And good riddance to it. It's all very simple. Academia has exactly three missions:
- educate students by
- making books available, and
- having teachers put on performances
- certify people's educations
- perform research
The first mission, as everyone knows, is obsolete. Youtube provides many excellent lectures which are 99.9% as good as live performances for 0.1% the price. The writing's on the wall.
For the same reasons, the time of physical paper libraries is fast approaching an end. And good riddance since textbook publishers have long been using yearly textbook revisions in order to extort money from their customers. All to great waste and expense.
That's not even counting the fact that online textbooks can contain copious internal and external electronic links as well as video and interactive simulations. Not to mention how small and easy to carry electronic books (and lectures) are compared to their physical counterparts.
The second mission is also obsolete. Harry Collins has noted the steady draining of all authority from academia. The only department invented in modern times, computer science, produces certificates that don't matter a damn in the real world.
It also produces journals that are designed to be as obsolete as possible on the grounds that nothing new in computer science could ever hope to be properly scientific. The paper describing the publishing industry is itself hopelessly obsolete. Everything it describes in such tedious language boils down to laws #6, #19, #20, and #32 of System-antics.
- Le Chatelier's Principle: Complex systems tend to oppose their own proper function. As systems grow in complexity, they tend to oppose their stated function.
- Systems develop goals of their own the instant they come into being.
- Intra-system goals come first.
- As systems grow in size, they tend to lose basic functions.
With blatantly obvious specifics such as that the purpose of academic publishing is to enhance careers, make hiring decisions easier, and to be picked up by library administrators. The paper specifically fails to mention any attempts, any publisher or publication system, trying to go beyond the university feudal system whose support is the real purpose of academic publishing. Arxiv and c2 wiki both veritably leap to mind.
Harry Collins believes or hopes that there is some way to recover the authority of academia. Preferably for academics no doubt. After all, he is one. Well there isn't. I know it's only obvious to me for reasons I'm not going to get into, but ... basically, the forces (for universality and democratization of authority) which Harry Collins has identified as so efficiently breaking down the academic system of authority. Forces which are greatly amplified and magnified by peer to peer horizontal communication and self-directed learning. These forces which are breaking down academia's authority will continue to do so until academia is ground to NOTHING because there is NO WAY to resolve them until some entirely different system replaces academia and crushes it.
What we are seeing here is the introduction of a genuinely new force in modernity that is causing one of the most basic functions of academia, its authority, to disappear. This dynamic embodies laws #6, #18, and #32 of systemantics.
- The mode of failure of a complex system cannot ordinarily be predicted from its structure.
- The Newtonian Law of Systems Inertia: A system that performs a certain way will continue to operate in that way regardless of the need or of changed conditions.
- A complex system cannot be "made" to work. It either works or it doesn't.
Academic authority simply doesn't work. And the forces that are weakening academic authority will not stop doing so until they are resolved. And they will never be resolved from within academia or from anything that can ever be absorbed BY academia for the simple reason that these forces are already far bigger than academia. Not more powerful, just bigger, consisting of a larger fraction of all human life. So academic authority will continue to shrivel up until something entirely different from, and in its critical dimension far larger than, academia steps up to put a bullet through its head and make soap out of its body fat. Academic Authority will die a miserable and inglorious death leaving Academia weaker than a long-term concentration camp survivor.
I will be cheering.
The third mission is the only one that's left and the North American universities have undermined it badly with their recent love for the patent system. I say recent but it's really a couple of decades old. There have been ample studies that universities obtaining patents barely recoup the costs of filing for the patents, if at all.
(Quite aside the fact the only thing the patent system does is stifle innovation. And it's not even good at this outside of biochem (eg, pharmaceuticals) so all it really does is add unnecessary costs.)
Anyways, the point is that NA universities' love of corporate attitudes (probably from having corporate scum in charge) does nothing to bring money to universities and does everything to erode the reputation of universities as a public service. A reputation which took a lot longer to build up (or rebuild) than it will take to be destroyed.
So NA universities have turned basic research from a public mission funded by public monies into a private for-profit endeavour. How long can they expect to hold onto public monies?
Now you might say this isn't a problem for all universities everywhere, but once universities disappear off the north american continent, how long will it take for people elsewhere to start asking some hard questions?
If all you need is a public basic research lab, then the format of a university isn't a very good one, is it? Hell, professors don't even like teaching. Or publishing in peer-reviewed journals (which suck). Or seeking grants. Or subordinating their research goals to more senior researchers that control everything nowadays.
It's past time to nuke this system and start from scratch!