Sharing Knowledge for the Benefit of All
I believe publicly funded research is a public good, and I hope Hong Kong can focus on how to maximise the benefits of that public good.
Universities are creators and repositories of vast amounts of valuable knowledge. Sharing this knowledge as widely as possible has been the unswerving aim of Professor John Bacon-Shone for the last 13 years. Since taking up the role of Associate Director of Knowledge Exchange Office in 2008, Professor Bacon-Shone – who will retire on July 1, 2021 – has been pushing the boundaries of knowledge exchange (KE) in different directions. His success in sharing access to knowledge beyond the walls of the University has enriched the lives of many people.
Since the beginning, his work looked at sharing knowledge instead of one way transferral of knowledge. Professor Bacon-Shone has sought to enable this exchange of knowledge through engagement and learning and to expand the scope of research shared to non-technical areas such as the arts and humanities. The community is enriched through cultural exchanges and policy improvements in addition to technological advances, while faculties benefit from funding and learning new ways to solve problems, in turn benefitting the community.
He found that providing support to all faculties and competitive funding to support projects was the best way to maximise engagement and also to achieve impacts. Two of his key initiatives were working with the library, Graduate School and Research Services to ensure that students and researchers must submit their datasets for archiving and possible sharing and that all research postgraduate theses should be publicly accessible. A popular result was the sharing of the work of a well-known Cantopop lyricist, James Wong, whose work, which is free to access, has had the most downloads of any HKU thesis.
The sharing of knowledge is university-wide. “One of the things I love about HKU is we agreed it’s got to be across all faculties,” he said. Every faculty was involved and the initiatives resulted in practical and tangible benefits, such as a legal website that was easy to use and helped spread understanding of Hong Kong laws. Another major success was the recent opening of the library’s data repository, which will enable the public access to datasets, allowing re-analysis.
More can be done to widen the sharing of knowledge. Some meaningful projects, such as sharing information on the location of play areas for children with special needs and showing transport links to them, need approval from different government departments to obtain access to government data. Professor Bacon-Shone is hopeful that new laws under discussion, covering records and access to information for all public bodies, will enable more projects like this to be launched.
“I think there are a lot of great projects like that where a relatively small amount of money could make it happen,” he said.
He hopes awareness of the impact of KE can continue to be raised throughout the University. “When you’re doing the research, you need to be thinking about the impact,” he remarked. Senior management can help by paying more attention to community impact rather than focussing solely on academic impact from publication in prestigious journals. This can tie in with the University’s ranking, part of which is linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“I believe publicly funded research is a public good, and I hope Hong Kong can focus on how to maximise the benefits of that public good,” Professor Bacon-Shone added.