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Beyond Lowlands: academics alone should not set the agenda for research
To researchers who have started working in UK academia during the last two decades, the caricatures painted by Sir Keith Thomas and his colleagues in their launch statements for the Council for the Defence of British Universities this week must seem a little antiquated. To give them some historical context, I’d like to recommend them a Christmas stocking-filler: the DVD box set of the BBC series A Very Peculiar Practice. Seeing CDBU’s statements through the eyes of those at the fictional Lowland University depicted in the series, will make it easier for newcomers to understand the context for their views – campuses that were still stuck firmly in the ideological trenches that pitted the ivory towers versus the free-market. The quirky BBC comedy drama, written by Andrew Davies and broadcast in 1986, portrays confrontations between academics defending their belief in...
Posted Nov 12, 2012 at
Polarisation helps no one
As yet another genetically modified food dispute emerges, Tom Wakeford calls for the two sides to start talking if they want to avoid damaging public confidence in science and in scientists
Posted May 15, 2012 at
Call me a Luddite
To address the social crisis behind this summer’s riots our research culture needs to change. Those looking for historical parallels to this summer’s riots might encounter the bicentenary of another set of disturbances. Beginning in Nottingham in 1811, they sparked six years of civil disorder across the industrial regions of England. Their target: feral capitalists and their application of emerging technical knowledge to manufacturing. As with this August’s unrest, the 19th century rioters were largely made up of members of an economic underclass whose social networking went undetected by the authorities. Spreading across the Midlands and North in a matter of weeks, the protest movement became known the Luddite uprising, named after their mythical leaders Ned, and often Eliza, Ludd. There is more than just an anniversary that links the machine breakers of 1811 to the high-street window breakers of...
Posted Sep 1, 2011 at
A knowledge economy needs Big Society science
Ministers aren't the only ones who have yet to grasp the need for a new contract between scientists and society. Tom Wakeford reveals the smoke-and-mirrors behind some recent research-council 'engagement' programmes, and says it’s time to debate some core values. Nine months into a Coalition government and it is still not clear when, if ever, the Big Society agenda will be brought into synergy with the knowledge economy. Their Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, rejects the “monopoly of Whitehall” (and presumably Swindon), institutions, because wisdom is “distributed throughout society”. Nick Clegg proclaimed last June that the coming months would see the government “genuinely trying to engage people” by instigating “a level of public engagement in this that you've never seen in this country”. But all the signs are that David Willetts is, like Lord Sainsbury before him, is setting...
Posted Feb 3, 2011 at
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