Can major research universities use the immense resources at their command – the storehouses of data, the research techniques, the expertise in analyzing problems, mostly their sheer brainpower – to help solve the problems of the great cities where many of them reside? It seems obvious that the answer is yes, but for many universities, this leap from theory to practice remains a step too far.
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs held a three-day conference this week to explore what can be done about this. In many ways, the conference – called “Global Urban Challenges: The Role of Research Universities” – was unique. It certainly was useful. Whether it changes the world and the universities’ place in it remains to be seen.