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Universities ‘must rectify EU digital policies to find their place’

Policymakers need to ensure universities benefit from the technologies they help develop, expert says

If the EU’s digitisation drive is to spread beyond industry to broader society, its policies must be better tailored to universities and other civil society actors, according to an expert from the sector.

In a 14 September blog post, European University Association project and policy officer Sergiu-Matei Lucaci said that the EU’s institutions and governments must pay more attention to academia when designing digital policy.

“If this is to be a digital transition for universities, they should focus on rectifying EU initiatives that lack a comprehensive vision of science in the context of digitalisation,” he said.

University researchers help to develop digital technologies, and their working practices are shaped by new tools. But Lucaci complained that EU policies “seem to result largely from the need of digital industries”, and warned that “the university sector may struggle to find its place in a process in which science does not set the tone”.

Further study is needed on how large-scale data wrangling can have an impact on working culture within and beyond academia, such as decision-making on hiring and promotion, Lucaci said. He added: “Such issues are less visible in the EU digital agenda as compared to the quest for market size and global reach.”

His views echo recent warnings on digital lawmaking from Science Europe, which represents organisations that fund and do research, and from Europe’s learned academies, which want machine-made data to become copyright-free.