Antidotes to Cynicism Creep in Academia

I came across this article by Eiko Fried on Mastodon and I do not see it referenced in this forum. It seems relevant, and I think the title explains what the article is about pretty well.


I’m not an academic (dropped out of grad school) but I too am cynical of academia and it is not surprising that academics are also cynical. I concur with his observations, but I have a different take on the situation.

Roughly it aligns with Turchin’s theory of elite overproduction. Too many PhDs are being minted than is demanded by the market. More people are fighting over the same pie. Wages fall. More effort is spent in infighting and manufacturing problems to solve, than in actually performing scholarly work. You can see this in scholarly hoaxes.

I don’t entirely agree with the author’s assertion that open science is the answer. Openness is necessary but not sufficient for a vibrant honest profession.

Hardware is cheaper now than ever, so more science can be meaningfully performed outside of the academy. I am arguing for the existence of an amateur science or hacker sector that does some work for money, and other work because it is important (for reasons of curiosity or social need, etc), that it be done.

This is exactly how art was done in the past and still continues to be done. Some paintings were commissioned, and others were done for personal reasons. The same can be true of science. What makes this viable is that hardware is cheaper now.

That’s one way to view GOSH’s purpose: to make hardware not just available, but available in formerly barren fields so that hacking/amateur working can proceed.


Dear friends,

Hello, first of all thanks Jeremy for addressing this topic and thanks @Harold for your interesting thoughts.

I would like to echo most of the thoughts in both posts, I think both the idea that there are just too many people going to uni and that as a result there’s diminishing returns and that the idea that journals and truth-seeking are just another industry (indeed, in other times, the industry part was there too, it was just that locus was in the shrines - you still had to pay for your prayers to be forwarded to the gods). Indeed, not sure i even began or finished an article on this ‘industry of truth’.

Anyway, i’d like to invite you to consider the setting of the scientific research agenda. What would you say to the thought that since it is mostly the tax-payers’ money that flows into it (let’s forget for a moment the GAMFAs of this world, whose researchers are only accountable to their shareholders), then it should be them who directly get to decide it?

1 Like

What would you say to the thought that since it is mostly the tax-payers’ money that flows into it…

I think folks should vote appropriately.

consider the setting of the scientific research agenda

I think folks should work on whatever they feel like, regardless of funding. Take the chap who made this video. Even before he got his “funding” from youtube, he replied to a viewer’s question on how he could afford all this activities and tools. I’ll try to find that interview, but basically he said it’s not hard to fund it yourself. That’s what we should aspire to, instead of whining and begging (I say that advisedly).

Found the interview