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Faculty Fallout

Administrators have taken over US universities, and they’re steering institutions of higher learning away from the goal of serving as beacons of knowledge.

By | August 1, 2011

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, AUGUST 2011

During my nearly five decades in academia, the character of the university has changed, and not entirely for the better. As recently as the 1970s, America’s universities were heavily influenced, if not completely driven, by faculty ideas and concerns. Today, institutions of higher education are mainly controlled by administrators and staffers who make the rules and increasingly set the priorities of academic life.

A recent study showed that between 1997 and 2007, the number of administrative and support personnel per hundred students increased dramatically at most schools—103 percent at Williams College; 111 percent at Johns Hopkins; 325 percent at Wake Forest University; and 351 percent at Yeshiva University, to cite some noteworthy examples. My book, The Fall of the Faculty, exposes this troubling reality.

The ongoing transfer of power from professors to administrators, who often lack academic credentials, has important implications for curricular and research agendas. On the surface, faculty members and administrators seem to share a general understanding of the university and its place in society. If asked to characterize the “mission” of the university, both groups usually agree with the idea that the university is an institution that produces and disseminates knowledge through its teaching, research, and public outreach efforts.

This similarity, however, is deceptive. To faculty members, scholarship and teaching are the lifeblood of academic life, and the university is an instrument necessary to achieve those ends. But to administrators, the faculty’s research and teaching activities are, first and foremost, means of generating revenues, not ends in themselves.

These differing orientations give administrators and professors divergent views of teaching and research activities. Administrators have what might be called a demand-side view of the curriculum. They believe that a college curriculum should be heavily influenced, if not completely governed, by the interests and preferences of potential customers—the students, parents, and others who pay the bills.

The faculty, on the other hand, views teaching as an end more than a means, leading them to take what might be called a supply-side view of the curriculum. Professors are more concerned with teaching topics they consider important than with placating students and other campus constituencies.

With regard to research, academics tend to take the view that ideas and discoveries should be broadly disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and presentations at professional meetings. Some professors, to be sure, are interested in the possibility of profiting from their discoveries. But most professors are more concerned with the process of discovery and the professional recognition that comes from developing new ideas in the laboratory, and they see any pecuniary gain to themselves as incidental to their main goals.

University administrators, on the other hand, view faculty research mainly as a source of revenue for the institution. They are not particularly entranced by its intellectual merits, except when commissioning puff pieces for the alumni magazine. In recent years, through the introduction of technology transfer offices, administrators have taken charge of knowledge dissemination. To administrators, scientific discoveries are primarily sources of hundreds of millions of dollars in potential overhead fees and licensing fees.

What is the ultimate purpose of these administrative efforts? Administrators say their goal is to financially strengthen their institutions so they may better pursue their teaching and research missions. If, however, we focus on what administrators do, rather than what they say, a different picture emerges. What administrators do with a good many tuition and research dollars is reward themselves and expand their own ranks. At most schools, even mid-level administrators are now paid more than all but the most senior professors in the professional schools, and considerably more than professors in the arts and sciences. And new deans are cropping up everywhere.

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science, founding director of the Washington Center for the Study of American Government, and chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Read an excerpt from The Fall of the Faculty.

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Avatar of: Ogmen

Anonymous

August 2, 2011

Hits the nail on the head!

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August 2, 2011

Hits the nail on the head!

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August 2, 2011

Hits the nail on the head!

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August 3, 2011

So this is an example of academic analysis, eh? Righteous faculty and evil administrators? In the past five decades academia has changed fundamentally, especially for public universities. State funding has declined from about 80% to 25%, or less. In 1970 perhaps 30% of high school graduates went on to college; now it is closer to 70%. Many are underprepared for college, necessitating many new programs, with new staff and administrators. Students bring many more psychological problems to college now, and society expects colleges to address those problems. More staff, more adminstrators, more costs to the academy. Society also expects more services and a more closely supervised student life on campus - no more alcohol-fueled partying on campus at the Rathskeller until 3:00 am. More staff, more administrators. So, yea, things have changed over the past five decades.

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Posts: 0

August 3, 2011

So this is an example of academic analysis, eh? Righteous faculty and evil administrators? In the past five decades academia has changed fundamentally, especially for public universities. State funding has declined from about 80% to 25%, or less. In 1970 perhaps 30% of high school graduates went on to college; now it is closer to 70%. Many are underprepared for college, necessitating many new programs, with new staff and administrators. Students bring many more psychological problems to college now, and society expects colleges to address those problems. More staff, more adminstrators, more costs to the academy. Society also expects more services and a more closely supervised student life on campus - no more alcohol-fueled partying on campus at the Rathskeller until 3:00 am. More staff, more administrators. So, yea, things have changed over the past five decades.

Avatar of: Tbode1

Anonymous

August 3, 2011

So this is an example of academic analysis, eh? Righteous faculty and evil administrators? In the past five decades academia has changed fundamentally, especially for public universities. State funding has declined from about 80% to 25%, or less. In 1970 perhaps 30% of high school graduates went on to college; now it is closer to 70%. Many are underprepared for college, necessitating many new programs, with new staff and administrators. Students bring many more psychological problems to college now, and society expects colleges to address those problems. More staff, more adminstrators, more costs to the academy. Society also expects more services and a more closely supervised student life on campus - no more alcohol-fueled partying on campus at the Rathskeller until 3:00 am. More staff, more administrators. So, yea, things have changed over the past five decades.

Avatar of: Kranbollin

Anonymous

August 5, 2011

Reporting demands are very high, all in the name of 'accountability'. Federal grants require reporting at the level of billable hours, and states demand that faculty account for every hour of their time to insure that they not goofing off. Enterprise computing systems increase the amount of work, because they enable the creation of reports organized and parsed in an almost infinite variety of ways. The demand for control, reporting and accountability requires a large and skilled administrative staff. Would you prefer that faculty perform these tasks? Faculty who do not have the time, training, temperament or inclination for administration? Administrators are well-paid, but so are their counterparts in the private sector. Do we want to slash administrative pay and become employers of last resort? We need skilled administrators and lots of 'em. 

Avatar of: Sequ44

Anonymous

August 5, 2011

This is a huge problem, mainly in the US and is eating away at our precious research funds.  A friend recently compared the number of administrators at the EMBL in Heidelberg to the Scripps Research Institute in the US. The ratio of administrators to researchers at Scripps was about 3 times higher than EMBL, eventhough Scripps is not a public institution and even though EMBL could be beholden to EU bureaucrats.   Our overhead funds and the power of bureaucrats and lawyers in our nation is undermining productivity and efficiencies.

The only way to address this nationally is to have the NRC, AAAS and NAS evaluate the problem and propose solutions. The solutions would probably be supported on both sides of the aisle in Washington for once and administrators would hopefully be looking for new jobs.

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Posts: 0

August 5, 2011

Reporting demands are very high, all in the name of 'accountability'. Federal grants require reporting at the level of billable hours, and states demand that faculty account for every hour of their time to insure that they not goofing off. Enterprise computing systems increase the amount of work, because they enable the creation of reports organized and parsed in an almost infinite variety of ways. The demand for control, reporting and accountability requires a large and skilled administrative staff. Would you prefer that faculty perform these tasks? Faculty who do not have the time, training, temperament or inclination for administration? Administrators are well-paid, but so are their counterparts in the private sector. Do we want to slash administrative pay and become employers of last resort? We need skilled administrators and lots of 'em. 

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Posts: 0

August 5, 2011

This is a huge problem, mainly in the US and is eating away at our precious research funds.  A friend recently compared the number of administrators at the EMBL in Heidelberg to the Scripps Research Institute in the US. The ratio of administrators to researchers at Scripps was about 3 times higher than EMBL, eventhough Scripps is not a public institution and even though EMBL could be beholden to EU bureaucrats.   Our overhead funds and the power of bureaucrats and lawyers in our nation is undermining productivity and efficiencies.

The only way to address this nationally is to have the NRC, AAAS and NAS evaluate the problem and propose solutions. The solutions would probably be supported on both sides of the aisle in Washington for once and administrators would hopefully be looking for new jobs.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

August 5, 2011

Reporting demands are very high, all in the name of 'accountability'. Federal grants require reporting at the level of billable hours, and states demand that faculty account for every hour of their time to insure that they not goofing off. Enterprise computing systems increase the amount of work, because they enable the creation of reports organized and parsed in an almost infinite variety of ways. The demand for control, reporting and accountability requires a large and skilled administrative staff. Would you prefer that faculty perform these tasks? Faculty who do not have the time, training, temperament or inclination for administration? Administrators are well-paid, but so are their counterparts in the private sector. Do we want to slash administrative pay and become employers of last resort? We need skilled administrators and lots of 'em. 

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Posts: 0

August 5, 2011

This is a huge problem, mainly in the US and is eating away at our precious research funds.  A friend recently compared the number of administrators at the EMBL in Heidelberg to the Scripps Research Institute in the US. The ratio of administrators to researchers at Scripps was about 3 times higher than EMBL, eventhough Scripps is not a public institution and even though EMBL could be beholden to EU bureaucrats.   Our overhead funds and the power of bureaucrats and lawyers in our nation is undermining productivity and efficiencies.

The only way to address this nationally is to have the NRC, AAAS and NAS evaluate the problem and propose solutions. The solutions would probably be supported on both sides of the aisle in Washington for once and administrators would hopefully be looking for new jobs.

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August 8, 2011

Superb analysis. Please see the linked joke about the fall of our culture.
http://www.ahajokes.com/bus128...

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August 8, 2011

Superb analysis. Please see the linked joke about the fall of our culture.
http://www.ahajokes.com/bus128...

Avatar of: Sad_Faculty

Sad_Faculty

Posts: 4

August 8, 2011

Superb analysis. Please see the linked joke about the fall of our culture.
http://www.ahajokes.com/bus128...

Avatar of: Susan Fitzpatrick

Anonymous

August 12, 2011

The James S. McDonnell FOundation has launched a forum for discussing changing academic norms.    It has been slow to take off and we encourage visitors to come and post comments at http://www.jsmf.org/clothing_t... .  

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August 12, 2011

The James S. McDonnell FOundation has launched a forum for discussing changing academic norms.    It has been slow to take off and we encourage visitors to come and post comments at http://www.jsmf.org/clothing_t... .  

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Posts: 0

August 12, 2011

The James S. McDonnell FOundation has launched a forum for discussing changing academic norms.    It has been slow to take off and we encourage visitors to come and post comments at http://www.jsmf.org/clothing_t... .  

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August 19, 2011

It goes to show you that management can be off by a mile (or 2). 

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August 19, 2011

It's a good, thoughtful piece.  Certainly there will be apologists for the emerging status quo, particularly among the group that must justify their own employment.  But, the fact remains that these changes represent a value shift that deeply impacts the meaning of "higher education."  The changes have not been good for teaching, or future progress.  Note that progress is not simply having more technology, and higher GNP, and more money in the pocket, as some people would have us believe.  The prevailing view that everything is driven by immediate economics is in part an offshoot of this change in academia.  There are still many educated people, but I'm not sure how many are in universities.

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August 19, 2011

Looks like Progressive academia meets Progressive bureacracy to me.  The chickens bred in the ivory foxholes (forgive the mixed metaphor) have come home to roost.  Socialist states are essentially massive bureacracies, why should it surprise us that the model we teach in our universites should come home to infect us?  I am in no way religious, but would that not be reaping what we sow?

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August 19, 2011

We may eventually reach the point where academic obituaries will read "Professor X didn't leave much of an intellectual legacy, but he/she sure brought in a lot of grant money."

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August 19, 2011

Kudos to Professor Ginsberg for pointing out how academia has been hijacked by administrators only motivated by the 'bottom line'. Used to be that academia was a place to find refuge from the marketplace, but sadly no more. Some institutions of a society should not be held to a commercial standard. 
Making administrators accountable for the use of indirect costs would go a long way toward rectifying this situation at Research Universities by taking away the incentive to use those monies for other than supporting the scientific environment.

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August 19, 2011

The number of comments generated is a reflection that many have this as a concern. That is a feeling that we should not sweep under the rug.

Many of us also think we have the solutions, but probably don't. I like the notion of one poster who suggests this is a significant enough problem to have a series of respected bodies take input, discuss and make recommendations.

I suggest below that part of the solution may involve some elements below, many of which are difficult to implement changes in attitude.

-define the mission of the institution clearly for everyone and insist that all are working together toward that mission. I think the conflict arises often over the question of who serves whom. Defining the mission clearly defines that everybody is in service to the mission. It highlights who is directly delivering actionable items and that the goal of all is to further the servicing of those items.

-to what extent do our administrative problems arise when administration itself doesn't feel the effects of their decisions? Should having been faculty be a pre-requisite for all administrative positions? Should there be a cap on the effort any faculty puts into administration, so that they continue their academic goals and continue to feel the pain of their decisions. This 'solution' is pertinent only if we consider the work of the faculty to be the centerpiece of the institutions mission (teaching, research, community outreach and continuing education). If society feels that other elements are within the mission, then those voices also must be included somewhere in administration or perhaps at the Regents level only.  

-we have a wealth of well-trained faculty who have direct experience in what helps or hinders the delivery of the institution's mission. Getting them to take on more administrative burdens as their career develops involves changing the academics' perception of 'success'. Participation in administration should be considered a normal component in the progression of a career, not a downgrade from presumed loftier intellectual, academic goals.

-I believe that we can get many faculty to take those positions, at a fraction of what is paid now to the 'professional' administrators. However, we have to ensure that those faculty are properly trained and groomed to take over that role.

-if we get faculty to be the administrators, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the outcome. I suspect it still will not go as well as all would like. Most faculty are strongly opinionated and focus on the direct impact to her/him as individuals. So, it is hard to generate a consensus or a solution that keeps all happy. Still, I would wager that this long-term solution (faculty experience a pre-requisite for administration) will be better than what we currently have.

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August 19, 2011

Faculty rarely appreciate the skills and knowledge it takes to be an effective administrator and to manage a big research organization.  The result is that universities often hire poor managers who do provide poor service.   When are trustees and higher leadership going to realize that investing in a few great managers can unleash enormous productivity and save tons of money?      

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August 19, 2011

Unfortunately it is the case with the reserach organizations at the federal level as well as for as I can see. 

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August 19, 2011

Let's not be naive.  Somebody needs to pay for the science made and the university has to pay its bills.

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August 19, 2011

‘…[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd…’ 
Alexis De Tocqueville (Democracy in America, Chapter VI: What sort of despotism democratic nations have to fear)

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August 19, 2011

There are many good points made and issues raised in the article and comments.  Academic institutions are chimeras, and the mosaic of education, research, public service and cultural/entertain centers is rarely a pretty picture.  The heads of academic institutions are now asked to be fund-raisers rather that scholars and academic coordinators.  Kranbollin is correct that reporting demands are very high, and this goes well beyond accountability of research expenditures.  Academic institutions are required by state and federal agencies to report on everything from crime on campus to completion rates to classroom hours to diversity of students, staff and faculty.  In addition, academic institutions have created their own unfunded mandates such as accrediting bodies and oversight bodies such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  Small wonder that university presidents believe they ought to be compensated at the same level as executives of multi-million dollar corporations.    Steps to contain cost of tuition must include reducing regulatory burden and downsizing administration.  The latter  means selectively decreasing 'services' for students such a on-campus housing, guidance counseling, subsidized cultural entertainment programs and health services, and intramural and extramural athletic programs.  Faculty in the research-intensive universities need to be more engaged in the missions of their institution:  teaching matriculated students, interpreting research findings to colleagues in other disciplines and the  public as well as their peers, and in governance.  Governance means doing some of the work, such as student advising, coordinating extracurricular activities, curriculum review, recruitment of new students, and fund-raising.  The time has come to calibrate student needs and expectations with cost and realistic outcomes.  This may mean divesting of some subsidiaries, as many colleges have colleges have done for food service.  All parties need to take responsibility for the future of the Academy.

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August 19, 2011

Unfortunate analysis. It is true that administration cultures weigh more heavily on academic campuses than in the past. The academic and administrative cultures have necessary tensions between them as they try to accomplish their different tasks. What is not true is that they are at cross purposes. I taught for 10 years and have now been an administrator for 10 years in a highly respected University research institution. There are NO faculty who would like to take over the necessary administrative tasks of running their schools! In fact, when attempting to give them more responsibility they balk... because they other (not more important) things to do to forward the mission of the school. Administrators play an important role.

It is unproductive to put these to equally important groups at odds. Yes, it is true that some administrators are inappropriate in their approach to their mission... this is why we have academic senates. It is also true that some faculty have an inappropriate view of their own role (and mission) within these important academic institutions.

So... I suggest that instead of producing a litany of what is wrong with the current academic environment the professor think for one minute how eliminating the administrative arms of his unit would impact the time he has available for doing the very important intellectual work he is engaged in.

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August 19, 2011

I do see a rationale for the existence of a strong administrative body, albeit not the size of the body that we currently see in our institutions. But I fear that many of these administrators are not as efficient, competent and innovative as would be needed-I really think that the same amount and quality of work could be done by a smaller number of more competent people. At all levels, the same strict accountability should be applied for faculty and administrators, so that 'administration' does not become a form of parasitism.

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August 19, 2011

Yes... Except the kind professor implies administrators are getting paid too much. You get what you pay for. More efficient and fewer - you must pay the higher salary.

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August 19, 2011

Now who's being naive?

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August 19, 2011

This appears to be some true "ivory tower" analysis, ironically directed at a corner of said tower itself.   The Scientist is the Magazine for the Life Sciences, right?  So.. why give a platform to a disgruntled faculty member from the humanities who appears to be ignorant of the lives and struggles of researchers in the life sciences, of the  mountain of regulations that research administrators have to deal with, and of the realities of technology transfer.      What is the point of giving this screed pride of place?

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August 19, 2011

"The number of administrators in an organization will grow at a steady rate irrespective of the amount of work that organization needs to do." C. Northcote Parkinson (Parkinson's Law)

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August 19, 2011

Emphasis on grants emerged from tenured faculty & professors to prevent more persons from becoming tenured | promoted. Once upon a time, numbers of publications | citations | presentations | abstracts were criteria by which tenure & promotion committees judged candidates. The principle item that counts these days is extra-mural funding.

Once a single grant has been acquired from the NIH, no further academic effort is required. Lolling about campuses are many who acquired a single grant that produced 1-5 publications of little merit.  The permanent smile occasioned by a cynosure & continued encomiums (some institutions provision such persons annual ribbons & plaques for decades) is a wonder to behold.

An administrator told me the 50% cut they receive does not pay for research costs, that in reality it should be 66% to cover all the costs. This does not even include the "failures", publishing persons who do not acquire grants but did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of university funds to attempt to do so.  

This is most absurd when the persons concerned are physicians, who generate far more income by practicing medicine than by preparing grants. The solution would be to judge universities on base other than extra-mural funding levels. Alternatives would include number of publications |citations for scholarship & the fate of students after graduation.

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August 19, 2011

The big change in the status of the university in the US from an academic institution runs by faculty into a research business venture has begun in the early 1980s. At that time, faculty in most institutions could avert the disaster of commercializing our learning places into corporations, but they did not believe it would happened. Today, $$$ is the only purpose for the existence of our higher learning institutions, where teaching next generation of leaders and scientists is only a by-product of an industry that perfected the method of grabbing as much tax dollars as it can to pay for fancy buildings, expensive equipment and enlarged, well-paid staff. Another product that has grown significantly as a result of this change is scientific misconduct and other white-collar crimes that always plague corporations. One of the most scary outcomes of this "revolution" in the past 25 years is the disrespect and distrust that many among our elected officials today express toward science. Now, that science and academia are just another business, these elected officials feel free to bad-mouth it, while promoting the "ignorification" of the American people. Many of those who run for office have no problem accusing scientists of faking their research results. Thus we should not wonder why creationism and "global warming is a myth" approaches are gaining strength.

Yes, when faculty gave up their control over their institution, the business people took over and I do not see the faculty ever get their academic university back. Forget it!

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August 19, 2011

In my twenty years of working in USA as a researcher at a number of top-ranking universities I came to the same conclusion - the Science and Knowledge are sacrificed to the Money and Power of Administration. I witnessed the Scientific decay of Emory University and now see huge difference at a Brand New Kennesaw State University in Georgia. At Kennesaw SU administrators ARE the Blood and Meat of the university. They definitely have other priorities and they are interested in you not as a Recognized Scientist, but as a Potential Bringer of Grants and Money. Correspondingly, they are paid much better than researchers. This is the Fall of High Education in USA, and the beginning of the Fall of the Empire. It is a pity. We converged to this Country in the hope for the Future and to Serve to the Humanity. This is a Symptom!!!

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August 19, 2011

All universities and their separate schools have mission statements... I suggest you read yours and ask the question: How many faculty have read and understand theirs and actually bring these statements up in faculty meeting meaning to promote their adherence. Very few...

Academic faculty (by any measure) are not trained to administer and have chosen their professional path BECAUSE of their proclivities. Suggesting that you take an untrained professional and make them responsible for running a large organization is foolish. "Yesterday I were a professor, today I are an accountant." Really?

You obviously haven't been in an academic setting lately. Your naivete is profound!

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August 19, 2011

"mission statements"

I'm sure the irony is lost on you.

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August 19, 2011

The mission of most universities is to educate students and generate new knowledge. It is the faculty who are directly responsible for both of these activities. The role of the administration is to merely support the faculty to carry out these tasks. In other countries, deans and university presidents are elected by the faculty from among themselves. 

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August 19, 2011

Dear Academic Administrator,

You should not make assumptions about who I am and the role I play in advising administration while conducting research at a very large research University. Honestly, you really look very, very foolish.

As for what your comments:

Our faculty knows what the purpose of the institution is. So your comment that 'very few' faculty know it is, in my experience, not true at our institution. Maybe it is at your institution. I can not comment on that any more than your silly ad hominem comment about my institution.

I did not state that a faculty member makes a good administrator just by being a faculty member. However, I am stating that there are faculty out there who are outstanding and are, in my experience, far better than anybody who has never been in the trenches delivering. 

An administrator who does not have experience in delivering the goals of the Mission statement (and yes, I know ours), is a drain on our resources. Luckily, faculty input, such as my own, serves to keep those tendencies partly in check. But administration still manages to go off on their own sometime with consequences to our bottom line that, at our institution, has had for some onerous single items tens of millions of dollars in annual cost through lost productivity. That is followed up by absurd cheerleading emails about how the new procedure saved $170K (maybe for the bottom line of that administrative unit, but at a huge expense to those meeting the instutions mission statement). As a state institution struggling to stay afloat, that waste of dollars is really sad to see. 

So yes, I can say that the administration of our institution, complex as it may be, is severely lacking. The faculty have stepped in to try to right a sinking ship because what has been foisted upon us is untenable.

Look, the fact that this commentary has raised such interest and rancor is a reflection of the fact that this is a serious problem at multiple institutions. It needs to be looked into. I would be happy if some country-wide organization did so.

We (faculty) would much rather have competent administration so that we can do what we were hired to do. But, this gets down to the crux of the problem: administrators with no history in the delivery of the services has difficulty establishing priority areas. 

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August 19, 2011

What's really worrisome is not when administrators take over universities, but when academics start acting like administrators and abandon the academic values they grew up on for the sake of the bottom line. 

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August 19, 2011

So let me get this straight.  There's going to be new highs in unemployed US scientists, but university admins are spending more and more of the overhead costs from research grants by giving themselves raises and hiring more staff?  I don't suppose they'd be willing to hire an unemployed scientist for one of these new positions would they?  Maybe I can clean a university president's house.  I clean up after graduate students and postdocs.  I'm qualified.

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August 19, 2011

What's really worrisome is not when administrators take over universities, but when academics start acting like administrators and abandon the academic values they grew up on for the sake of the bottom line. 

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August 19, 2011

So let me get this straight.  There's going to be new highs in unemployed US scientists, but university admins are spending more and more of the overhead costs from research grants by giving themselves raises and hiring more staff?  I don't suppose they'd be willing to hire an unemployed scientist for one of these new positions would they?  Maybe I can clean a university president's house.  I clean up after graduate students and postdocs.  I'm qualified.

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August 19, 2011

Administrative support to deal with the demands of proper effort/accountability for grants is very different from having administrators in positions of such power that they dictate where indirect costs from research dollars go.

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August 19, 2011

Seems to me that we ultimately 'defeated' the Soviet Union in the 1980s with inovations derived mostly from a bottom up education and research system and since then have adopted their (top down) system.  Who won?

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August 19, 2011

With respect to commercialization, most faculty do not understand some fundamental facts of life. If an academic researcher discovered a drug that actually cured cancer and raced to publish his findings, ten years hence people would still be dying of cancer because nobody would be being treated with it. The only impact of the work would be that other academics would still be publishing papers about this drug. The reason is that if the academic published without first talking to tech transfer obtaining a patent would not be possible. Without a patent, no drug company would touch the drug because after spending millions to obtain FDA approval, every little generic manufacturer would start selling the drug for much cheaper than the people who had fronted the costs to achieve regulatory approval.

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August 19, 2011

On the other hand, my experience is that administrators want everything that could possibly be patented to be patented, which is not a good thing.  Patenting specific materials is usually a good thing, as you say, because it allows for the necessary profit for commercialization.

Patenting processes, on the other hand, can be problematic.  The patent on PCR could have been a disaster if it had been rigorously applied to academic researchers.  Suppose that the BLAST software algorithm had been patented, or dynamic programming as an algorithm.  Also, big problem.

In that sense, most administrators, especially those in the tech transfer units, do not understand the fundamental facts of life.  And yet they try to extend their power to the point of making it a sanctionable action to publish without trying to patent first.

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August 19, 2011

The ultimate source of this particular problem is the cost of obtaining FDA approval, not the desire of researchers to publish discoveries quickly. The bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the FDA have distorted medical science, discouraged innovation, slowed the application of discoveries, and pushed the costs of medicine to astronomical levels. Millions of lives have been needlessly lost over the years as the result of this agency's bungling and inefficiency.

We would do well to limit the FDA to regulating product safety and leave efficacy determination to the medical marketplace. The dramatically reduced costs of drug development would then translate into less delay in "drug pipelines", faster drug development, less patent pressure upon researchers, faster publication of results, and fewer managerial types running our universities.

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August 19, 2011

I disagree for two reasons:
1) The FDA's dual mission, of preventing poisonings on the one hand, and saving us from snake oil salesman, on the other, is crucial to protecting the public.   Just look at the wild west that is the dietary supplement industry.

2) most of the cost of clinical trials is getting enough data to prove safety, not efficacy.   Drugs for chronic CV conditions, diabetes, obesity... have huge huge safety hurdles.  So your prescription doesn't even address the main problem you name.

Additionally, Bob's comment had to do with patenting.   No patent protection, no investment, no drug.   Not so much with clinical trials per se.  ("Rushing to publish" is fine! Just file a patent application first)

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August 19, 2011

Seems to me that we ultimately 'defeated' the Soviet Union in the 1980s with inovations derived mostly from a bottom up education and research system and since then have adopted their (top down) system.  Who won?

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August 19, 2011

With respect to commercialization, most faculty do not understand some fundamental facts of life. If an academic researcher discovered a drug that actually cured cancer and raced to publish his findings, ten years hence people would still be dying of cancer because nobody would be being treated with it. The only impact of the work would be that other academics would still be publishing papers about this drug. The reason is that if the academic published without first talking to tech transfer obtaining a patent would not be possible. Without a patent, no drug company would touch the drug because after spending millions to obtain FDA approval, every little generic manufacturer would start selling the drug for much cheaper than the people who had fronted the costs to achieve regulatory approval.

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August 19, 2011

On the other hand, my experience is that administrators want everything that could possibly be patented to be patented, which is not a good thing.  Patenting specific materials is usually a good thing, as you say, because it allows for the necessary profit for commercialization.

Patenting processes, on the other hand, can be problematic.  The patent on PCR could have been a disaster if it had been rigorously applied to academic researchers.  Suppose that the BLAST software algorithm had been patented, or dynamic programming as an algorithm.  Also, big problem.

In that sense, most administrators, especially those in the tech transfer units, do not understand the fundamental facts of life.  And yet they try to extend their power to the point of making it a sanctionable action to publish without trying to patent first.

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August 19, 2011

The ultimate source of this particular problem is the cost of obtaining FDA approval, not the desire of researchers to publish discoveries quickly. The bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the FDA have distorted medical science, discouraged innovation, slowed the application of discoveries, and pushed the costs of medicine to astronomical levels. Millions of lives have been needlessly lost over the years as the result of this agency's bungling and inefficiency.

We would do well to limit the FDA to regulating product safety and leave efficacy determination to the medical marketplace. The dramatically reduced costs of drug development would then translate into less delay in "drug pipelines", faster drug development, less patent pressure upon researchers, faster publication of results, and fewer managerial types running our universities.

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Posts: 0

August 19, 2011

I disagree for two reasons:
1) The FDA's dual mission, of preventing poisonings on the one hand, and saving us from snake oil salesman, on the other, is crucial to protecting the public.   Just look at the wild west that is the dietary supplement industry.

2) most of the cost of clinical trials is getting enough data to prove safety, not efficacy.   Drugs for chronic CV conditions, diabetes, obesity... have huge huge safety hurdles.  So your prescription doesn't even address the main problem you name.

Additionally, Bob's comment had to do with patenting.   No patent protection, no investment, no drug.   Not so much with clinical trials per se.  ("Rushing to publish" is fine! Just file a patent application first)

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August 19, 2011

Unfortunately it is the case with the reserach organizations at the federal level as well as for as I can see. 

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August 19, 2011

Let's not be naive.  Somebody needs to pay for the science made and the university has to pay its bills.

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August 19, 2011

‘…[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd…’ 
Alexis De Tocqueville (Democracy in America, Chapter VI: What sort of despotism democratic nations have to fear)

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August 19, 2011

There are many good points made and issues raised in the article and comments.  Academic institutions are chimeras, and the mosaic of education, research, public service and cultural/entertain centers is rarely a pretty picture.  The heads of academic institutions are now asked to be fund-raisers rather that scholars and academic coordinators.  Kranbollin is correct that reporting demands are very high, and this goes well beyond accountability of research expenditures.  Academic institutions are required by state and federal agencies to report on everything from crime on campus to completion rates to classroom hours to diversity of students, staff and faculty.  In addition, academic institutions have created their own unfunded mandates such as accrediting bodies and oversight bodies such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  Small wonder that university presidents believe they ought to be compensated at the same level as executives of multi-million dollar corporations.    Steps to contain cost of tuition must include reducing regulatory burden and downsizing administration.  The latter  means selectively decreasing 'services' for students such a on-campus housing, guidance counseling, subsidized cultural entertainment programs and health services, and intramural and extramural athletic programs.  Faculty in the research-intensive universities need to be more engaged in the missions of their institution:  teaching matriculated students, interpreting research findings to colleagues in other disciplines and the  public as well as their peers, and in governance.  Governance means doing some of the work, such as student advising, coordinating extracurricular activities, curriculum review, recruitment of new students, and fund-raising.  The time has come to calibrate student needs and expectations with cost and realistic outcomes.  This may mean divesting of some subsidiaries, as many colleges have colleges have done for food service.  All parties need to take responsibility for the future of the Academy.

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August 19, 2011

Unfortunate analysis. It is true that administration cultures weigh more heavily on academic campuses than in the past. The academic and administrative cultures have necessary tensions between them as they try to accomplish their different tasks. What is not true is that they are at cross purposes. I taught for 10 years and have now been an administrator for 10 years in a highly respected University research institution. There are NO faculty who would like to take over the necessary administrative tasks of running their schools! In fact, when attempting to give them more responsibility they balk... because they other (not more important) things to do to forward the mission of the school. Administrators play an important role.

It is unproductive to put these to equally important groups at odds. Yes, it is true that some administrators are inappropriate in their approach to their mission... this is why we have academic senates. It is also true that some faculty have an inappropriate view of their own role (and mission) within these important academic institutions.

So... I suggest that instead of producing a litany of what is wrong with the current academic environment the professor think for one minute how eliminating the administrative arms of his unit would impact the time he has available for doing the very important intellectual work he is engaged in.

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August 19, 2011

I do see a rationale for the existence of a strong administrative body, albeit not the size of the body that we currently see in our institutions. But I fear that many of these administrators are not as efficient, competent and innovative as would be needed-I really think that the same amount and quality of work could be done by a smaller number of more competent people. At all levels, the same strict accountability should be applied for faculty and administrators, so that 'administration' does not become a form of parasitism.

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August 19, 2011

Yes... Except the kind professor implies administrators are getting paid too much. You get what you pay for. More efficient and fewer - you must pay the higher salary.

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August 19, 2011

Now who's being naive?

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August 19, 2011

This appears to be some true "ivory tower" analysis, ironically directed at a corner of said tower itself.   The Scientist is the Magazine for the Life Sciences, right?  So.. why give a platform to a disgruntled faculty member from the humanities who appears to be ignorant of the lives and struggles of researchers in the life sciences, of the  mountain of regulations that research administrators have to deal with, and of the realities of technology transfer.      What is the point of giving this screed pride of place?

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August 19, 2011

"The number of administrators in an organization will grow at a steady rate irrespective of the amount of work that organization needs to do." C. Northcote Parkinson (Parkinson's Law)

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August 19, 2011

Emphasis on grants emerged from tenured faculty & professors to prevent more persons from becoming tenured | promoted. Once upon a time, numbers of publications | citations | presentations | abstracts were criteria by which tenure & promotion committees judged candidates. The principle item that counts these days is extra-mural funding.

Once a single grant has been acquired from the NIH, no further academic effort is required. Lolling about campuses are many who acquired a single grant that produced 1-5 publications of little merit.  The permanent smile occasioned by a cynosure & continued encomiums (some institutions provision such persons annual ribbons & plaques for decades) is a wonder to behold.

An administrator told me the 50% cut they receive does not pay for research costs, that in reality it should be 66% to cover all the costs. This does not even include the "failures", publishing persons who do not acquire grants but did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of university funds to attempt to do so.  

This is most absurd when the persons concerned are physicians, who generate far more income by practicing medicine than by preparing grants. The solution would be to judge universities on base other than extra-mural funding levels. Alternatives would include number of publications |citations for scholarship & the fate of students after graduation.

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August 19, 2011

The big change in the status of the university in the US from an academic institution runs by faculty into a research business venture has begun in the early 1980s. At that time, faculty in most institutions could avert the disaster of commercializing our learning places into corporations, but they did not believe it would happened. Today, $$$ is the only purpose for the existence of our higher learning institutions, where teaching next generation of leaders and scientists is only a by-product of an industry that perfected the method of grabbing as much tax dollars as it can to pay for fancy buildings, expensive equipment and enlarged, well-paid staff. Another product that has grown significantly as a result of this change is scientific misconduct and other white-collar crimes that always plague corporations. One of the most scary outcomes of this "revolution" in the past 25 years is the disrespect and distrust that many among our elected officials today express toward science. Now, that science and academia are just another business, these elected officials feel free to bad-mouth it, while promoting the "ignorification" of the American people. Many of those who run for office have no problem accusing scientists of faking their research results. Thus we should not wonder why creationism and "global warming is a myth" approaches are gaining strength.

Yes, when faculty gave up their control over their institution, the business people took over and I do not see the faculty ever get their academic university back. Forget it!

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August 19, 2011

It's a good, thoughtful piece.  Certainly there will be apologists for the emerging status quo, particularly among the group that must justify their own employment.  But, the fact remains that these changes represent a value shift that deeply impacts the meaning of "higher education."  The changes have not been good for teaching, or future progress.  Note that progress is not simply having more technology, and higher GNP, and more money in the pocket, as some people would have us believe.  The prevailing view that everything is driven by immediate economics is in part an offshoot of this change in academia.  There are still many educated people, but I'm not sure how many are in universities.

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August 19, 2011

Looks like Progressive academia meets Progressive bureacracy to me.  The chickens bred in the ivory foxholes (forgive the mixed metaphor) have come home to roost.  Socialist states are essentially massive bureacracies, why should it surprise us that the model we teach in our universites should come home to infect us?  I am in no way religious, but would that not be reaping what we sow?

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August 19, 2011

We may eventually reach the point where academic obituaries will read "Professor X didn't leave much of an intellectual legacy, but he/she sure brought in a lot of grant money."

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August 19, 2011

Kudos to Professor Ginsberg for pointing out how academia has been hijacked by administrators only motivated by the 'bottom line'. Used to be that academia was a place to find refuge from the marketplace, but sadly no more. Some institutions of a society should not be held to a commercial standard. 
Making administrators accountable for the use of indirect costs would go a long way toward rectifying this situation at Research Universities by taking away the incentive to use those monies for other than supporting the scientific environment.

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August 19, 2011

The number of comments generated is a reflection that many have this as a concern. That is a feeling that we should not sweep under the rug.

Many of us also think we have the solutions, but probably don't. I like the notion of one poster who suggests this is a significant enough problem to have a series of respected bodies take input, discuss and make recommendations.

I suggest below that part of the solution may involve some elements below, many of which are difficult to implement changes in attitude.

-define the mission of the institution clearly for everyone and insist that all are working together toward that mission. I think the conflict arises often over the question of who serves whom. Defining the mission clearly defines that everybody is in service to the mission. It highlights who is directly delivering actionable items and that the goal of all is to further the servicing of those items.

-to what extent do our administrative problems arise when administration itself doesn't feel the effects of their decisions? Should having been faculty be a pre-requisite for all administrative positions? Should there be a cap on the effort any faculty puts into administration, so that they continue their academic goals and continue to feel the pain of their decisions. This 'solution' is pertinent only if we consider the work of the faculty to be the centerpiece of the institutions mission (teaching, research, community outreach and continuing education). If society feels that other elements are within the mission, then those voices also must be included somewhere in administration or perhaps at the Regents level only.  

-we have a wealth of well-trained faculty who have direct experience in what helps or hinders the delivery of the institution's mission. Getting them to take on more administrative burdens as their career develops involves changing the academics' perception of 'success'. Participation in administration should be considered a normal component in the progression of a career, not a downgrade from presumed loftier intellectual, academic goals.

-I believe that we can get many faculty to take those positions, at a fraction of what is paid now to the 'professional' administrators. However, we have to ensure that those faculty are properly trained and groomed to take over that role.

-if we get faculty to be the administrators, then we have no one to blame but ourselves for the outcome. I suspect it still will not go as well as all would like. Most faculty are strongly opinionated and focus on the direct impact to her/him as individuals. So, it is hard to generate a consensus or a solution that keeps all happy. Still, I would wager that this long-term solution (faculty experience a pre-requisite for administration) will be better than what we currently have.

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August 19, 2011

Faculty rarely appreciate the skills and knowledge it takes to be an effective administrator and to manage a big research organization.  The result is that universities often hire poor managers who do provide poor service.   When are trustees and higher leadership going to realize that investing in a few great managers can unleash enormous productivity and save tons of money?      

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August 19, 2011

All universities and their separate schools have mission statements... I suggest you read yours and ask the question: How many faculty have read and understand theirs and actually bring these statements up in faculty meeting meaning to promote their adherence. Very few...

Academic faculty (by any measure) are not trained to administer and have chosen their professional path BECAUSE of their proclivities. Suggesting that you take an untrained professional and make them responsible for running a large organization is foolish. "Yesterday I were a professor, today I are an accountant." Really?

You obviously haven't been in an academic setting lately. Your naivete is profound!

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August 19, 2011

"mission statements"

I'm sure the irony is lost on you.

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August 19, 2011

The mission of most universities is to educate students and generate new knowledge. It is the faculty who are directly responsible for both of these activities. The role of the administration is to merely support the faculty to carry out these tasks. In other countries, deans and university presidents are elected by the faculty from among themselves. 

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August 19, 2011

Dear Academic Administrator,

You should not make assumptions about who I am and the role I play in advising administration while conducting research at a very large research University. Honestly, you really look very, very foolish.

As for what your comments:

Our faculty knows what the purpose of the institution is. So your comment that 'very few' faculty know it is, in my experience, not true at our institution. Maybe it is at your institution. I can not comment on that any more than your silly ad hominem comment about my institution.

I did not state that a faculty member makes a good administrator just by being a faculty member. However, I am stating that there are faculty out there who are outstanding and are, in my experience, far better than anybody who has never been in the trenches delivering. 

An administrator who does not have experience in delivering the goals of the Mission statement (and yes, I know ours), is a drain on our resources. Luckily, faculty input, such as my own, serves to keep those tendencies partly in check. But administration still manages to go off on their own sometime with consequences to our bottom line that, at our institution, has had for some onerous single items tens of millions of dollars in annual cost through lost productivity. That is followed up by absurd cheerleading emails about how the new procedure saved $170K (maybe for the bottom line of that administrative unit, but at a huge expense to those meeting the instutions mission statement). As a state institution struggling to stay afloat, that waste of dollars is really sad to see. 

So yes, I can say that the administration of our institution, complex as it may be, is severely lacking. The faculty have stepped in to try to right a sinking ship because what has been foisted upon us is untenable.

Look, the fact that this commentary has raised such interest and rancor is a reflection of the fact that this is a serious problem at multiple institutions. It needs to be looked into. I would be happy if some country-wide organization did so.

We (faculty) would much rather have competent administration so that we can do what we were hired to do. But, this gets down to the crux of the problem: administrators with no history in the delivery of the services has difficulty establishing priority areas. 

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August 19, 2011

In my twenty years of working in USA as a researcher at a number of top-ranking universities I came to the same conclusion - the Science and Knowledge are sacrificed to the Money and Power of Administration. I witnessed the Scientific decay of Emory University and now see huge difference at a Brand New Kennesaw State University in Georgia. At Kennesaw SU administrators ARE the Blood and Meat of the university. They definitely have other priorities and they are interested in you not as a Recognized Scientist, but as a Potential Bringer of Grants and Money. Correspondingly, they are paid much better than researchers. This is the Fall of High Education in USA, and the beginning of the Fall of the Empire. It is a pity. We converged to this Country in the hope for the Future and to Serve to the Humanity. This is a Symptom!!!

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RichardPatrock

Posts: 52

August 19, 2011

It goes to show you that management can be off by a mile (or 2). 

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Administrative support to deal with the demands of proper effort/accountability for grants is very different from having administrators in positions of such power that they dictate where indirect costs from research dollars go.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Seems to me that we ultimately 'defeated' the Soviet Union in the 1980s with inovations derived mostly from a bottom up education and research system and since then have adopted their (top down) system.  Who won?

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

With respect to commercialization, most faculty do not understand some fundamental facts of life. If an academic researcher discovered a drug that actually cured cancer and raced to publish his findings, ten years hence people would still be dying of cancer because nobody would be being treated with it. The only impact of the work would be that other academics would still be publishing papers about this drug. The reason is that if the academic published without first talking to tech transfer obtaining a patent would not be possible. Without a patent, no drug company would touch the drug because after spending millions to obtain FDA approval, every little generic manufacturer would start selling the drug for much cheaper than the people who had fronted the costs to achieve regulatory approval.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

On the other hand, my experience is that administrators want everything that could possibly be patented to be patented, which is not a good thing.  Patenting specific materials is usually a good thing, as you say, because it allows for the necessary profit for commercialization.

Patenting processes, on the other hand, can be problematic.  The patent on PCR could have been a disaster if it had been rigorously applied to academic researchers.  Suppose that the BLAST software algorithm had been patented, or dynamic programming as an algorithm.  Also, big problem.

In that sense, most administrators, especially those in the tech transfer units, do not understand the fundamental facts of life.  And yet they try to extend their power to the point of making it a sanctionable action to publish without trying to patent first.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

The ultimate source of this particular problem is the cost of obtaining FDA approval, not the desire of researchers to publish discoveries quickly. The bureaucratic hurdles imposed by the FDA have distorted medical science, discouraged innovation, slowed the application of discoveries, and pushed the costs of medicine to astronomical levels. Millions of lives have been needlessly lost over the years as the result of this agency's bungling and inefficiency.

We would do well to limit the FDA to regulating product safety and leave efficacy determination to the medical marketplace. The dramatically reduced costs of drug development would then translate into less delay in "drug pipelines", faster drug development, less patent pressure upon researchers, faster publication of results, and fewer managerial types running our universities.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

I disagree for two reasons:
1) The FDA's dual mission, of preventing poisonings on the one hand, and saving us from snake oil salesman, on the other, is crucial to protecting the public.   Just look at the wild west that is the dietary supplement industry.

2) most of the cost of clinical trials is getting enough data to prove safety, not efficacy.   Drugs for chronic CV conditions, diabetes, obesity... have huge huge safety hurdles.  So your prescription doesn't even address the main problem you name.

Additionally, Bob's comment had to do with patenting.   No patent protection, no investment, no drug.   Not so much with clinical trials per se.  ("Rushing to publish" is fine! Just file a patent application first)

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Unfortunately it is the case with the reserach organizations at the federal level as well as for as I can see. 

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Let's not be naive.  Somebody needs to pay for the science made and the university has to pay its bills.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

‘…[Administration] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom restrained from acting, such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd…’ 
Alexis De Tocqueville (Democracy in America, Chapter VI: What sort of despotism democratic nations have to fear)

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

There are many good points made and issues raised in the article and comments.  Academic institutions are chimeras, and the mosaic of education, research, public service and cultural/entertain centers is rarely a pretty picture.  The heads of academic institutions are now asked to be fund-raisers rather that scholars and academic coordinators.  Kranbollin is correct that reporting demands are very high, and this goes well beyond accountability of research expenditures.  Academic institutions are required by state and federal agencies to report on everything from crime on campus to completion rates to classroom hours to diversity of students, staff and faculty.  In addition, academic institutions have created their own unfunded mandates such as accrediting bodies and oversight bodies such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association.  Small wonder that university presidents believe they ought to be compensated at the same level as executives of multi-million dollar corporations.    Steps to contain cost of tuition must include reducing regulatory burden and downsizing administration.  The latter  means selectively decreasing 'services' for students such a on-campus housing, guidance counseling, subsidized cultural entertainment programs and health services, and intramural and extramural athletic programs.  Faculty in the research-intensive universities need to be more engaged in the missions of their institution:  teaching matriculated students, interpreting research findings to colleagues in other disciplines and the  public as well as their peers, and in governance.  Governance means doing some of the work, such as student advising, coordinating extracurricular activities, curriculum review, recruitment of new students, and fund-raising.  The time has come to calibrate student needs and expectations with cost and realistic outcomes.  This may mean divesting of some subsidiaries, as many colleges have colleges have done for food service.  All parties need to take responsibility for the future of the Academy.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Unfortunate analysis. It is true that administration cultures weigh more heavily on academic campuses than in the past. The academic and administrative cultures have necessary tensions between them as they try to accomplish their different tasks. What is not true is that they are at cross purposes. I taught for 10 years and have now been an administrator for 10 years in a highly respected University research institution. There are NO faculty who would like to take over the necessary administrative tasks of running their schools! In fact, when attempting to give them more responsibility they balk... because they other (not more important) things to do to forward the mission of the school. Administrators play an important role.

It is unproductive to put these to equally important groups at odds. Yes, it is true that some administrators are inappropriate in their approach to their mission... this is why we have academic senates. It is also true that some faculty have an inappropriate view of their own role (and mission) within these important academic institutions.

So... I suggest that instead of producing a litany of what is wrong with the current academic environment the professor think for one minute how eliminating the administrative arms of his unit would impact the time he has available for doing the very important intellectual work he is engaged in.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

I do see a rationale for the existence of a strong administrative body, albeit not the size of the body that we currently see in our institutions. But I fear that many of these administrators are not as efficient, competent and innovative as would be needed-I really think that the same amount and quality of work could be done by a smaller number of more competent people. At all levels, the same strict accountability should be applied for faculty and administrators, so that 'administration' does not become a form of parasitism.

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Yes... Except the kind professor implies administrators are getting paid too much. You get what you pay for. More efficient and fewer - you must pay the higher salary.

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Earnest Bunbury

Posts: 1

August 19, 2011

Now who's being naive?

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

This appears to be some true "ivory tower" analysis, ironically directed at a corner of said tower itself.   The Scientist is the Magazine for the Life Sciences, right?  So.. why give a platform to a disgruntled faculty member from the humanities who appears to be ignorant of the lives and struggles of researchers in the life sciences, of the  mountain of regulations that research administrators have to deal with, and of the realities of technology transfer.      What is the point of giving this screed pride of place?

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

"The number of administrators in an organization will grow at a steady rate irrespective of the amount of work that organization needs to do." C. Northcote Parkinson (Parkinson's Law)

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

Emphasis on grants emerged from tenured faculty & professors to prevent more persons from becoming tenured | promoted. Once upon a time, numbers of publications | citations | presentations | abstracts were criteria by which tenure & promotion committees judged candidates. The principle item that counts these days is extra-mural funding.

Once a single grant has been acquired from the NIH, no further academic effort is required. Lolling about campuses are many who acquired a single grant that produced 1-5 publications of little merit.  The permanent smile occasioned by a cynosure & continued encomiums (some institutions provision such persons annual ribbons & plaques for decades) is a wonder to behold.

An administrator told me the 50% cut they receive does not pay for research costs, that in reality it should be 66% to cover all the costs. This does not even include the "failures", publishing persons who do not acquire grants but did spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of university funds to attempt to do so.  

This is most absurd when the persons concerned are physicians, who generate far more income by practicing medicine than by preparing grants. The solution would be to judge universities on base other than extra-mural funding levels. Alternatives would include number of publications |citations for scholarship & the fate of students after graduation.

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SolomonRivlin

Posts: 8

August 19, 2011

The big change in the status of the university in the US from an academic institution runs by faculty into a research business venture has begun in the early 1980s. At that time, faculty in most institutions could avert the disaster of commercializing our learning places into corporations, but they did not believe it would happened. Today, $$$ is the only purpose for the existence of our higher learning institutions, where teaching next generation of leaders and scientists is only a by-product of an industry that perfected the method of grabbing as much tax dollars as it can to pay for fancy buildings, expensive equipment and enlarged, well-paid staff. Another product that has grown significantly as a result of this change is scientific misconduct and other white-collar crimes that always plague corporations. One of the most scary outcomes of this "revolution" in the past 25 years is the disrespect and distrust that many among our elected officials today express toward science. Now, that science and academia are just another business, these elected officials feel free to bad-mouth it, while promoting the "ignorification" of the American people. Many of those who run for office have no problem accusing scientists of faking their research results. Thus we should not wonder why creationism and "global warming is a myth" approaches are gaining strength.

Yes, when faculty gave up their control over their institution, the business people took over and I do not see the faculty ever get their academic university back. Forget it!

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Anonymous

August 19, 2011

It's a good, thoughtful piece.  Certainly there will be apologists for the emerging status quo, particularly among the group that must justify their own employment.  But, the fact remains that these changes represent a value shift that deeply impacts the meaning of "higher education."  The changes have not been good for teaching, or future progress.  Note that progress is not simply having more technology, and higher GNP, and more money in the pocket, as some people would have us believe.  The prevailing view that everything is driven by immediate economics is in part an offshoot of this change in academia.  There are still many educated people, but I'm not sure how many are in universities.

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