Public research universities face enormous challenges in the 21st century, perhaps none more compelling than the obligation to serve society. A 2004 National Academy of Sciences report, for example, represents the latest in a series of calls for increased commitment to interdisciplinary, socially relevant research.1

And yet service is often portrayed as a university's third function – taking a back seat to and competing with research and teaching – instead of as academic engagement, in which collaboration and partnership with the community produce solutions to society's most vexing problems. Service is, after all, the ethical imperative driving research and teaching as well as a principal product of these enterprises. Discharging this duty in an ever-changing world requires radically rethinking "service," finding innovative ways to leverage academe's intellectual capital to transform lives for the benefit of society.

While accomplishing this will be arduous, the payoff could be enormous. Fortunately,...

Interested in reading more?

Magaizne Cover

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!