The role of academia in our open society

A new week, and things will never be the same again in our daily lives. Yet some things remain constant. After the terrible events in Stockholm on Friday, I am more convinced than ever that academia plays a key role in our open society.

It is always crucial not to depict the world in black and white, but instead to use the manner of analysing and acquiring in-depth knowledge of problems and solutions that is typical in research. But this is even more important when a tragedy occurs such as the one on Drottninggatan, when singular ideologies with contempt for life claim to be in possession of the sole truth. Knowledge and facts represent an important vaccine against perilous and irrational anti-intellectualism, which often seethes with particular contempt for knowledge.

Methodically peeling away, questioning and finally reaching the solid core of knowledge is made possible by starting out with several alternative solutions in mind. As a researcher, seeing things from an external perspective and from several different angles is crucial, as problems, solutions and reality are often complex. This is the basis of both education and research, with knowledge and research results capable of being measured, tested, verified, structured, analysed and repeated.

But academia not only provides knowledge that is conveyed to society and our students, the architects and engineers of the future. We are also to a large extent involved in, with the help of research and innovation, identifying specific solutions for safety and security, urban planning and effective information technology, for example.

As an engine driving development in society, a thriving academic sphere guarantees that false doctrines and irrational denial of the facts will never prevail.

I believe, quite simply, that with knowledge and compassion for our fellow citizens, it will also be possible to cope with tomorrow’s or next week’s reality.