The future together

Since fall 2016, I'm a regular contributor to the magazine Yliopisto-lehti. I write columns, based on my experiences as a professional, an expat, and even simply as myself. Articles are translated and published in Finnish, but I'll be publishing a translation of my pieces in English here on my blog.

The future together

(originally published on issue Y / 08 / 16)

In 2007, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore claimed: "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." His words reminded me of the time spent working at the university, and the short-term investment I used to make every time I chose myself over my community, my team, my collaborators. Academia has become a massive network of mostly disconnected microcosms, with one being a tiny research team or even a single individual. The career advancement system naturally forced academics to isolation. Short-term grants often assigned to single researchers, and an oversized pool of doctoral students with the perspective of a handful of tenured positions, make it hard to focus on anything else than one's own survival. Today's companies invest huge human and monetary resources on building the right atmosphere and a deep sense of community among their employees, while most of our junior researchers cannot name a colleague working in a close-by department. This is why I call on the university policy makers to stimulate networking and activate to create a common identity inside Finnish academia. If we achieve a true sense of belonging among our researchers, they will thrive. They will be more focused on quality of research, rather than on writing the fifth grant proposal of the trimester. There will be a more natural and colourful mentoring system among colleagues, an active exchange of international contacts and opportunities. The time and efforts spent in research will represent a concrete growing opportunity for the single individual, should their career take an undesired turn later on. Democratisation of knowledge has pushed the academic community to its capacity limits of human resources, and now everyone is running to save themselves. Should we take in Al Gore's advice, slow down, and walk together towards the future?

Paola Elefante

Digital Scaling Project Manager at Plan International. Proud mother & wife. Shameless nerd&geek. Feminist. Undercover gourmet.

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