Academia Shirking Its Responsibilities?

In an interesting WashPo editorial today, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., of Harvard University brings up the interesting question about whether Academia is fulfilling its mission of contributing to public policy.  He notes the trend that Academic research is getting ever more specialized and as a result less relevant to applications that Public Policy requires.  In the void left by Academic Institutions, a growing number of public policy “think tanks” have rushed in to fulfill Public Policy needs.  Often times, these so-called “think tanks” are merely the marketing agencies, dressed up in scholarly clothing, for various large corporate interests.  See the Flint Hills Public Policy Institute (read Koch Industry Propaganda Arm) as a local example of this marketing effort which has been dressed up in innocent appearing academic clothing.

Think tanks have many a scholar readily available with a nice list of talking points that can be conveniently sold to state and national legislatures.  The Wichita Eagle publishes reports the Flint Hills group provide  like it is fair and balanced opinion/research.

A consumer warning:  Beware of who funds the pretty info supplied by think tanks/public policy groups – for it just may be a nice looking Trojan Horse.

See the Washpo editorial here:

Iggy Donnelly…


Filed under Economics, Elections, Life Lessons, Media, newspapers, Political Reform, Science without political control, The Economy, The Environment

5 responses to “Academia Shirking Its Responsibilities?

  1. tosmarttobegop

    We witnessed in the last eight years the result of Policy makers disregarding science or anyone that is counter to the desired outcome. It could be called the “Cheney syndrome” if the available experts doe not have the opinion that supports your preconceived ideas. You than create your own experts, be it scientists or Historians. In Cheney’s case it happen to be foreign intelligence experts. When it comes to the true and facts there are several ways of handling it. You can believe it, you can not believe it, or you can choose to ignore it.

  2. prairiepond

    I think it’s not just academia that isnt doing it’s job. I”m too lazy to research this today, but I remember reading about how the “government numbers”, especially regarding the economy, have been rat buggered since st. ronnie ray gun cut the funding for government researchers not tied to a private sector project.

    Hell, the Comptroller of the Currency stopped counting the M3 money supply a few years ago. Not a good way to provide sound information for monetary policy. Ya know, the kind of monetary policy relied upon by st. alan greenspan. Any wonder why his decisions regarding interest rates and money supply got us where we are?

    We cant make good decisions without good numbers and science upon which they are based. If the keepers of the numbers have been politicized, we are not only driving, er careening down the road without a map, we’re also working the high wire without a net!

  3. Another example of the money it takes to buy the influence. The Koch fortune buys whatever they want. They’ve certainly bought the newspaper in this town — and, whatever slant they want is the slant they get. It’s a pretty easy buy tho because the majority of local people want so badly to cling to the same pillars of conservative unwisdom and faulty ideas as The Flint Hills Public Policy Institute espouses.

  4. iggydonnelly

    Excellent point, PrairiePond, when you own the numbers, you own reality (or your convenient version of it, at least).

    Yes, fnord, there are many people in this town whom I believe are afraid to Koch family. In their family they count among the 50 richest people, not just in this country, but in the world.

    The Koch’s had imported a guy who had formerly ran a portion of the Cato Institute to head up their Flint Hills Public Policy Institute (a dot org, no less). I talked to him on the phone once. He seemed like he was a very nice guy. I am not sure if he is still leading their group.

    I guess if I had the Koch family money, all problems would look resolvable by unregulated free market solutions. I am still trying to figure out those folks who hold this view, but whose bank accounts happen to be a little south of that claimed by the Kochs. It is a curious world, indeed.

  5. Always pay attention to how and by whom the “thinktanks” are funded. Follow the money applies here, as well as in many other situations.

    On the topic; Academia has become ever so much more reliant on outside private funding for its research. It is inevitable that the research projects become more and more specialized. Generally, “pure” research holds no guarantees that it will produce anything “of value” to anyone.

    While the knowledge that hypothesis X doesn’t explain occurrence A is valuable, obtaining such knowledge does not produce anything that can be sold, patented, etc. It does produce a finding that allows future research to go into other areas, but again, unless that future research can show that hypothesis Y explains occurrence A, such further research is likely to not receive much, if any, private funding.