Research for the sake of it?

Sunday 21 October, 5.00pm until 6.15pm, Frobisher 4-6

Higher education has been a bitterly contested subject in the past couple of years, from rows about the increase in student tuition fees and the Browne Report to open discussion about what the university is for. Academics have reacted angrily to government plans to quantify research in terms of its economic and social impact, which they say diminishes the value of academic research and the open-ended pursuit of knowledge.

Yet there is another little-discussed aspect to contemporary academic research, which may pose an even greater threat its value; that is, the relentless pressure on academics to produce what are known as research outcomes. All university departments now regularly institute research strategies, requiring academics to produce a minimum number of publications and apply for grants in a specified period of time. Departments are keen to create ‘research clusters’ in which academics, whose work may have little in common, are expected to collaborate on research outcomes, such as publications and grant applications. Individual lecturers are regularly monitored to ensure they are producing research. There is a vast research industry dedicated to publishing the ever-expanding number of papers and books, most of which serve little purpose other than to fulfil the research quotas that are demanded.

Is this a triumph for the importance of research as an end in itself? Or when research becomes an end unanchored to intellectual content, interest or any genuine contribution to knowledge, does it lose its value?

Speakers
Clive Bloom
emeritus professor, English and American studies, Middlesex University; author, Riot City: protest and rebellion in the capital

Dr Richard Howells
reader in Culture, Media and Creative Industries, King's College London

Professor James Ladyman
Head of Department of Philosophy, University of Bristol

Dr Vanessa Pupavac
associate professor; co-director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, University of Nottingham

Chair:
Dr Tara McCormack
lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches

Produced by
Dr Tara McCormack lecturer in international politics, University of Leicester; author, Critique, Security and Power: the political limits to emancipatory approaches
Recommended readings
Bracing for impact may cost sector millions

Universities 'falling over themselves' to hire staff to handle REF case studies.

Paul Jump, Times Higher Education, 11 October 2012

Money for antique rope

Most humanities 'research' is the self-indulgent pursuit of obscure hobbies that neither need nor merit funding, and produces only unsold, unread and unreadable books, argues Clive Bloom

Clive Bloom, Times Higher Education, 13 May 2010

Evidence-based policy

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