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View Full Version : Academia exposed, a masterly wind up


sitigeltfel
3rd Oct 2018, 19:19
"For the past year scholars James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian have sent fake papers to various academic journals which they describe as specialising in activism or “grievance studies.” Their stated mission has been to expose how easy it is to get “absurdities and morally fashionable political ideas published as legitimate academic research.”

To date, their project has been successful: seven papers have passed through peer review and have been published, including a 3000 word excerpt of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, rewritten in the language of Intersectionality theory and published in the Gender Studies journal Affilia."

https://quillette.com/2018/10/01/the-grievance-studies-scandal-five-academics-respond/

Instead of justifiable awards for this brilliant attack on the absurdities of some academic positions, they will probably be crucified by the truth deniers.


How they accomplished it...

https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/

racedo
3rd Oct 2018, 19:32
Universitys were once a place of learning where they opposed the convential thinking with their openess and willingness to look at new ideas.

Now however they and academia have become places of Intolerance while funded from the public teat.
Long as someone else pays then who cares seems to be the mantra.

Hussar 54
3rd Oct 2018, 19:55
Universitys were once a place of learning where they opposed the convential thinking with their openess and willingness to look at new ideas.

Now however they and academia have become places of Intolerance while funded from the public teat.
Long as someone else pays then who cares seems to be the mantra.


Only sort of....

Universities in the UK are now more or less fully fledged autonomous businesses.

Our daughter is a Senior Lecturer at a fairly decent UK Uni - it's the third one she's worked at.

In June, the Uni announced that her Department, which has 17 Professors / Readers / Lecturers would be making four of the staff outright redundant and the remaining 13 staff would have to reapply for the eight posts which will remain following this ' realignment of focus ' The stayers and the leavers will be announced in December.

Meanwhile, the Uni is investing almost 18 million ( maybe a bit more or a bit less ) in a new campus in Asia.

Offshoring, it seems, isn't just restricted to manufacturing and call centres.

To be honest, she's so fed up with the Politics of Academia in the UK that after 10 years she isn't bothered whether she keeps her job or not because, as she says, she could triple her salary doing exactly the same job in an American University.

wiggy
3rd Oct 2018, 20:24
Meanwhile, the Uni is investing almost 18 million ( maybe a bit more or a bit less ) in a new campus in Asia.

Offshoring, it seems, isn't just restricted to manufacturing and call centres.

Yep...my alma mater started heavily pushing it's "product" in the Far East over 40 years back...Just today I got an e-mail inviting me to a "remote" graduation ceremony in Beijing on the basis that I might just be passing....one of these days I'll surprise them all by going to one of these events and pick up the paperwork I didn't bother with in 19XX..

Hope it works out OK for your daughter; mine is currently teaching/studying in the French system where as I'm sure you will know they don't quite have the same pressure...yet......but she has been warned.

Just a spotter
3rd Oct 2018, 21:07
One of the most serious problems with third level institutions today is that they have bought into the idea of rankings based on how much research they produce.

As such, teaching staff and some support staff, along with the traditional Phd and research fellows are being diverted into writing papers rather than doing what the primary role of said institution should be, providing a quality education. These papers then all compete to be published.

Most institutions know this problem exists, some even speak out against the current basis of the rankings, but none are actively campaigning for the rankings to be ignored,reformed or abolished.

Perhaps if someone wrote a paper on a better way to rank universities and colleges ....

JAS

B Fraser
3rd Oct 2018, 21:15
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Manchester University

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-45717841

…..or maybe not. The world's gone fekkin mad.

racedo
3rd Oct 2018, 21:21
Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for Manchester University

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-45717841

..or maybe not. The world's gone fekkin mad.

So the only Clap allowed at Manchester University will be the one that needs medical er assistance.

wiggy
3rd Oct 2018, 22:13
As such, teaching staff and some support staff, along with the traditional Phd and research fellows are being diverted into writing papers rather than doing what the primary role of said institution should be, providing a quality education

I’ll start out by saying I apologise if I misunderstand you here, but using that dreaded expression of “.back in the day”, and I’m talking about over 40 years ago, I thought the role of a University, the PhD’s and research fellows was supposed to be doing research and writing papers...teaching the undergrads was seen as a major inconvenience which had to be done for political/funding reasons but it sure as heck wasn’t seen as the reason the various departments existed.

Where I was in the ‘70s (University of Essex) our electronics departments was heavily tied in doing research funded by the GPO/BT or whoever it was at the time at Martlesham Heath and the Physics department’s focus of interest of lasers and semi-conductors again being pretty much steered by the same interests. You’d get the various research fellows and the more senior staff out of the basement labs just long enough to give you a severe talking at about quantum mechanics, or difficult maths and then they’d be back down the coal hole again....whether you’d call it teaching or not...

I think as undergrads we just tried to survive the very variable teaching standards on offer and sorted the learning bit out ourselves, for better or worse, sink or swim...IMHO the idea of universities in the U.K. existing as primarily a centre of teaching, and that university rankings should be based on teaching standards rather than their research output is, rightly or wrongly, a new phenomenon, though given undergrads are now paying 9k plus a year for the experience I can see why expectations have changed.

Gertrude the Wombat
3rd Oct 2018, 22:29
I’ll start out by saying I apologise if I misunderstand you here, but using that dreaded expression of “.back in the day”, and I’m talking about over 40 years ago, I thought the role of a University, the PhD and research fellows was supposed to be doing research and writing papers...teaching the undergrads was seen as a major inconvenience which had to be done for political/funding reasons but it sure as heck wasn’t seen as the reason the various departments existed.
There have been attempts over the decades to get a sensible balance, but of course if you impose targets then people will aim at the targets, not at what the targets were supposedly designed to measure.

It's not just journals that end up publishing crap, it's academic book publishers that get caught up in this too.

To get tenure, or get some brownie (ie target) points for the department, or whatever, a certain number of books must be published. But ... not quite yet, because you also get brownie points for having books under contract. Which means that the academics are under intense pressure to sign up publishers to write books ... and then having got the contract, and got the tenure or the brownie points or whatever, they are then, obviously, far too busy to actually write the book. And then they act all surprised when they get a letter from the publisher five years later saying "unless you deliver the finished manuscript by Thursday the contract is cancelled". (Actually this doesn't bother some of them - they just keep "book under contract to XXX" on their CVs on their department web sites long after the contract has been torn up.)

Which is leading to publishers being far more likely than they used to be to say "deliver the complete manuscript first, then we'll decide whether we want to publish it; no manuscript, no contract".

wiggy
3rd Oct 2018, 22:49
Interesting and thanks..there are times when I look back longingly at the offer I had to stay on at Essex and do an M.Sc and wonder “what if” but the Air Force (who paid for the B.Sc) had other ideas and my maths was carp anyway......sounds like I was better off out of it.

double_barrel
4th Oct 2018, 04:57
My better half has been doing some CPD courses through a very well known (Ivy League) US University. I have to say I was shocked at the lack of rigour and the ease with which unacceptable text was converted to highly praised and high scoring text by the addition of some buzzwords. So framing the same content as a theory of change or prefacing it with a sentence on someone's (vague post-modern and trivially obvious) theory of something suddenly made it into a work of genius. It's all very depressing. But I suppose it was always thus, not so long ago you had to frame everything as an illustration of god's wisdom or you would be burned at the stake!


Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances...[is rewarded]


That is exactly what she found, and quickly adapted to gain high scores for the same content! Thus contributing to a self reinforcing decline of standards

Mac the Knife
4th Oct 2018, 07:14
One of the most serious problems with third level institutions today is that they have bought into the idea of rankings based on how much research they produce. As such, teaching staff and some support staff, along with the traditional Phd and research fellows are being diverted into writing papers rather than doing what the primary role of said institution should be, providing a quality education. These papers then all compete to be published. Most institutions know this problem exists, some even speak out against the current basis of the rankings, but none are actively campaigning for the rankings to be ignored,reformed or abolished.

I would guess that in my field <20% of papers are worth publishing/reading (and that is very high!). The rest are just summaries of summaries, blindingly obvious, statistically dubious (if not actually untrue), irrelevant to 99% of readers and just padding.

Most have a multitude of authors (including the Head of Department of course), most of whom have had only the most tenuous participation in the work. And subscriptions to the journals are extremely expensive.

And all this garbage HAS to be produced because the unit needs to preserve it's ranking and the authors their tenure. It's numbers that count, not quality, and peer-review is a joke (you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours).

Thank God, Open Access journal are starting to become more common. Apart from the Pay-to-Publish sector, there are generally more timely, more relevant, more interesting and, as I judge it, no less reliable.

Mac

Hokulea
4th Oct 2018, 07:44
Mac's post is excellent. Some of it doesn't really apply to my own field (astronomy/astrophysics), but most university researchers/lecturers have to produce papers to keep funding coming into the department. One big difference between much of what is published in my field and, for example, medicine, is the lack of rigorous statistics in medicine and similar subjects, something Mac alludes to, and to my eye just seems to be a way to get more funding. Mac - I'm curious if "impact" is used to rate scientific papers in medicine. It can be complicated to calculate but is essentially a measure of how important a paper is and is based on a few factors, not least the number of citations. Interestingly, it also means a bad paper could theoretically get a high impact rating if it's heavily cited as being bad!

The open access journal is becoming a big thing in my field as well. I think most of us are fed up having to pay so much money to get access to journals while also having to pay to publish in them. Open access is the way to go. I'm glad to see it's happening in other scientific fields. It also means the public have access to the papers instead of having to pay $50 just to read a paper that was publically funded to write in the first place.

As for teaching at universities, it is hit and miss I think. I was lucky, I graduated in a place that had very enthusiastic young lecturers who were current in research but also loved teaching. However, none of them had any formal training in education which is extremely common in academia. What made them good teachers is that they were involved in current research and brought that knowledge and enthusiasm into their courses, so having lecturers involved in current research is essential in my opinion. But how do you allow those people to have the time to do research while having a heavy teaching workload? As a rule of thumb, a one hour lecture requires about 10-hours of preperation, at least for someone teaching a course for the first time. I think it's almost inevitable you're going to end up with burned out university staff that ends up struggling to both teach and carries out research.

As a disclaimer, I do not know how things work in the humanities or non-scientific fields. I also don't teach undergraduates and don't work at a university (I used to) but am involved with research and work with many colleagues who do work at universities, both in the UK and US.

Hydromet
4th Oct 2018, 08:17
One big difference between much of what is published in my field and, for example, medicine, is the lack of rigorous statistics in medicine and similar subjects

Perhaps this is an example, or perhaps the exception that proves the rule.
How fast does the grim reaper walk? (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22174324)

Hokulea
4th Oct 2018, 08:31
Thanks, Hydromet, an excellent article and also free to all:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3240682/

but will have to defer to Mac as it's his field. ;)

tescoapp
4th Oct 2018, 08:56
A paper surfaced on the coffee table at work years ago about some medical stuff about why women's bums tend to get bigger while pregnant.

Load of medical guff about lipoprotein lipase etc.

Pregnant Prof who was of a structural eng flavour had a look and declared it bollocks, it was obviously because the body was creating a counter balance for the bump out the front.

Ogre
4th Oct 2018, 09:01
I did hear recently that the vst majority if not all of the "Humanities" papers are only published because there is a process whereby someone gets paid to publish, well anything that gets written.

The next sentence was that none of these "Humanities" papers ever got used.

With so called safe spaces, trigger warnings, and all the other guff that seems to be floating about (was it not Manchester Unit who recently rebelled about the unit painting one of Kiplings poems on the wall of the common room because he was considered sexist/imperialist/rascist/other ?) I really wonder what the youth of the next decade will actually be taught

wiggy
4th Oct 2018, 09:02
A paper entitled "The Micropsychiatric Applications of Thiotimoline" caused some contoversy in the science world a few decades back.....



;) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiotimoline)

Hussar 54
4th Oct 2018, 09:19
I think as undergrads we just tried to survive the very variable teaching standards on offer and sorted the learning bit out ourselves, for better or worse, sink or swim...IMHO the idea of universities in the U.K. existing as primarily a centre of teaching, and that university rankings should be based on teaching standards rather than their research output is, rightly or wrongly, a new phenomenon, though given undergrads are now paying 9k plus a year for the experience I can see why expectations have changed.

Our daughter wrote this article in The Guardian a couple of years ago which I think sums up the problem of what might be going wrong with the Unis now so dependent on quantity of students rather than the quality of the students if they want to survive the new financial environment.

https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/dec/18/my-students-have-paid-9000-and-now-they-think-they-own-me

racedo
4th Oct 2018, 10:38
Our daughter wrote this article in The Guardian a couple of years ago which I think sums up the problem of what might be going wrong with the Unis now so dependent on quantity of students rather than the quality of the students if they want to survive the new financial environment.

https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/dec/18/my-students-have-paid-9000-and-now-they-think-they-own-me

In all likelihood littlies will not go to Uni in the UK as not wholly convinced that coming out with 100k debt................ they still years off Uni so expect it to be that plus is the way to go.

Have discussed it and likely will go within Europe but as they will be likely tri lingual by then I don't see it as much of a problem.

Nemrytter
4th Oct 2018, 14:24
Oh good, it's the usual suspects moaning about something they have no experience, knowledge or expertise in/of.

Regarding the authors of the article in the original post [https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/...f-scholarship/ (https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/)], you might like to reflect upon the biases of those authors. In particular with respect to the word 'fraud'. Once you've learned the background then perhaps you lot can comment, otherwise you're just a hypocrite.

racedo
4th Oct 2018, 16:19
Oh good, it's the usual suspects moaning about something they have no experience, knowledge or expertise in/of.

Regarding the authors of the article in the original post [[url=https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/]https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/...f-scholarship/], you might like to reflect upon the biases of those authors. In particular with respect to the word 'fraud'. Once you've learned the background then perhaps you lot can comment, otherwise you're just a hypocrite.

You are aware this is JB.......................... HYPOCRISY rules.

If you want a high brow academic discussion then you really have no idea where you are or where you are going.

WingNut60
5th Oct 2018, 11:41
Oh good, it's the usual suspects moaning about something they have no experience, knowledge or expertise in/of.

Regarding the authors of the article in the original post [[url=https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/academic-grievance-studies-and-the-corruption-of-scholarship/]https://areomagazine.com/2018/10/02/...f-scholarship/], you might like to reflect upon the biases of those authors. In particular with respect to the word 'fraud'. Once you've learned the background then perhaps you lot can comment, otherwise you're just a hypocrite.

By my interpretation, they did not claim that the explanation that they gave was an unbiased opinion, or a paper subject to peer review.
They were just explaining what they did.

belfrybat
5th Oct 2018, 14:01
It might serve as a basis for a paper on the credulity of academia.

double_barrel
5th Oct 2018, 14:12
Oh good, it's the usual suspects moaning about something they have no experience, knowledge or expertise in/of.


This is something about which I have a great deal of experience, knowledge and expertise in/of.
I have over 200 research papers published - some of them might even be useful.
I share the concerns referred to in the OP.

Gertrude the Wombat
5th Oct 2018, 19:55
I have over 200 research papers published - some of them might even be useful.
:D:ok::) Sounds genuine to me :)

Hokulea
6th Oct 2018, 06:32
By my interpretation, they did not claim that the explanation that they gave was an unbiased opinion, or a paper subject to peer review.
They were just explaining what they did.I think that's pretty much how I see it plus they also provided the links to the papers they managed to get published in supposedly peer-reviewed academic journals. I think they did everyone a favour by showing how some journals are not quite as rigorous as they ought to be. It's analogous to journalists or security authorities testing airport security by trying to get explosives etc through airport security and then reporting how easy or difficult it was to do.

Gertrude - obviously I can't verify double_barrel's claim, but in a few fields (one of them being mine), it's common for some of the more research-orientated scientists to have several hundred papers with their names on them as either the first author or a co-author.

Ogre
6th Oct 2018, 09:38
I think that's pretty much how I see it plus they also provided the links to the papers they managed to get published in supposedly peer-reviewed academic journals. I think they did everyone a favour by showing how some journals are not quite as rigorous as they ought to be.

After reading the article and some of the papers, I think it shows that some of the peer reviewers out there will pass anything that agrees with their political leanings! I though the point of the peer review was to check the facts and the logical thought process the paper described, not give them something new they could get warm and fuzzy about.

As a colleague of mine has been heard to describe similar situations, "It's a bit of a self licking lollipop..."

Hokulea
6th Oct 2018, 10:08
Ogre - sort of agree with your friend, but in the more rigorous physical sciences, I think it is much harder to get away with publishing nonsense. Not having worked in the humanities, I can't say the same for the latter. During my career, I've been asked to referee papers (a lot less now as my job allows little time for real research). Of those papers, the ones I could offer my expertise got a professional review, the others I sent back saying you need to find an expert in the field and it isn't me. One in particular sticks in my mind. It was written by a Polish author who was well respected in his field. The science was good but the English was awful. I provided a referee's report but told the journal I didn't have the time to deal with the language problems. To my delight, they told me not to worry about that as long as the science was OK and the author addressed my concerns; the journal's editors would take care of the language.

The paper was eventually published in perfect English and turned out to show a very important result. I could have just replied to the journal and said "yeah, looks good to me" but doubt it would have been published if I'd done that - or, they would have looked elsewhere.

Then again, this wasn't the humanities and I have no idea how rigorous research is done in that field, but as the article we're discussing suggests, it really isn't hard to publish nonsense and I'm glad this has been pointed out.

double_barrel
6th Oct 2018, 11:02
Gertrude - obviously I can't verify double_barrel's claim, but in a few fields (one of them being mine), it's common for some of the more research-orientated scientists to have several hundred papers with their names on them as either the first author or a co-author.

I am only 1st author on perhaps 15% of them, last author on maybe 25% and among a bunch of others for the rest. To grossly over simplify - in my subject area, 1st author tends to be the person who did the bulk of the work - often a PhD student or post-doc - and the last author tends to be the group leader. I know different fields order authors differently.

Hokulea
6th Oct 2018, 11:16
It obviously depends on the nature of the paper, but my experience is exactly the same as double_barrel's.

racedo
6th Oct 2018, 12:12
After reading the article and some of the papers, I think it shows that some of the peer reviewers out there will pass anything that agrees with their political leanings!."

Which means pander to the idiots and they will just approve.
Kind of scary how Academic Thought and Research comes down to throwning in a few bones to pander to someone's prejudices.

Hokulea
6th Oct 2018, 12:40
Which means pander to the idiots and they will just approve.
Kind of scary how Academic Thought and Research comes down to throwning in a few bones to pander to someone's prejudices.Please remember this doesn't apply to the physical sciences. Even inappropriate capitalizing of words won't get you published and "throwning in a few bones" doesn't work. Again, maybe some need to understand that there is a difference between academics who work in the humanities and those who work in the sciences. Both groups have academics but there is a big difference when it comes to how credible their research is, and the article showed that.

Unfortunately, the lack of any rigor in the editing and peer-review process of a few humanities-based journals is being used make all academia look like a bunch of idiots, which is clearly not the case.

racedo
6th Oct 2018, 13:33
Please remember this doesn't apply to the physical sciences. Even inappropriate capitalizing of words won't get you published and "throwning in a few bones" doesn't work. Again, maybe some need to understand that there is a difference between academics who work in the humanities and those who work in the sciences. Both groups have academics but there is a big difference when it comes to how credible their research is, and the article showed that.

Unfortunately, the lack of any rigor in the editing and peer-review process of a few humanities-based journals is being used make all academia look like a bunch of idiots, which is clearly not the case.

In physical sciences in the majority of cases it can be tested, in Humanities I agree it becomes supposition and theoretical.
Both get tarred with same brush.

Armchairflyer
6th Oct 2018, 14:09
To be fair, there are a lot of journals with good methodological standards in the social sciences, too. But they don't pursue any political agenda.

evansb
6th Oct 2018, 14:19
The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) is 947 pages deep. Keep in mind that psychiatry is an unproven branch of the medical arts. Psychiatry is a theoretical branch of medicine. Kinda like yoga and therapeutic massage.

Hokulea
6th Oct 2018, 14:49
In physical sciences in the majority of cases it can be tested, in Humanities I agree it becomes supposition and theoretical.
Both get tarred with same brush.

No. Try submitting a piece of nonsense to a reputable physics journal. Even if the editors accept the article and then send it out to peer review it will soon become apparent it's a load of crap and the paper will never see the light of day. Being able to test the results of a piece of nonsense doesn't even come into play in those cases. On the other hand, speculative papers are published when they demonstrate how they can be tested. They tend not to include interpretations or translations of Mein Kampf.

Private jet
6th Oct 2018, 20:12
Academia. Traditionally a refuge for many of those that are good at reading, learning what they read and then regurgitating what they read under exam conditions. They become so good at it they become Academic professionals. The academic also often tends to have a deficiency of "hard" social skills &/or a fear of "hard graft", both prerequisites to making a good living in the outside world. Yes, new ideas do emerge from time to time (which often then requires others, most often not academically trained, to process into reality) but overall its a very inefficient yet cozy system.

Gertrude the Wombat
6th Oct 2018, 21:28
Academia. Traditionally a refuge for many of those that are good at reading, learning what they read and then regurgitating what they read under exam conditions. They become so good at it they become Academic professionals. The academic also often tends to have a deficiency of "hard" social skills &/or a fear of "hard graft", both prerequisites to making a good living in the outside world. Yes, new ideas do emerge from time to time (which often then requires others, most often not academically trained, to process into reality) but overall its a very inefficient yet cozy system.
Meanwhile. back in the real world ...

One might hazard a guess that Private jet has either never tried to make a career in academia or, more likely from that rant, has tried and failed, and also that they have never been inside a lab, never had a girlfriend who had to get up at 3am every night to do the next thing to her experiment, doesn't know any academics.

Hokulea
7th Oct 2018, 10:05
Academia. Traditionally a refuge for many of those that are good at reading, learning what they read and then regurgitating what they read under exam conditions. They become so good at it they become Academic professionals. The academic also often tends to have a deficiency of "hard" social skills &/or a fear of "hard graft", both prerequisites to making a good living in the outside world. Yes, new ideas do emerge from time to time (which often then requires others, most often not academically trained, to process into reality) but overall its a very inefficient yet cozy system.Just about all of the academics I know are normal people who live normal lives with families and enjoy doing things like going for a beer with their friends after work and engaging in and with all the same social activities non-academics do.

Incidentally, when it comes to the academic fields with which I'm familiar, you have to show that rote learning is not what you do and instead have to be capable of independent research (that's the whole idea of getting a PhD, pretty much a necessity to becoming an academic, at least in the sciences). Obtaining a PhD requires several years of a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Your post seems to have no basis in fact or experience.

double_barrel
7th Oct 2018, 14:57
Incidentally, when it comes to the academic fields with which I'm familiar, you have to show that rote learning is not what you do and instead have to be capable of independent research (that's the whole idea of getting a PhD, pretty much a necessity to becoming an academic, at least in the sciences). Obtaining a PhD requires several years of a lot of hard work and sacrifices. Your post seems to have no basis in fact or experience.

Indeed. It is a very strange but common misconception that science is a fixed set of facts, whereas of course it is a actually just a methodology for testing ideas.

By definition a PhD must make a novel contribution to a field. Academia is very far from perfect. There are problems of 'fashions' in science and about the inertia of existing ideas, but fundamentally science is built on dreaming-up wild and wonderful new ideas. Then trying to tear them to pieces. It is not for the faint hearted.