Lies jumped the queue to be first in line… Research policy and research bureaucracy

It might be a career-limiting move to opine too much about research bureaucracy when you’re doing your level best to punch into an academic career, but danger is the spice of life and these hot takes aren’t going to pepper themselves.

Over on The Research Whisperer, Tseen Khoo has raised a puzzle about the impact of university metrics on the way that researchers undertake their work stating that she doesn’t need money to do her research.  Meanwhile, on the LSE Review of Books, Derek Dunne talks about the historical relationship between bureaucracy and research (with bureaucracy being a form of social control).  They are both interesting pieces, strongly flavoured by personal experience and anecdote, but I’m not sure that they completely grasp the puzzle at hand.

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Winding yourself up until you’re turning blue… In praise of violence (don’t do violence)

Anyway, because s 80.2B of the Criminal Code is real, I am definitely not advocating violence.  Violence should never be advocated because we are a tolerant liberal society and tolerant liberal societies make it an offence to advocate violence.  Don’t do it.  I’m certainly not doing it.

But what is violence?  I thought about nerding out on this question but, really, I just want to talk about one thing.  One horrible thing.  One unforgivable thing.

Glitter bombing.

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The shrieking of nothing is killing… When ‘Australian values’ means little more than trivia

We should not reward attention-seekers with attention.  We should not reward attention-seekers with attention.  We should not reward attention-seekers with attention.  It’s so difficult because it is so satisfying.  Look at this idiot and their idiot opinion!  Look at what they have written now!  We should not reward attention-seekers with attention.  But it’s so hard not to give them attention because, sometimes, they provoke interesting debates that they themselves are entirely too thick to entertain themselves.  But maybe other people might take up the discussion.  But perhaps we could turn what is bad into something that is slightly good.  We should not reward attention-seekers with attention.


Caleb wrote something and it is really bad.  I have mentioned before that Caleb is a conservative columnist because News Corp believes that right wing commentary is so easy that even a child can do it.  I have been experimenting with a hypothesis, engaging the Dark Arts to fill an old mannequin with the most foul, chthonic nightmare demons and then transcribing the damn’d howls that fill the air in oily smoke.   The results have been promising, and some of the articles produced have been picked up by The Spectator Australia.

Anyway, Caleb wrote something really bad and, no doubt, he did it for attention.  I’m now going to give it attention and I feel bad for doing so.  Forgive me, gentle reader.  Forgive me on the grounds that I haven’t had much sleep since the head of the mannequin burst open and the ten thousand spiders crawled into my ears and I hear them, I hear them saying things I hear them and they whisper and I hear them and the ten thousand spiders whisper things that should not be whispered and they crawl in my ears and they whisper.

Anyway, it’s about Australian values.

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I am frightened by the crowd, for we are getting much too loud… Research and public opinion

A friend of mine was targeted for criticism about a piece of research.  A libertarian think tank had decided that academia was a waste of money, that academics should pay their own way, that academics should only study things which were useful.  The think tank took a few sentences from a description of their project and pilloried them in the press.

This week, the same thing happened to somebody I don’t know.  Based on a fragment of a flier looking for participants in a study, a popular Twitter account let rip about a study that didn’t match their ideological expectations.  A few progressive media outlets broadcast the signal, and my heart went out to the researcher who, in this case, is only a student.

The outrage about the research is, quite frankly, ridiculous.  It is ignorant and wrongheaded.  The basis of the complaint is that certain diseases should only be studied from particular perspectives according to some intuition about social justice, and was supported by a vague (and, it seems, inaccurate) complaint about the state of funding for the issue.

I really hope that the student is getting a lot of support from the university.  I can’t imagine how terrible this experience must be for her.

Without litigating the actual case, there’s a more important dimension that is lost in the crossfire: to what extent is public support needed for research?

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But there’s a scream inside that we all try to hide… Should we celebrate the end of the personal essay?

The Personal-Essay Boom is Over‘ is the title of a really interesting piece by Jia Tolentino on The New Yorker.  I disagree with it, but it is really worth reading if you want a view on the economics of commentary: to what extent is the profile of public discussion shaped by profit incentives?  Tolentino argues — I think persuasively — that a boom in personal-essay writing, where writers (overwhelmingly women) mined their private experiences for content, was a result of media companies coming under increased funding pressures.  The writing is cheap and easy to churn out.

Where I think the article is wrongheaded is in its selection of context: why are we looking specifically at this genre of writing?

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Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race… Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 is atrociously good

I am one of those people who has a list of ‘rules’ about how to construct a story.  I think about structural things and the way we use shortcuts to convey meaning.  I think about how the audience fills gaps in what they’re being told and how they mapped what they saw to intuitions about bigger issues.  And then I use all of these thoughts to compile a list of rules about what works and what doesn’t.

Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 largely breaks all of the rules.  Nothing about this film should work, and yet it really does.

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I don’t know if I’m tired and I don’t know if I’m ill… In praise of Australian values

I really like Australia.  It is a great country.  It could be better.  Sure, it’s better for me than it is for many others, but I’d rather live here than anywhere else in the world.

The Left struggles with patriotism.  It smells too much like racism.  It whiffs of conservatism.  It looks too much like a relic of a colonial past where we cared about the Mother Country or the Fatherland, a concept which made people fight pointless wars in foreign countries and steal resources.  Isn’t it just irrational jingoism about the place where you were accidentally born?

The issue has raised its head in public policy again due to the Turnbull Government’s decision to tinker with the Citizenship Test: ‘Membership of the Australian family is a privilege and should be afforded to those who support our values, respect our laws and want to work hard by integrating and contributing to an even better Australia‘.

So let’s do a quick tour of the policy questions and the underlying philosophy of patriotism.

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