Thursday, November 29, 2012

Systemic failings in Higher Education

Yet more compelling evidence that forces currently driving the HE sector place it on a trajectory towards systemic failure.

"Focus on innovation is backfiring, Brussels conference hears

The pressure on scientists doing basic research to produce innovative results is undermining researchers’ credibility, two prominent scientists told a conference in Brussels last week.
Mathematician Martin Andler, co vice-president of grass-roots scientists’ group Euroscience, said there was tension between the need for researchers to do basic, blue-sky research and the requirement for their work to be innovative and have an impact. He says he is concerned that researchers feel under pressure to claim their work will have a big effect when often it is not possible to know whether that will be the case.

“It’s wrong to force people to lie,” he said, adding that the issue is one of research integrity.
Andler explained that such dishonesty could take two main forms. In one, researchers flesh out funding applications with details of activities they have already completed. In the other, they exaggerate the likely impact of their work to make their research seem more relevant to funders.
Robert Winston, broadcaster, Labour peer and professor of fertility at Imperial College London, described a phenomenon he calls “the science delusion”, where scientists approve of their work being marketed as much more important and influential than is actually the case. As an example, he cited the mapping of the human genome, which has not lived up to expectations that it would, for instance, revolutionise our ability to manage diseases.

“Scientists need to be more modest,” he said, explaining that two worrying consequences of these tendencies are that scientists permit their work to be overhyped and fail to admit that they have emotional biases that can influence their science.

The comments were made in presentations at SciTech Europe, an event held in Brussels on 22 November."