All big bucks but little bang?

August 17, 2007

Contrary to the fears of many academics ("Goodbye Blue Skies?", August 10), I do not believe that using economic criteria to judge research would be a problem if the criteria were truly "economic" - that is, valuing researchers who provide the most bang for the buck. Unfortunately, instead what matters is the most bucks that researchers acquire, regardless of their bang.

Perhaps cost-effectiveness can still be maintained under such a regime in the natural sciences. However, as someone who regularly serves as external assessor for professorships in the social sciences, I can testify to a surfeit of grant-guzzling intellectual mediocrities whose main virtue is their capacity to fund staff without troubling university coffers.

Their own rate of research return on investment is minimal, seemingly the less so the more funding they secure.

Steve Fuller

Professor of sociology

Warwick University

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