In the article “Young academics’ research ‘elegant but not interesting’ ” (News, 23 February), Richard Robison, discussing the increasing “conservatism” of young scholars’ papers, says: “Ironically, the people who are writing the most outrageous stuff tend to be older academics who’ve got nothing to lose, who can publish in these journals simply because of their reputation.”
There is no irony here: it is precisely the condition that a two-tier research culture, split between tenured and precarious academics, is designed to create. It should also be noted that the peer review process can iron out the radical as a condition of publication.
Bold research is being done, but it might not get into mainstream journals, so it is disseminated via alternative venues including open access platforms, blogs and other less traditional outlets.
What is happening in journals reflects what is happening in universities themselves. I am lucky to have some astonishingly radical tutors and to be surrounded by similarly radical, critical peers.
However, universities are run increasingly like businesses, which creates an environment that discourages genuinely important work and research and instead valorises what will make the beneficiaries of our universities a quick buck. Researchers infected with this mindset will often curtail their own thought in order to succeed in their field. Universities are meant to be for critical thought.