File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 151

Date:         Tue, 29 Jul 2008 07:06:48 +0100
From: Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty-AT-MCCARTY.ORG.UK>
Subject: 22.149 remaking universities in the image of business
To: humanist-AT-Princeton.EDU

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 149.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to:

         Date: Tue, 29 Jul 2008 06:34:07 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <>
         Subject: remaking universities in the image of business

Those here concerned with the future of our universities might wish to
read and to circulate a paper by Robert Laughlin, Professor of Physics
at Stanford and Nobel Laureate (1998), "Truth, Ownership, and Scientific
Tradition", Physics Today 55.12 (December 2002), available at
Following is a brief extract. (See for more 
on Laughlin; note in particular his book, A Different Universe.).

> Although outright fabrication of data
> by scientists is rare, scientific deception is commonplace.
> The academic who refuses to exaggerate in proposals, for
> example, will not get grants. The industrial worker who
> explains the core of his technical niche to someone else
> will jeopardize his job. Even at Bell Labs in its heyday it
> was common for the scientists working in the public domain
> to be ignorant of matters deeply important to the
> company even while being exhorted to be "relevant"
> because the knowledgeable technical people would not
> reveal the problems to them. The mandate to generate
> peoperty forces us to deceive. Members of Congress and
> managers in the NSF and other federal agencies would
> do well to reflect on this effect and understand that some
> fraction of the industrial-style research portfolo of which
> they are so proud is simply lies....
> In this sense ownership,
> more accurately the secrecy it necessitates, is not the
> engine of progress but its enemy. One cannot both expose
> knowledge to scrutiny and keep it for one's self to
> sell. It has to be be one or the other.
> This process is why making over universities in the
> image of business is such a terrible idea. The great
> power of university research is its openness and the inherent
> truthfulness -- stemming from this openness -- of the
> knowledge it generates.

One could collect many similar statements from those who in the 
estimation of society at large exemplify what universities are supposed 
to be for, who advise in the strongest possible terms against the path 
down which we appear to be going. I think also of John Polanyi (Nobel 
Prize in chemistry, 1986), "In Search of the Passionate Idea",



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