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Intellectual capital is essential and relevant in Colombian public universities

This capital has been considered as a valuable tool to improve the internal management of universities, as it allows identifying the strengths and weaknesses in regards to research activities.

According to a literature review, the greatest part of empirical focused projects has centered around the impact of a series of potentially relevant factors that impact the relationship between the dimensions of IC and the results of research in universities; however, the interrelationships between the dimension of IC from a cause-effect perspective and its influence on the production of knowledge has not been fully explored.

A research project entitled “The Intellectual capital and the creation of knowledge in Colombian public universities” talks about making a theoretical contribution when identifying the dimensions and variables of IC, its relationships, and how to mobilize them to contribute to reaching the goal of knowledge generation in Colombian public universities.

For this, they carried out an on-line survey to 209 researchers of Colombian public universities. The data was gathered from measurements of IC related to the mission of research in universities, scientific publications of the surveyed, and the quotes received were taken as a proxy for the generation of knowledge. To test the hypothesis, we used structural equation modeling (SEM).

Theoretical and practical implications

The study revealed that universities can convert structural capital into relational assets by developing internationalization strategies, inter-institutional agreements for professor mobility, and linking to research networks.

In the first place, we can say that many of the interrelationships observed in prior research are confirmed. Secondly, an important contribution of our study shows that human capital has a specific indirect effect on the generation of knowledge through structural capital – relational capital, confirming that the development of the potential of human capital is the main source for universities to reach better research results.

For some researchers, this is an intensely personal activity and strongly dependent on the ideas and imagination of individuals or groups of individuals, which needs to be supported by institutional factors and by strengthening of the relationships with the external environment for knowledge transferal. Lastly, universities are currently engineering strategies to improve the performance of their research mission.

In this sense, the proposed instrument could be used as a self-assessment tool of the factors that facilitate and support research activities of professors, which is a matter of interest for the academic community and senior leaders in higher education, as this can help to identify capabilities, structures and specific relationships that need to be consolidated to increase the generation of scientific knowledge. Therefore, this study contributes to producing a vision directed to the management of IC dimensions to improve research capacity.

Therefore, they looked to confirm how this ample set of variables may be conceptualized under an IC perspective and identify how they jointly operate to impact the production of scientific publications. Hence, the research project contributes to this gap in IC literature by providing a base for more empirical research on the matter.

An important contribution of this research project was identifying what IC dimensions influence research in public Colombian universities. For this, we combined the perceptions of the researchers regarding the IC of their universities and knowledge production, which were measured by building a database of their scientific publications.

Included in the results we can highlight that human capital positively impacts the structural capital, meaning that academics with high qualifications in senior positions in universities transform their experience in engineering policies and actions directed to improve the research profile of these institutions.

Regarding the positive effect of human capital over relational capital, it implies that the individual capabilities of researchers contribute to building networks of scientific collaboration, which at the same time impacts the international acknowledgment of universities, in obtaining funding sources for research and knowledge transferal.

Jointly, these results firmly underpin research before IC and its effect on performance.

IC, relevant for universities

These findings reinforce the perception of the dynamic interaction of the dimensions of IC for generating knowledge. Furthermore, confirming as essential: 1) The individual features of the researcher: attitude, motivation, knowledge, and capabilities, 2) Institutional support: infrastructure and innovative culture and directed toward research, and 3) The inclination toward the environment through establishing scientific collaboration networks; alliances; research projects focused on solving issues of the region; and agreements that foster international mobility of professors and students, besides having academic events to promote knowledge.

Based on the prior, we can consider the IC is a relevant frame for universities, as it contributes to improving understanding and internal process management linked to the development of scientific capabilities. This takes on particular importance in Colombian public universities, as there is a growing interest for most professors to be involved in research, instead of falling on just a few; and taking into account that this is a discretionary activity, it implies the need to design strategies directed toward fostering, incentivizing and consolidating a research culture.

The research project also identified two alternative pathways to generate knowledge in universities, such as:

  1. Directing human capital toward relational capital emphasizes the individual features of the researchers, i.e. motivation and a bearing towards research. Remaining up-to-date in the knowledge of the study matter and research capabilities are key factors to establish work networks and focus toward the environment that will impact greater productivity in research.
  2. This reveals that research productivity can also be influenced through the human capital–structural capital pathway and relational capital.

This result implies that universities have established policies, organizational structures, procedures, incentives, and infrastructures that support researchers. Also, these elements underscore the importance of supporting institutional factors for the development of a research culture directed toward encouraging greater interaction and transferal of knowledge to society.

Finally, the study reveals that among IC dimensions some interrelationships and complementarities influence the production of knowledge, meaning that Colombian public universities may find it useful to comprehensively manage these dimensions to improve capacities and performance of the research activities.

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