The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 10, Number 1, 2011

ISSN 1602-2297


University Culture – Quo Vadis?
Prospects of
Environmental Science–Policy Interface
up to 2020


Petri Tapio
Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, Korkeavuorenkatu 25 A 2, Fin-00130 Helsinki, Finland. Corresponding author’s e-mail: petri.tapio@utu.fi

Johanna Kohl
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Technology Foresight and Assessment

Sarianne Tikkanen
Department of Social Research, University of Helsinki, Finland.

Sarianne Tikkanen
Finland Futures Research Centre, University of Turku, Korkeavuorenkatu 25 A 2, Fin-00130 Helsinki, Finland.


Abstract: From the environmental point of view, science has, basically, had a three-fold role. First, the use of scientific research and knowledge in techno-economic development is one of the reasons for environmental problems. Second, scientific knowledge is needed to detect environmental changes and, third, science can innovate and produce ways of ameliorating the problematic changes. Each role has something to do with the relation of science (research and education) to the rest of society and to nature itself. Currently, the roles of science and universities are becoming increasingly complex as the traditional autonomy of universities seems to decrease. We define four possible roles – observer, sub-contractor, agent of societal change and a context dependent, changing role. Different roles are nourished in different university cultures which seem to be in a transition. Is the university moving from an autonomous and hierarchical Temple of knowledge to an open, client-oriented Bazaar? Or are we heading from an autonomous and open Oasis of free thinking to a production-based Factory? A Delphi study consisting of interviews with environmental experts in Finland suggests that the university culture operated in the Temple manner in 1990 and had moved towards the Factory by 2005. The study also reports the environmental experts’ views of the probable and preferred future development up to 2020. We grouped the views with cluster analysis of the responses. The images of the future differ strongly, since one cluster of responses projects the strengthening of the Factory mode, three clusters envision variations of the Bazaar and two the Oasis. The paper concludes by making a Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (SWOT) analysis of the different university cultures. We conclude that environmentally best practices are generated in the borderline between the Bazaar and the Oasis.


Keywords: Science-policy interface; university culture; transdisciplinarity; Delphi method; environmental policy


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