has run this sobering story
about physicist Peter Higgs. Here are come of the pointed bits:
The emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, who says he has never
sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call,
published fewer than 10 papers after his groundbreaking work, which
identified the mechanism by which subatomic material acquires mass, was
published in 1964.
He doubts a similar breakthrough could be
achieved in today's academic culture, because of the expectations on
academics to collaborate and keep churning out papers. He said: "It's
difficult to imagine how I would ever have enough peace and quiet in the
present sort of climate to do what I did in 1964."
the Guardian en route to Stockholm to receive the 2013 Nobel prize for
science, Higgs, 84, said he would almost certainly have been sacked had
he not been nominated for the Nobel in 1980.
University's authorities then took the view, he later learned, that he
"might get a Nobel prize – and if he doesn't we can always get rid of
Higgs said he became "an embarrassment to the department
when they did research assessment exercises". A message would go around
the department saying: "Please give a list of your recent publications."
Higgs said: "I would send back a statement: 'None.' "
By the time
he retired in 1996, he was uncomfortable with the new academic culture.
"After I retired it was quite a long time before I went back to my
department. I thought I was well out of it. It wasn't my way of doing
things any more. Today I wouldn't get an academic job. It's as simple as
that. I don't think I would be regarded as productive enough."
A message would go around the department saying: "Please give a list of your recent publications." Higgs said: "I would send back a statement: 'None.' "
I recommend this to those of my friends and colleagues about to launch into a Faculty Activity Report for the bean counters in one or another College or University. Of course, you shouldn't use this to persuade yourself that but for all those distracting demands - administration, teaching and publishing bundles of literature-driven papers - you'd be a Nobel laureate. Resist self-deception. But it is a nice counter-example to those pushing the rationalization of educational institutions.
Labels: Academic Follies, Prizes, science