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On the Research University, and on Good Science – two articles/blogs you should read.

April 29, 2014

I’ve been working on trying to teach myself how to do a meta-analysis. With no really clear results yet (someone needs to help me, I think, though I get the gist of it, enough to worry about messing things up). This means massive blog neglect.

But, others have kept up blogging and writing articles. I wanted to share a couple of those.

The first I got via Stephen Hsu – It’s a Chronicel Article by Nicholas Lemann, called The soul of the research university. I have been thinking about the University – the conflict (and status differential) between research and teaching, and how that historically came about. I think this article answers some of those questions, although I appreciate any historian piping up and setting me and others straight.

It clearly highlights the perception problem between on the one hand the Research Focus from inside research institutions, and the Education focus, which seems to be the perception from outside the research institutions.

It also lifts up a couple of what I would consider economic questions (economists feel free to correct me here also): The research that universities engage in is, in many ways, high risk endeavors. No guarantee of pay-off, and if pay-offs they may very well be far in the future (when did the internet begin? Early 60’s? Yes, I know, defense and things, but also universities, if I recall.)

Also, it brings up what is called Baumol’s disease, which I first heard from an online teacher friend. Person centered work – like teaching, research, live playing, certain services – cannot be automated effectively (as much as the MOOC’s try). But, they still have to be paid, and they cannot be made cheaper. (Well, even with the adjunctification). I’m not sure I would cast that in “disease” terms – I figure much of all the progress we make were originally so that we could live well as humans – but it is a dynamic to consider.

It really is worth a read, and I would like to read more on the area, as I’m very interested in these kinds of policy questions.

The second is from Brent Roberts, on the PIGEE blog. It’s a follow up on his Deathly Hallows post (read that too), and focuses on his scary vision of good science, a vision that involves asking good interesting questions, and damn the direction of the results. As he says, BOO.

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