Mind the Gap: Research and Practice

Mind the Gap: Research and Practice

We have many talented engineers in our geotechnical field, in both academia and practice. Without research by academia, we do not have many advancements and improvement in design and construction practices. However, academia is sometimes too ‘academic’ for industry, or does not fully understand what industry needs or wants. At other times, industry is too used to usual practice and reluctant to try products from recent research. Closing the gap between research and practice is always a great topic of discussion in the geotechnical field.

As a member of industry, I completely understand that it is not easy to apply new technology. For example, there is a lot of research about application of machine learning in geotechnical engineering but it is not commonly used in industry at the moment. One of the possible reasons, is that the new technology is completely new to geotechnical engineers. As engineers, we often don’t have the time to understand the new theories and algorithms to see how they apply in our work. In addition, there might not be enough evidence or data to support the new technology, so clients or authorities may be reluctant to apply the new technology. If there is no significant and immediate benefit, industry will tend to stick with usual practice.

Researchers, at times, do not focus on meeting practitioners’ needs during research. This is understandable, as they may have their own research goals, and they have to publish their research in journals which are often not practically orientated. On the other hand, researchers may not have full control of the research topic. Researches may have to compete for funding and they have to propose topics that interest funding agencies.

It is not easy to bring research and practice together. It would be great if we could apply recent research from academia in industry. Do you have any ideas how to bridge the gap or examples of how this is being achieved? Click here to give your opinions or suggestions on how to reduce the gap between research and practice.

About the author:

Ceres Chung is an enthusiastic and professional geotechnical engineer with over twelve years experience since graduation. She has been involved in a variety of geotechnical design works, including site formation, foundation, and deep excavation in different countries/ cities, including Hong Kong, Mainland China, Ireland and Sweden.


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