Front Page (Issue 3)

Front Page

A Culture Change

Knowledge exchange is not a new thing at HKU. It has simply been brought out into the light and given its proper status as one of three prongs – the others being education and research – that define our mission. If we do not share our knowledge with industry and society, and create ties with the community so our students have more opportunities to learn, we are not making the most of our work.
Yet there are questions being asked about knowledge exchange both within and outside the University.
Does it mean more work? This is an understandable question given the demands that academics in all of Hong Kong's universities face this year. The double cohort of first-year students in September means the University as a whole is involved in more teaching. Our scholars are also all active in research. The elevation of knowledge exchange seems, on the surface, to be an extra responsibility, but I think this is a misguided view.
Knowledge exchange is in fact closely intertwined with our academic activities. I strongly believe that all knowledge exchange should have an academic rationale – it is not simply a service to the community. Just like teaching and research, it is part of our culture. Our scholars therefore should be thinking day in and day out about how they can benefit society. Good knowledge exchange must be underpinned by our excellence in research or teaching.

All of our faculties have in one way or other embraced this idea. Our Technology Transfer Office also helps to bring our researchers' new scientific and technological discoveries to market by facilitating patents and licensing.

There are many examples of knowledge exchange, some of the best described in this newsletter. The key message is that knowledge exchange is a central part of our work and always has been.
There is another issue that bears consideration, though. What is the role of the community in knowledge exchange? From the University's perspective, we regard the community as partners because we both can benefit from knowledge exchange.
Successful knowledge exchange emerges from a culture that is built on relationships and an appreciation that we can work together for the betterment of society. It happens when a business or group in the community realizes they need academic input and turns to us for help. People need to be attuned to the value that we offer and we need to do more to make them aware of that. Knowledge exchange should not only be measured in terms of the number of projects and the money spent, as this is an incomplete view of the process.
We value partnerships with the community and encourage our faculties to develop new partnerships and strengthen existing partnerships. An annual community day by each Faculty for sharing knowledge arising from research achievements and students' initiatives with their partners and donors may be a good idea.
Successful knowledge exchange also happens when we can contribute to public debate. The Hong Kong society is facing numerous challenges nowadays. Academics, being experts in their fields, are in a position to make significant contributions on civic and social issues. However, there currently are some impediments to that for researchers involved in government projects and consultancies, for instance, academics may not be able to publicly give their views on an issue if they serve on the government committee concerned given the confidentiality requirement. But I hope these can be addressed in future.
There are models adopted by other countries such as the US and Canada that could serve as references for the government to facilitate academics to contribute to public policy and debate. Surely a more open and wide-ranging examination of the issues society is facing will result in better outcomes.
HKU is here to serve the community through knowledge. And we should aim to achieve impact not only in Hong Kong but also to extend such impact to the Mainland and the region. Education and research are the core activities for acquiring knowledge but unless we share this with the community, we will not have fulfilled our mission.

Professor Lap-Chee Tsui
Vice-Chancellor and President