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What is a Knowledge Society?

10 September 2004

What is a Knowledge Society? And does it live up to its hype?

These questions will be explored by a team of University of Canterbury researchers whose project is one of six at the University that have secured prestigious Marsden Fund research grants.

The government-funded Marsden grants are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and, this year, total $33.3 million.

Professor Les Oxley, who will work with Professor David Thorns and Dr Ken Carlaw, says knowledge growth is considered to be a major source of economic development and social wellbeing, but there are no generally accepted definitions of what constitutes a Knowledge Society.

He wants to determine who wins and who loses in a Knowledge Society, and provide methodology which can be used internationally to assess the consequences of knowledge growth.

“Governments seek to promote knowledge growth, but without a coherent notion of its contours or any measure to evaluate the consequences of any actions taken,” he says.

“The world has embraced a set of concepts which are seen as the core of future wellbeing without any commonly agreed notion of what they are, how they might be measured and, crucially therefore, how they actually do or might affect wellbeing.”

Another UC researcher, Dr Ian Scott, has been awarded a Marsden Fast-Start grant, designed to give emerging researchers the chance to explore an innovative idea, develop their capabilities and establish a research career.

Using Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection as a starting point, he will investigate a phenomenon known as adaptation, in which traits evolve to allow organisms to become adapted to their environment.

Using species from New Zealand and overseas, Dr Scott will compare gene diversity in frogs before and after exposure to a disease-causing fungus.

DNA samples taken from the frogs before infection will be compared to DNA taken from the same animals after infection.

The other UC projects which have been awarded Marsden Fund grants are led by Dr Neil Gemmell (Biological Sciences), Associate Professor Dave Kelly (Biological Sciences), Dr Philip Armstrong (English) and Professor Leon Phillips (Chemistry).


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