So argues English professor Mark Bauerlein in a new study published by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, I comment on the study.
Bauerlein finds that more colleges and universities have jumped on the research bandwagon over the last several decades and also that the volume of published research that is necessary for tenure has been rising. All that outpouring of scholarly work, however, is of little benefit (at least in the field of literary criticism, which is the subject of Bauerlein’s investigation; I suspect we would find the same thing in many other disciplines) since books and articles are so rarely read or even cited. The costs, however, are substantial — the explicit cost of paying professors about a third of their salary to do that work, and the implicit cost of diverting time and effort away from other educational efforts that would be of more use to students.
In today's Pope Center piece, Jay Schalin writes about the way the UNC English Department has stonewalled his efforts at gathering information on the research publications of faculty members. It seems that they don't want the public to know what its money is being used for; one suspects that is because they know that much faculty research is of negligible value. Receipt of public funding should mean complete transparency in return.
An NAS member sent me this video for fundraising at Princeton, describing the work of the university's office of sustainability. There are a few things in this video to be concerned about. The effort to “induce a culture change,” to “incorporate those principles into our daily decisions,” is all part of the steady movement to guide people into a particular, “correct” way of thinking and acting. The removal of trays from dining halls is a perfect example of this. It’s a relatively small change, but it’s a daily reinforcement of new habits. I wrote about this in “Tray Chic.” And the young woman with the title “sustainability fellow” is one of the new generation of activists that self-reproduces. Activist administrators recruit students to get involved on campus and hire them once they graduate so they will become activist administrators. The recycling process thus applies to people, not just plastic.
In this Chronicle article, Mark Bauerlein, Mohamad Gad-el-Hak, Wayne Grody, Bill McKelvey and Stanley Trimble discuss the vast outpouring of academic research that is mostly redundant and wasteful. No surprise there. We heavily subsidize academic research and as any good economist will tell you, when you subsidize anything, you get too much of it and much of the output will be of low quality. I recall seeing a 60 Minutes segment many years ago on the effects of art subsidies in The Netherlands -- the government had warehouses filled with paintings no one would buy. Instead of warehouses filled with bad paintings, we have journals filled with research no one would pay for. Academic research is no more intrinsically good than is art and if you sever the connection between production and voluntary financial support, you wind up wasting resources.
Cross posted from www.NAS.org NAS members, have you published books or articles in the last year? Let us know. We'd love to highlight your work in our weekly email newsletter. We want to bring it to the attention of your NAS friends and colleagues. If you have a book or article in the works, let us know when it comes out. Note, we are interested in specialized scholarly and scientific publications as well as writing aimed at more general audiences. Novels and poems count too - and if you have a blog we will also mention that. Contact NAS by emailing email@example.com or calling 609-683-7878. To receive our email newsletter, click here.
I got this email from the National Teach-In for Global Warming as part of an "Education for Sustainability" listserv to which I subscribe:
Dear Colleagues and Friends, The hacked e-mails from climate scientists have energized the denialist community: one of the most jaw-dropping comments came from “Superfreakonomics” co-author Steven Dubner who told Fox News that “scientists were “colluding” with Al Gore in “distorting evidence.” He insisted that “you can’t read these emails and feel that the IPCC’s or the major climate scientists’ findings and predictions about global warming are kosher.” Now you too can help “hide the decline”. No, not a (non-existent) decline in the global temperature data, but a decline in the voices of people who understand the science. As educators, many of us are stunned that a few private e-mails are somehow calling into question three decades of peer-reviewed research by thousands of the world’s top scientists. Nevertheless, because you and I are not speaking out, but the deniers are, it is happening, and we have the obligation to set the record straight. What can you do? 1. Help us organize statewide conference calls with your US Senate offices this spring. We need to get 500 people on the line each from Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Nevada and 46 other states—to have a real conversation with Senate staff about real issues. The Bard Center for Environmental Policy will do all the work setting up the calls, but we need your help getting the word out. To learn more, give me a call at 845-758-8067, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 2. Call your US Senate Office today (find the numbers here) and let them know that these e-mails have in no way undermined the scientific case of global warming, and that the planet is in fact heating up just as scientists have predicted. A great Peter Sinclair video explaining the issue is here. 3. Send in letter on the e-mails to the editor, or write an op-ed for your regional paper. Next Wednesday, December 16th, I will be calling into on The National Climate Seminar live from Copenhagen. While it is clear that “a grand deal” will not emerge in the next two weeks, I will be discussing whether a binding international agreement appears possible to emerge by next year’s meetings in Mexico, and what that might look like. Join us at 3 PM eastern—call in info is here. Finally: please support young people’s efforts in Copenhagen— take the daily student opinion poll POPCOP15: see the letter from Dickinson College letter below. And see the note as well about a cool Copenhagen curriculum, Citizen Climate, for high school students from the Will Steger Foundation. Thanks for the work you are doing. Professor Eban Goodstein Director, National Teach-In on Global Warming
Dr. Tim Ball has written an article in the November 21 Canada Free Press in which he calls leading climatologists "frauds." He bases this on computer-based information obtained by someone who hacked into the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit server. The pro-anthropogenic climate change media, such as Associated Press and the Washington Post, emphasize the ethical issues associated with the hacking of the computers but downplay the implications for the credibility of pro-anthropogenic academics. The damage seems to be more serious than the Post yet admits. In his Canada Free Press article Ball raises questions not only about the credibility of climatological research but of the academic peer review process generally. Given widespread public interest in this topic, increased public scrutiny of peer review and of university research may be a collateral effect of the scandal. Concerning the peer review process generally Ball writes:
I was always suspicious about why peer review was such a big deal. Now all my suspicions are confirmed. The emails reveal how they controlled the process, including manipulating some of the major journals like Science and Nature. We know the editor of the Journal of Climate, Andrew Weaver, was one of the “community”. They organized lists of reviewers when required making sure they gave the editor only favorable names. They threatened to isolate and marginalize one editor who they believed was recalcitrant.
We may ask whether this kind of bias exists elsewhere in universities. If climate change has been politicized, what about studies like labor relations, law, sociology and economics?
That's what Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig said at the recent Educause conference. "You Geeks Have to Become Radical, Militant Activists" for the sharing of ideas, he commanded. Now that companies like Lessig's Creative Commons are making "Share Alike" licenses, will intellectual property become a thing of the past? See also my article "Open-Ended" on open education.
NAS welcomes In Character, a journal about everyday virtues. In seeking to restore higher education to its "higher" quality, we must pursue the moral uplift of the university. This thoughtful journal takes steps toward that goal; by looking at virtue through the lens of public policy, the humanities, religion, and the sciences, In Character holds up the standard of integrity.