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Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Soul of the Research University



Basic research, whose applications may be decades in the future, is an uncertain investment for any single entity (e.g., corporation), even if it is an essential public good for the long term advancement of civilization. Consequently, basic research is mostly done at universities and government labs. Indeed, the vast majority of research in the US is led by professors and takes place on campus. Unfortunately, this crucial aspect of the mission of universities is least understood by their broad constituency.

Boosters, alumni, parents, and advocates should note that the research prowess of a great university is a large component of its institutional prestige: nearly all of the most prestigious universities in the world, those that attract the brightest and most able (and, ultimately, most successful) students, are world class research institutions.

Nicholas Lemann writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Chronicle: ... building on the foundation laid by the establishment of The Johns Hopkins University, in 1876, American higher education has embraced the idea of the research university as its most cherished aspiration. Today there are about 300 American universities that confer doctoral degrees, far more than envisioned by the original proselytizers for importing the research-university model from Germany to the United States. And that number understates the importance of the model, because the core members of the faculty and senior administration at hundreds more institutions hold doctoral degrees and operate within the academic tenure system that lies at the heart of the way research universities are run.

For many people who have spent their lives working in higher education, mass higher education and research universities make for a perfect fit: Together they express both the public service and the intellectual ambitions of educators. And during most of the 20th century, especially the years between 1950 and 1975, the two big ideas grew and flourished in tandem.

But they aren’t the same idea. Mass higher education, conceptually, is practical, low cost, skills oriented, and mainly concerned with teaching. It caught on because state legislatures and businesses saw it as a means of economic development and a supplier of personnel, and because families saw it as a way of ensuring a place in the middle class for their children. Research universities, on the other hand, grant extraordinary freedom and empowerment to a small, elaborately trained and selected group of people whose mission is to pursue knowledge and understanding without the constraints of immediate practical applicability under which most of the rest of the world has to operate. Some of their work is subsidized directly by the federal government and by private donors, but they also live under the economic protection that very large and successful institutions can provide to some of their component parts. ...

18 comments:

James Hedman said...

The "basic research" now promulgated by the liberal arts faculties of research universities has been on the whole a direct attack and a tearing down of those values and learned truths upon which the great universities were founded upon in the first place. Does anyone in their right mind seriously think that Black Studies departments, the obfuscatory and unprovable rantings of Jacques Derrida, or "critical theory" feminist critiques of the law and literature are an "essential public good for the long term advancement of civilization?"

Kennon Gilson said...

Libertarians have long critiqued the concept of 'public good' the market can't provide as a scam meant to argue for coercive government programs. Many entities including families, companies, universities do focus on long-term value 'public' goods and have voluntary ways such as fundraising to provide for them.

godihatechinks said...

yeah.
the best is.

1. fund applied research or applied basic research.
2. close all colleges and universities except for the reseacrh labs and the teaching labs. turn the buildings into apartments.
3. replace formal education with nationally standardized syllabi and tests.

the much claimed possible future usefulness of useless natsci research has absolutely zero facts behind it. it's just wishful thinking. and even if the research does have some promise of being useful, it's being done by professors in small groups (usually no more than 20 graduate students and post-docs) and is incredibly inefficient and competitive and uncooperative with other groups.

formal education since the printing press, and a fortioiri, since recorded sound and video and the internet = vast parasite sucking the blood out of the rest of the economy. professors and staff = criminals.

of course steve has demonstrated over and over again that he is incapable of imagining a world much different from the one he lives in. he's a sociopath after all, as are all professors.

BobSykes said...

We live in a Dark Age of Lysenkoism, delusion, superstition and functional illiteracy, and that includes the faculty at major research universities.


Last week I attended a seminar given by a potential hire in the area of environment and energy, which is one of my college's current emphases. The candidate, from very good schools (Columbia et al) was working on carbon sequestration. During the talk he made various comments on AGW and ocean acidification (neither his actual field) that indicated he had only a most superficial understanding of the science in those areas and that he essentially thought in slogans.


He is, of course, typical of the current generation of Ph. D.'s, and an indication of the utter failure of modern Ph. D. programs in the US. When my generation and its immediate successor retires and dies, American science will die.

Bobdisqus said...

http://statenews.com/article/2014/02/snyder-asks-to-increase-higher-ed-funding (proposed 6% increase for next year)

$249600000/(49300*0.91)in state students=$5,588.52/student

From MSU net price calculator

Estimated tuition and fees $14,080
Estimated room and board $9,202
Estimated books and supplies $1,060
Other expenses $1,866
Estimated cost of attendance $26,208


Let us assume MSU operates Room and board & books as a charity at breakeven.
State Aid: $5,588.52
Student/family: $14,080.00
MSU Gross/Student $19,668.52

Multiplied by in state student undergrad number
$679,921,067
Subtract student aid to in state undergrad students: ???

https://vprgs.msu.edu/
http://vprgs.msu.edu/sites/default/files/Research%20Facts%20and%20Figures%20-%20June%202013.pdf

What percent of the endowment fund comes from Michigan sources?
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCgQFjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fgivingto.msu.edu%2Fmedia%255C2013_Endowment_Performance.pdf&ei=eNlfU__GHYizyASwvIKIBA&usg=AFQjCNEFkYzUn1uDQlZoa9CC6Wr7oObu_Q&bvm=bv.65636070,d.aWw&cad=rja

Seems to me you confuse where the soul of this beast should be.

chinksarepushygrinds said...

steve's just another sheep fucking academic.

blokhin for all of them and the world's a much much better place.

chinksarepushygrinds said...

who'se "we"? You and your beard?

chinksarepushygrinds said...

the best is.

1. fund applied research or applied "basic" research.
2. close all colleges and universities except for the research labs and the teaching labs. turn the buildings into apartments.
3. replace formal education with nationally standardized syllabi and tests.

the much claimed possible future usefulness of useless natsci research has absolutely zero facts behind it. it's just wishful thinking. and even if the research does have some promise of being useful, it's being done by professors in small groups (usually no more than 20 graduate students and post-docs) and is incredibly inefficient and competitive and uncooperative with other groups.

formal education since the printing press, and a fortioiri, since recorded sound and video and the internet = vast parasite sucking the blood out of the rest of the economy. professors and staff = criminals.

of course steve has demonstrated over and over again that he is incapable of imagining a world much different from the one he lives in. he's a sociopath after all, as are all professors.

chinksarepushygrinds said...

I’m an American who obtained a postgrad degree from a super-elite
Asian university, taking (and passing) the same entrance exam that the
locals take, in the local language.

It was paradoxically easier to get in and to pay for it than it would
have been to enter a US Ivy, because back when I was in high school,
despite top-5% SATs (~1500), I had no chance of filling my schedule with
the extracurriculars that schools seem to love more than they do high
IQs these days. So I would have been paying full freight had I gotten
in, and on my parents’ $70k 1990s income that would have meant
graduating with about $80k in debt.

Here in Asia it’s one entrance exam, and if you pass, you pass. The
scorers don’t even learn your name; you’re identified only by your
number. And tuition is *cheap* assuming you’ve established residence
beforehand, as I had.

I felt less disadvantaged taking that test in what was to me a
foreign language than I did trying to get into college as a nondescript
middle-income white kid in the USA with no “hooks”.


america = 100% pure shit.
I

bobbyfischer1971 said...

The truth about American education and the American elite.
http://www.npr.org/2014/04/30/308057862/u-s-tests-teens-a-lot-but-worldwide-exam-stakes-are-higher

James Hedman said...

I would think that they would then be better described as "private goods" if not provided by government.

James Hedman said...

"he figures that only 14% of recent economic growth has been due to capital intensification in various new enterprises"


Technical innovation does attract capital in order to mass produce and commodify those innovations. A lot of recent economic growth has been financial shenanigans rather than production of commodities. 0% interest rates have caused yet another bubble in housing prices and stocks that appear as increases in GDP but have no underlying increase in physical production of goods or services. No wonder wages are stagnant.

bobbyfischer1971 said...

Here's the truth about American education and the ultimate reason why the US is a failed state.

http://www.npr.org/2014/04/30/308057862/u-s-tests-teens-a-lot-but-worldwide-exam-stakes-are-higher

bobbyfischer1971 said...

And this is the ultimate reason why:

http://www.npr.org/2014/04/30/308057862/u-s-tests-teens-a-lot-but-worldwide-exam-stakes-are-higher


The student body of elite universities is not selected for intelligence, and many intelligent people are deselected based on other criteria. This is not true in the rest of the world. Schools don't even require recommendations let alone a legacy, extracurriculars, "grades", etc.

James Hedman said...

I dunno about that. Finland and Britain both have free market economies and plenty of folks without college make money there. Same here really. I know quite a few contractors, farmers, and ranchers that have made plenty of bucks without college degrees. In Silicon Valley there are any number of patent holders for high tech firms without college degrees. If you have a high IQ and work hard you can make money especially if you invest it well.

Steve here is a bit myopic about non-graduate degree millionaires being that he is in university management. I've said it before, I wouldn't trade one single point of my IQ for any given graduate degree. As anyone who has been out in the world of work knows, the bureaucracies of commerce, government, and academe are filled with over-educated mediocrities.

http://www.businessinsider.com/google-hiring-non-graduates-2013-6

William said...

Perhaps that's not his field of expertise, which is *how* to do carbon sequestration. Not *why* it needs to be done.

theobamadildo said...

why not research sans "university"?

"drr. err. i dunno." says the sheep fucking professor.

theobamadildo said...

canuckistan and the us select for traits other than iq or g.

the result:

the american and canadian elites are dumb relative to that of other countries'.

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