IV. Research in a Fragmented Society

Research, at its core, is about tackling the unknown, solving problems, discovering the truth, and creating cultural goods. Two trends make it increasingly difficult for university research to contribute to the common good. The first challenge is Public Skepticism: the public is increasingly skeptical of expertise, and political polarization has made it more difficult to share insights across political and ideological differences. The second challenge is Hyper-Specialization: the demanding and highly specialized training path required to become an expert means that top researchers often have difficulty communicating with one another and the public about their work.  Any research community aimed at contributing to the common good needs a strategy for addressing the potent challenges posed by public skepticism and hyper-specialization.

And as Pope Francis recently reminded us, Catholic universities have a special obligation to overcome these challenges and demonstrate how researchers can work together: "There is a growing conviction that, together with specialized scientific advances, we are in need of greater interdisciplinary communication. Although reality is one, it can be approached from various angles and with different methodologies. There is a risk that a single scientific advance will be seen as the only possible lens for viewing a particular aspect of life, society and the world. Researchers who are expert in their own field, yet also familiar with the findings of other sciences and disciplines, are in a position to discern other aspects of the object of their study and thus to become open to a more comprehensive and integral knowledge of reality."

Dive Deeper: "The Downfall (and Possible Salvation of) Expertise" (Chicago Booth Review)

What will Notre Dame be like in 20 years if our research is synonymous with serving the common good?

Goal: Advance human understanding through scholarship and research that seeks to heal, unify, and enlighten.