Academic Input: The increasing role of Media scholar initiatives in decision-making processes
Belonging to a specialist elite, academics today form a social group which is increasingly influential in various fields of the economy and industry (Castells, 1997). Taken into account when managing production processes, investment advice or assistance in the use of resources by a company, the figure of the scholar has moved through the years from being a teacher who gives lectures to a business-oriented professional (see Moles, 2006). This process, denominated by some as the “marketisation of academia” (Rimbert, 2011; Casullo, 2008), does not, however, affect all scholars in the same way; only a few disciplines, faculties and researches are considered strategic for the development of better mechanisms to increase profits and capitalisation: i.e. new technologies, engineering and other hard sciences like biomedicine or pharmacy. The question is, then, how – and to what extent - Humanities and Social Sciences are affected by this fragmentation of “useful” disciplines? The answer is already being provided in many contexts around the globe: less funding, loss of grades and fewer possibilities to find a decent job are just the most visible elements of these processes; but we must also add: 1 - Institutional: that is, state policies and political orientations that damage the social academy ́s traditional pertinence to society; i.e. Bologna Plan in EU higher education; Brussels ́ Information Society Programmes (IS 2011); 2 - Cultural: represented by socio-cultural beliefs that prioritise scientific-positivist views over concepts such as progress, productivity, history and economy; and 3- Globalisation of Politics: symbolised by large conglomerations of policy bodies that homogenise management and strategy, complicating crowd-sourced policy-making; i.e. the lobby ́ s complexity, etc. However, when studying specific contexts and their adaptation to these changes, we can see that not every social discipline is losing its traditional role; in the case of communications, a unique – and ambiguous - situation occurs: while fighting for keeping some “legitimated” position in a averse-environment, many professionals and Media scholars are re-articulating, thru those same contextual factors –i.e. New technologies, digitization- innovative forms of participation, collective work, research and even commercialization of their inputs and contents (Gibbons, 1997). After a year studying these elements in two radically different contexts, Spain and Finland, we have concluded that none of those innovations would have been possible without the presence of international initiatives, that is, academic networks operating trans- nationally and cooperatively for common purposes and objectives. Over a number of years, the construction of these academic initiatives in our case studies represented an important motivation, especially for those new students who wanted to participate – and change - current decisionmaking processes, both locally and outside frontiers. In order to do so, they essentially shared the next characteristics: - Decentralisation: Deliberative process - New Technologies-oriented: Transnational communication - Autonomy: Self-regulated bodies - Closeness: Regional concern Inclusiveness: Incorporation of new generations - Partnerships: Alliances with others civil associations (Users etc.) – Interaction - Participation - Access - Democracy: Greater sense of ownership of the processes - Transparency: Less hermetic. All these elements, analysed in depth through open interviews with their main actors, provided us with possible strategies for better social academic inputs within the EU.