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Loathsome research bureaucracy

In the 30 years I have worked in the universities I have never taken any research direction advice from a university bureaucrat.  I am an absolute contrarian in terms of modern university ‘research management’.   I don’t criticise the people involved in administering such endeavors – they are for the most part responding to government decrees and repugnant university administrative directives – and many work very hard. 

I favour ‘curiousity-driven research’ not university-administered strategic research plans which are invariably worth less than the paper they are written on. Indeed they typically have negative net worth since they divert useful academic attention from the core academic mission.

I have good company in supporting free rather than directed inquiry. Nobel Laureate Ahmed Zewail also favours free inquiry.  A good read.

My university School like most in Australia has a “Research Director” and a “Teaching and Learning Director“.  I am assured by my Deputy Dean of Research that unless I deliver the right documentation my ARC research proposal will not be “accepted”.  My research proposal. I guess that’s fair enough.


5 comments to Loathsome research bureaucracy

  • conrad

    It’s the same everywhere — with blatant dishonesty no impediment to these bureaucrats. According to our university web page, our DVC of research has published more than 100 papers. Curiously, if you type his name into Scopus, then only a small number come up, none of which has been cited more than 10 times, and he has H index less than I had as post doc. I wonder what he was counting?

    At the next level, our Dean of Research for my faculty also has an H index less than I had as postdoc, although at least he can be excused, as he doesn’t go around telling to people to write Nature papers and dribbling on about statistics no-one cares about.

    So it’s the same old shit everywhere.

  • ANU Guy

    I think the Australian model is better in some ways than the US and EU models. Here the ARC mostly gives money to individuals it thinks are excellent and to projects on topics suggested by the researchers themselves. The US/EU model is much more driven by calls for proposals on specific topics. The downside in Australia is that there really isn’t much money to go around and many Discovery projects that are accepted are given so little money that it is hard to actually do them. In my school our research director mainly seems to deal with letting academics know about funding opportunities etc. He doesn’t do much. And he is a good researcher. The research office people mainly do the job they are meant to. There is no push to do research on specific topics and not on others. So maybe it isn’t the same everywhere?

  • hc

    Our Research director is also an active researcher and spends most of his time forwarding info re funding opportunities.

    Most of the talk in our university on ‘research strategy’ and ‘targeting’ is listened to and totally ignored – as it should be. The main cost is that of having to listen to this garbage – a cost I have learnt to evade.

    I think the ARC system is appalling. Its based on ex ante promises not on achievements. It is also biased against smaller universities – the ANU does well – and the scheme continues to give money to academic non-performers.

    I prefer a system of much smaller grants ($12,000 per year is plenty) which are renewed annually on the basis of good performance and reduced to those who underperform. The money can be spent on any research related activity – including inviting visitors. Performance should be assessed in terms of making a contribution not in terms of some ludicrous journal ranking system.

    Its seen as a bad stance to be pessimistic but I am so. John Dawkins ruined large parts of thye Australian university system and successive governments (and entrepreneurially-minded bureaucrats) have encased the damage in steel and expanded on it.

  • conrad

    “I prefer a system of much smaller grants”

    It’s curious that the ARC got rid of the ARC small grants — it’s quite frustrating if you only need a small amount of money. I notice this year there is a 30K minimum, so if you are going to get cut back 50%, then you need to work out how to ask for 60K a year.

  • […] exercise. I suspect because nobody really cares. My own views about such things is very similar to Harry Clarke’s view. … I have never taken any research direction advice from a university bureaucrat. I am an […]

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