What is 21stC?TWENTY-FIRST C IS ABOUT RESEARCH at Columbia University. By understanding the purpose, process, and products of university research, we understand more about the culture we live in. No human activity is more complex, introspective, or vital than the effort to inquire about the nature of the universe. To understand how a society advances research is to understand that society.
Modern research universities, Columbia and others, were created as vehicles to house and stimulate this essential process. Research looks inward and outward simultaneously, seeking both to understand and change the world; it generates the ideas that guide us. No subject is too vast or too miniscule to attract a researcher's attention, nor should it be. The products of research-whether they consist of new scientific discoveries, advanced technologies, knowledge about behavior, understanding of the past, insights into society, a comprehension of the human condition, or an insight into the meaning of artistic expression-help shape our world. A research university is by definition multidisciplinary and multifaceted.
21stC begins with the premise that a great university is both a microcosm of society and one of the forces that drive society. The subjects that dominate lives also drive research, because all research is an effort to understand some part of what people face in daily life. It follows that the research engine that drives Columbia deserves the attention of citizens inside and outside of the university. Our articles focus on research by showing the depth and diversity of discovery, displaying the complex methodologic approaches to a vast spectrum of topics, demonstrating how a subject may weave through various disciplines or illustrating how different researchers view similar topics in different ways. 21stC believes that by highlighting the diverse character of research across the entire university, we have a better understanding of the university and, ultimately, of ourselves.
Some will quarrel with the focus on research, in the belief that teaching is what the university should be about. 21stC believes that research and teaching go hand in hand. Future issues of 21stC will explore this complex relationship in detail.
21stC is interested in how knowledge moves from the research university to the general public, especially through the news media. The media commonly strive for objectivity, but they are anything but transparent; in the fullest sense of the term, they mediate. They select, edit, develop, spin, and to a large extent control the information that we all rely on; they do these things whether they are covering political events, human-interest stories, or research-related news. 21stC believes that this mediating activity itself deserves scrutiny-including both criticism when research findings are misrepresented and fair appreciation when the press does its job well. Our column "Metanews" is intended to highlight the transitions and translations between investigators based at Columbia and other institutions and the general populace. We believe that "news about the news" is always worth our readers' attention.
21stC's readers include anyone who wants to know more about what is happening at Columbia and who believes that research is important to the world and to society at large. To make this Columbia-based perspective accessible beyond the campus, 21stC will take the form of both this World Wide Web site http://www.21stC.org/ and a print edition
We invite your comments on this inaugural issue and your suggestions for future issues. Please write us. We look forward to many years of serving the Columbia community and the world.