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University of Silesia in Katowice

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Interdisciplinary Centre for Staff Development

ICRK | We scientists will not evade responsibility for the future of the world. Interview with Prof. Barbara Kożusznik

22.10.2021 - 10:27 update 10.11.2021 - 09:35
Editors: MK
Tags: kompetencje, wywiad

prof. Barbara Kożusznik
prof. Barbara Kożusznik | head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Staff Development | phot. Małgorzata Dymowska

Grafika: zaangażowanie (motyw liści)   “I would like to strongly emphasize that by examining the competences of academics and the administrative sector, we engage in broader thinking about development in general.  This means that in our actions – regardless of their purpose – we should remember about the future of the planet and all mankind. ”

Works on the first tool for examining the competences of higher education employees in Poland are coming the end. The task is carried out by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Staff Development (ICRK), headed by Prof. Barbara Kożusznik. The main work on the preparation of the model were conducted during the coronavirus pandemic. Its effects include even stronger conviction of experts about the social responsibility of science. On the one hand, scientific research should be carried out at the highest level, on the other – the effective transfer of the latest knowledge to the society turns out to be equally important. Both the first and the second activities require specific competencies. What kinds of? This is what we will find out thanks to the model. 

Małgorzata Kłoskowicz, PhD: Professor, the idea of ​​creating a competency model for employees of Polish universities was born almost two years ago. Its development, however, took place in the new reality under the sign of the coronavirus pandemic. This means that you met  with each other mainly in virtual space. Scientists worked in this way all over the world. As I can imagine, this change had to be immediately included in the competency model being prepared … 

Prof. Barbara Kożusznik: We have recently learned how important competences are. The whole world had to suddenly change the way we think and act so that we can deal with the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. I’m not just talking about our ICRK teams, but about what people around the world have experienced. We know how important part of it is research. The development of vaccines against COVID-19 was a turning point in the fight against the pandemic, but the necessity to change the way we think about life and work seemed equally important to me. In order to achieve this, these were precisely the appropriate competences that were needed – not only of the rulers, holding managerial positions, but also of each of us. 

The situation that we have observed (and some of us have also researched) in the last dozen or so months has confirmed our belief that the tool we are preparing is very much needed. It is primarily intended to test the competences of scientific and administrative staff in order to support the development of science. However, if we take a closer look at it, we will see that it will allow employees of the higher education sector to develop their knowledge and skills to optimize the operation of the entire system. This, in turn, means that in the future we can prepare ourselves even better to react quickly and rationally to crisis situations. I am convinced that it is people who have specific competences that should have an influence on proposing and introducing changes. 

M.K.: I think vaccination against COVID-19 can be a good example.  On the one hand, they are a great achievement of medicine, the result of the work of the best scientists in the world, on the other – they will not help in fighting the effects of a pandemic if the society does not trust science. 

B.K.: The change of the system that I have just mentioned concerns basically every innovative activity. The university can educate great specialists who will design and patent, for example, a new type of electric motor. Will that be enough? No. A number of steps still need to be taken to implement this invention. We need to convince producers and users of the advantages of the new solution. It involves changing habits and behaviours, and this is a huge challenge for specialists. We will not be able to do it without experts with appropriate competences, who will be able to understand the idea of ​​the invention and convey knowledge about it to the public. Such people can and should work at universities. This simple example already shows the variety of competences depending on the tasks entrusted to us.  

The point is not about that one person is responsible for the entire life cycle of the invention, but it is about a possibility to create a team of people who understand each other and look after the next stages of the research process. A scientist designs a new solution, a patent attorney cares for the protection of intellectual property, an innovation broker represents a researcher in contacts with business partners, and a science populariser easily tells a wider audience about how an invention can change the world. At universities, including the University of Silesia, there are separate departments specializing in the implementation of such processes. 

M.K.: So the team is understood in a broader way.  It is no longer only created by scientists, but also by employees of the administrative sector. We don’t really think that way on a daily basis. 

B.K.: We touch upon an interesting issue here. We would like to look a bit differently at the idea of ​​the research team. The concept of creating science based on collaboration seems to be extremely interesting. This means that experts working in administrative departments become equal partners of scientists. They are responsible for fundraising for research, communicating on research results, and acting as an intermediary in contacts with the ministry or representatives of the business sector. I would like to emphasize once again: the idea of ​​a research team understood in this way is based on the assumption that each member is equal. It is also good to know what is crucial to the tasks performed by individuals. Communication and meeting deadlines are important. 

M.K.: Diversity is a strong point of the university. There are scientific fields, such as the humanities, where teamwork may simply not work. 

B.K.: It all depends on the way scientists do science. It is not good to impose one research model, we all know that. There are individualist researchers among us, masters who are followed by others. I also know many humanists who successfully implement truly interdisciplinary projects and the results of their research can contribute to changing the world we know. There is no one way. Nevertheless, I think it is good to learn about different paths and then choose the one that best suits the highest international level of research. It may turn out to be difficult for one person to assume all the roles. 

M.K.: The more that individual tasks require the development of specific competences … 

B.K.: It’s true. The entire research process requires the involvement of many people who usually do not work in the same room. If we take a closer look at the structure, we will see how different competences individual experts should have. For over a year we worked in teams whose members represented several Polish research universities and foreign centres. All this to collect and describe the most important set of competences for each role, adjusted not only to the higher education system in Poland, but also taking into account the current situation at the international level.  

M.K.: What competences are we talking about? 

Among them, it is worth mentioning cooperation, leadership, social and digital competences. The latter turned out to be particularly important during the pandemic. I would like to strongly emphasize that by examining the competences of academics and the administrative sector, we engage in broader thinking about development in general. This means that in our actions – regardless of their purpose – we should not forget about the environment, human health, the future of humanity, etc. The period of the pandemic increased in us the sense of responsibility that weighs on us, about which, unfortunately, we sometimes forget. 

M.K.: When can we expect a competency model for scientists and employees of the administrative sector? 

B.K.: We have identified and described over thirty competences that are necessary for the research process to be effective and that serve the broadly understood sustainable development. We are currently starting the testing phase of the developed tool. The research will be conducted both at the University of Silesia and at selected Polish research universities. We would like the competency testing tool to be available by the end of 2022. 

M.K.: Thank you for the interview. 

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