— Dario Ummarino (@Darioumma) November 5, 2014
Who has authority?
Who is accountable? And to whom?
Assessment is done the only sensible way – by inviting nominations as the basis for a decision on importance, this being made by a small group of distinguished scientists actively involved in each subject. No metrics, proxies, nor impact statements. No publication counts, journal impact factors, grant income. Compare with UK REF, research “performance management”, and nonsensical league tables.
Dissemination takes the form of the motivation and background to the awards. These are are models for increased public understanding of new discoveries and their significance.
The essay focuses on political language, which, according to Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell believed that the language used was necessarily vague or meaningless because it was intended to hide the truth rather than express it.
Wikipedia contributors. Politics and the English Language. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. July 25, 2014, 20:54 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Politics_and_the_English_Language&oldid=618464041. Accessed September 2, 2014.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.
George Orwell. Politics and the English Language. Wikilivres. Available at: http://wikilivres.ca/wiki/Politics_and_the_English_Language. Accessed September 2. 2014.
In my case, this question is no longer purely of academic interest. And what might “academic interest” actually now mean?
At the boundary of human knowledge, every new idea is a minority idea.
Academic freedom is not a luxury. It is a necessity.
Is there a contrary view?
A comment on Academic Freedom and the Corporate University by John Holmwood, Jul 4, 2014.
Holmwood’s post refers to a recent blog post by David Browne, Senior Associate on the Employment Team for SGH Martineau, a legal firm whose clients include managers at the University of Warwick, famed for overseeing fair play and protecting academics’ right to dissent. To quote Holmwood, Browne “..argued that universities face the problem that ‘high performing’ academics can damage their ‘university’s brand’ by their ‘outspoken opinions or general insubordination’.” Browne’s post, “Getting your teeth stuck into High Performer Misconduct” compares foul play on a football pitch with expressing an opinion. Initially puzzled, I think I finally saw some vague similarity, and wrote the following comment on Jul 12.
If one football player bites another then the referee blows a whistle and calls “foul”. If, in consequence, the referee is disciplined, then he will find it difficult to do his job. If those who discipline him do so covertly, perhaps manipulating video evidence from which independent observers may decide on whether the bite took place, then we begin to see some sort of parallel with recent events in UK universities.
Truth is the primary and overriding concern of members of a university’s academic staff. To suspend or dismiss them on the grounds that their judgement does not find favour with administrators is to negate the reason for the university’s existence in the first place. Academic freedom is not an out-dated perk. No university worthy of the name attempts to prescribe lines of enquiry, nor conclusions reached, in research, teaching and scholarship.
To quote from one institution’s Ordinances:
“Where there is any issue as to the meaning of ‘academic freedom’ in any proceedings under these Ordinances, regard shall be had to Sections VI and VII of the Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris on 11 November 1997.”
I’ve recently had cause to consult the UNESCO Recommendation Concerning the Status of Higher Education Teaching Personnel of 1997.
I recommend it.
The academic, as the referee, must retain the freedom to do what he is paid for.
Otherwise, what do universities actually do?
And what is it that their managers actually manage?