that the influence of industry on academic life will expand and deepen in the future.