Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Intellectual Freedom

Once again the Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) website has said something very profound via something seemingly as trivial as a cartoon. This cartoon entitled 'The Evolution of Intellectual Freedom' is not far off the situation one finds in many universities. Talking to colleagues in different universities, I find that, rather than being encouraged to do work that is of fundamental interest, many are under pressure to produce work that is publishable just for the sake of publication. Publications show departments and institutions in a good light. There is also pressure to apply for grants and to bring-in money. Upon this money these institutions then perform a clever bit of accountancy. The researcher granted the money, spends it for the work being supported. This sometimes means buying new equipment upon which VAT is levied. The institution then reclaims the VAT but doesn't give it back to the researcher in order to promote their work - they keep it for themselves. This practice seems to go on everywhere and not only in Britain. I've here of it in other countries across Europe. The financial undercurrents are mentioned only once in this cartoon. However, these tend to be much more prevasive in reality and lie behind much, if not all, of this cartoon.