Thursday, September 20, 2007

response to Academia and Free Marketers: Garland in the hands of a monkey

I had posted a response on a blog - Krish's Politics a while ago. When I went back to read it recently, I was very impresed with my own argument that i decided to repost it on my own blog. What a self-loving individual am i? well, who is not...


You make a good point when you say,
“There is another aspect of academia, which these free market fundamentalists can never comprehend. As the kid portrays in his post, we cannot just buy a paper and make a product out of it. Thatz not the way academia works. Scientists are not shopkeepers waiting with papers so that consumers (read business people) can come and buy it”.

Your point also highlights something more deeper in research and incentives. A scientist needs to be truly “objective” and in that sense detached from the phenomenon and the findings. Research that is closely tied to output that can be monetized severely taints the objectives of the true scientific enterprise.

The tenure system in good universities exists so as to enable such researchers to pursue issues that might lack immediate monetary potential but have long range implications for the benefits of a broader audience.

Sure, academia has to collaborate with the industry - but monetizing research output should not be the only criterion for this collaboration. Industry can provide the necessary real world context for the theoretical models that academia develops and the academia can provide a deeper “causal” understanding of the real world that industry desperately needs.

Research has a much broader purpose that is beyond a few innovative ideas and a few researchers making money. It is to develop a deeper understanding of the real world and advance our understanding about ourselves in such a way that it increases social welfare in general.

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