Jeremy Dunning-Davies: Science in Turmoil - Are we Funding Fraud?
There can be little doubt in the minds of those who are involved in attempting to disseminate research results among the entire scientific community that major problems exist. It is well documented that adopting certain stances will result in an inability to publish in the majority of the so-called high impact academic journals.
There are also well documented cases of people experiencing grave difficulties in their place of work and even, on some occasions, being driven out. Amazingly, there are even cases of attempts being made – some successful – to deny research students their doctorates because their theses contain material which may cause embarrassment for some person with an inflated sense of his/her own importance. Again, more and more academics, certainly in British universities, are coming under increasing pressure to draw funds into their establishments. Note the emphasis is not on good research, or even just research, but rather on attracting more and more money.
Obviously, to achieve this, the person concerned must not give those in authority any reason to dismiss their grant applications out of hand. Hence, they must be careful to offend no-one or, in other words, they must conform. The result is that many carry out straight forward work which is easily published in reputable journals and attracts funding without problem. However, such work is often more development than true research and often does little to advance knowledge.
These mediocre individuals play the game to their own advantage though and are regularly being promoted to positions their academic ability and achievement doesn’t warrant. In due course, such people rise to positions of increasing power and authority and the status quo is strengthened further. Conventional wisdom triumphs and the innovative thinker is condemned to work and think alone under the burden of an ever-increasing teaching load.
Remember though that as one university official told an academic member of staff, “I don’t pay you to think”! With this attitude, what hope is there unless people read books such as Against the Tide and learn from them?