Sunday, October 29, 2006

Thinking, Writing, Publishing and Research

One of the sad things about the Institution that I work for, is the number of faculty members who fail to engage in research. There are some who claim to be busy researchers, but somehow never seem to be able to manage to have anything appear in print. They often defend themselves by appealing to their teaching loads, their administrative duties and the like. Although such appeals may have some validity for the odd lacuna in the Vita, when several years go by with nothing appearing in print, these excuses appear increasingly thin and implausible.

Now, there may be some faculty members whose job assignments are such that they are primarily teachers. This is fine. These people usually have heavy teaching loads. The people I am thinking of here are those who have the pretensions of being research faculty and being scholars, but fail to really be so. This type can be identified by their light teaching loads, in conjunction with no scholarly activities, or things appearing in print, often also combined with a good dose of academic posturing.

A number of years ago, it was discovered that in the UK, there were several academics who also failed to engage in research. There, the solution to this problem was for these 'deadwood' faculty members to be offered a simple proposition: The job of a professor consists of three main activities, teaching, research and administration. If a person failed to do any research, then their salary was to be reduced by one third. This strategy awoke many slumbering faculty members and persuaded others to retire. We do not have this option, unfortunately. So, for those struggling faculty members, who have become strangers to publication (and by this I mean publication in peer reviewed journals -- remember, blogs do not count), I offer the following inspirational lines, which come from two books I have been reading over the last couple of days. It is interesting that all these lines are nearly 35 years old.

"...a classic case of Horney's: the man [or woman] who comforts himself [or herself] not with what he [or she] achieves, but with what he [or she] dreams of achieving."
- Rhinehart, L., (1971), The Diceman: A Novel, The Overlook Press (New York), p. 53.

"If you are not writing, you're not thinking,...and if you're not thinking you're dead."
- ibid, p. 48.

"Those who have tried research, but abandoned it for easier things, are objects of some contempt; those who have never tried, but are merely teachers, are to be pitied."
- Ravetz, J. (1971), Scientific Knowledge and its Social Problems, Oxford U.P. (Oxford), p. 16.

"Without research--the continuous, disciplined advance from the known into the unknown--...other activities would either lose their meaning, or become stale, sterile and eventually corrupted."
- ibid, p. 13.

I dedicate this post to the guilty, both at my institution and elsewhere. If they read this, they should know what to do to remedy the situation! Contributions of other inspirational quotes, or further thoughts on these topics, would be very welcome.

The CP

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