College of Education > News and Publications > News: April - June 2012 > Baker Heads Study to Examine Impact of Higher Education on Global Knowledge Society

Baker Heads Study to Examine Impact of Higher Education on Global Knowledge Society

David Baker is heading a two-year international study of higher education effects on science knowledge.

David Bakerby Joe Savrock (May 2012)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Scientists working in many nations are contributing to the world’s store of scientific, technological, and engineering knowledge. Still, there are significant cross-national differences in the relative amount of contribution.

“Only a few nations are producing the overwhelming majority of new science, but many others are now entering the game of big science research with innovative strategies to jump-start their contribution,” noted David P. Baker, Penn State professor of education and sociology.

Baker is the primary investigator of a $610,000, two-year study, "Science Productivity, Higher Education Development and the Knowledge Society." The historical and futuristic study, funded by the Qatar National Research Foundation, will examine how the development of higher education has influenced the capacity for scientific knowledge production.

The study’s timeline, said Baker, starts with Germany’s invention of the “research university” early in the 20th century and continues through the unprecedented growth in American universities and their contribution to scientific knowledge production from mid-century on. Baker added, “A second part of the study will examine how the American model has spread globally, its future sustainability, and a number of innovations on the model that are under way in Asian nations that have the fastest growth in science productivity, such as Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, plus in ascending nations such as China and Qatar.”

The cross-national collaboration reaches across six nations. Baker and his Penn State colleagues will be working with social scientists at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, Halle University in Germany, Hiroshima University in Japan, and Beijing Normal University in China.

Other Penn State investigators are Liang Zhang and Roger Geiger, College of Education faculty members; Andy Fu, a College of Education graduate student; and Shannon Fleishman, a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts.

The main goal of the study, said Baker, is to understand the factors that have historically led to highly productive research systems of higher education and to take the best ideas forward to continue to grow the knowledge society that is so vital to sustainable life and a health world environment. Findings from the study are intended to assist universities, national education and science policy makers, and multilateral scientific agencies in guiding future policies for higher education development and science capacity building.