Friday, April 17, 2009

Knowledge Overload - a response

I was reading an article called Knowledge Overload over at Inside Higher Ed about a month ago. It was quite an interesting article. I've personally experienced information overload in the last few years by discovering new blogs and information sources and it was interesting to see an academic perspective.

I won't really go into the whole article, you should head over and read it if academia and academic publishing interests you. However this quote was quite interesting:

The irony in all of this is that it is academic career and advancement requirements, more than faculty preferences, which are driving the current pattern of academic dissemination. New doctorates, eager for a place on the tenure track, work like crazy to get into the right conferences and journals. Recently hired faculty know that tenure rests on getting the right hits in the right journals and, maybe, getting their dissertation published as a book. Tenured faculty know that merit and final promotion – indeed, their personal standing in the field – rests on continued and even accelerated publication output.

Now I find this interesting, and something that is inherently wrong with Academia. Yes I know that faculty should be doing research, but good teaching is never preferred over teaching which is something fundamentally wrong considering that higher education is about...well...EDUCATION!

What I am about to say is by no means intended to be disrespectful, but quite a lot of academic articles that I've read that are published recently are fluff. They seem to be published just for the sake of having something published. I recall this one article that was looking at librarians as faculty and the implications (granted this article was from 1993). The article had almost no insight. It was an amalgam of other articles with some assertions made by the author. There was no empirical study, no data, just reading other articles and putting something together. It was a nice read, but I can't believe that this was in a peer review journal!

A commenter on this article wrote:
It is the ever-increasing amount of material to master, and the pressure to publish, that is driving many younger scholars out of academe - myself included.

There is something profoundly wrong with the current model of scholarly life.

I tend to agree with this assertion. The academe model need to change. There should be more value on keeping up your skills and teaching newer generations than just publishing...well...fluff!

Now I know that there are serious researchers out there that publish serious things and when we read them we go "AHA!!!!" Perhaps it's time to reward tenure-track and tenured faculty with something other than the volume of their publishing. Then maybe we can weed down this Knowledge Overload.

Any thoughts?
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