The role of the academic in the built environment seems generally to be not well understood or articulated. While this problem is not unique to our field, there are plenty of examples in a wide range of academic disciplines where the academic role has been fully articulated. But built environment academics have tended not to look beyond their own literature and their own vocational context in trying to give meaning to their academic work. The purpose of this keynote presentation is to explore the context of academic work generally and the connections between education, research and practice in the built environment, specifically. By drawing on ideas from the sociology of the professions, the role of universities, and the fundamentals of social science research, a case is made that helps to explain the kind of problems that routinely obstruct academic progress in our field. This discussion reveals that while there are likely to be great weaknesses in much of what is published and taught in the built environment, it is not too great a stretch to provide a more robust understanding and a good basis for developing our field in a way that would enable us collectively to make a major contribution to theory-building, theory-testing and to make a good stab at tackling some of the problems facing society at large. There is no reason to disregard the fundamental academic disciplines that underpin our knowledge of the built environment. If we contextualise our work in these more fundamental disciplines, there is every reason to think that we can have a much greater impact that we have experienced to date
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