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07/02/2014

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Enzo Rossi

The tendency is clear. Even if one has tenure, research time is only allowed if the research agenda fits within the priorities of the powers that be -- governments, the Templetons of this world, corporations. We're not there yet (and at UvA we're lucky to have 40% of research time in the basic contract), but if governments get their way we'll be there soon. So, while I don't deny the positive effects you mention (breaking up local boys' clubs etc.), this tendency is a frontal attack on academic freedom. Sadly I can see lots of people in my cohort (2008 PhD) already institutionalised in this 'professional' modus operandi. Generally, the younger the colleagues and the more 'applied/me too' their research, the more on board with the system.

I'm very sceptical of principled arguments' chances of winning the day. They come across as special pleading. And in politics nobody is interested in hearing why they're wrong anyway, unless there's something in it for them. Since money is doing the talking here, our only hope is to convince the powers that be that blue skies (ugh) research is more profitable in the medium term. Actually that's not enough. We need to convince them that the increase in profit is worth more than control over research agendas. A hard sell. As it were.

Enzo Rossi

P.S. As an aside, though this may only apply to the NL, it is worth mentioning the perverse incentive to use grant money to fund PhD students, since universities get a substantial sum from the government upon successful PhD defences. This only compounds the academic unemployment problem, which in turn makes it harder to fight for better conditions, which makes it harder to resist the pressure to get grants. So I think a practical step could be to collectively stop using grant money to pay for PhDs, and only appoint postdocs. Temporary/part time teaching posts should also be resisted as much as possible, as they cheapen our labour. Perhaps we need to move back towards to the pre-capitalist economy of medieval guilds, with tight supply side controls -- after all that's how universities started out.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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