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Clocktower. Monday 16 June 2014 3:25pm

For people interested or involved in postgraduate study at Otago

Professor George Benwell. Technology has had considerable impact on research, and no less in the research and creation of a PhD thesis. In decades past a typewriter and secretary, hand-drawn figures, matrices, graphs and formulae, hand-collated references and bibliography were the norm. Now word processing, automated style sheets, bibliographic software and active links to the web have made the process easier, and more efficient. The tools are there to assist the researcher – laborious tasks diminished.

But I think the real changes and challenges still lie with the researcher, the person who grapples with literature, original thought and logical arguments. Even more, there are increasing societal challenges to the 'practicality' of research. Pure or even esoteric research may be questioned as to its immediate worth.

Humankind has the innate desire to question, to reason and to expand and discover knowledge, ideas and concepts. We should see scholarly research as fulfilling this invisible internal force. It should be largely immune to external pressure. Our response is to defend the desire to enquire, for whatever reason.

However, there is an opportunity to more closely relate to the demos in other ways. As we hold our place as the critic and conscience of society would it be unacceptable to facilitate the confluence of research with social and corporate responsibility? Is there merit in researchers, students and staff, providing honorary knowledge and skill services to the third sector – the not-for-profits? The excitement and personal gratitude will be the pursuit of knowledge and being actively engaged in social responsiveness. Can we do it?

Professor George Benwell
Dean, School of Business,
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Division of Commerce

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