Claire Fox argues in typically bellicose manner for battle to commence in the university sector. She ponders why there has been no backlash against projects such as Beacons for Public Engagement in defence of disinterested, curiosity-driven research.
Surely the last thing that the university sector needs to do at the moment is to turn on itself and waste its energy on infighting? No one involved in the Beacons project would for one minute dispute the critical importance of blue-skies research, but neither would they deny the value of opening up their academic work to the knowledge and expertise that exists outside their university. In such difficult times as these, it is surely perilous to dismiss the importance of involving the public more fully in our work.
If Fox is prepared to leave her armour in the wardrobe and equip herself instead with the curiosity she so strongly advocates, we would welcome her - and anyone else who is interested - to an open-house event in Bristol on 25 November to find out more about the Beacons project and the place of public engagement in academic life.
Paul Manners, Director, National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement; www.publicengagement.ac.uk.