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Education Australia News Science

Academics Not Productive Enough? Sack 'em 356

ananyo writes "One hundred academics at the University of Sydney, Australia, have this week been told they will lose their jobs for not publishing frequently enough. The move is part of a wider cost-cutting plans designed to pay for new buildings and refurbishment to the university. Letters were posted to researchers on Monday 20 February, informing them their positions were being terminated because they hadn't published at least four 'research outputs' over the past three years. It is unclear which research fields the academics work in. Another 64 academics were told they had a choice between leaving and moving to a teaching-only position, he said."
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Academics Not Productive Enough? Sack 'em

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  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @09:55AM (#39135781) Homepage Journal
    Yes. Any questions?
  • Re:publish shit! (Score:4, Informative)

    by ArieKremen ( 733795 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:10AM (#39135905)
    Already Exists: The Journal of Irreproducible Results (
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:14AM (#39135951)

    Good luck getting something like that published for example in Computer Science. Reviewers won't even bother reading past the abstract. "No significant contribution", "nothing novel", etc.

  • Re:Tenure (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lehk228 ( 705449 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:29AM (#39136109) Journal
    the purpose of tenure is to protect professors who do research into controversial and unpopular topics and ideas, it's a counterweight against groupthink and peer pressure

    like any other program or institution it can be abused by some, however measures to counter such abuse need to be in proportion to the prevalence of said abuse and ideally would not introduce excessive complexity, as complexity usually just leaves more room for abuse
  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:40AM (#39136229)

    Most conferences will publish method and interm report abstracts. Many journals will also publish novel method papers.

  • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:45AM (#39136289) Homepage Journal

    The dilemma with "publish or perish" is that the metric is stupid. Saying its "Do your job or get fired" is all well and good, but it is more akin to being a programmer and the sole measure of "doing your job" is "number of lines of code written (including comments)" -- it's frustrating because it encourages and rewards what most would consider "doing your job badly".

  • by Reverse Gear ( 891207 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @10:58AM (#39136395) Homepage

    I know from my brother who is working on a university in mathematics research that 4 publications in 3 years is extremely many in his subject, he has worked extremely hard for 3 years to make 2 publications in topology.
    I have been told it is a common problem for mathematicians that they don't make as many publications as in other fields of science, in geophysics working as researcher (which I don't I work in the private) it would be a reasonable demand with 4 publications on 3 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2012 @11:36AM (#39136749)

    The school doesn't give a F#$% about quality. They will reward thesis students with anything to keep them. Non-thesis students. Good luck.

    These are my woes at a midwestern college in the engineering top 10:

    When I visited ***** when deciding on where to get my MS they kept pushing that "We will find you funding. Near 100% of people are funded in some way (RA or TA) and the only ones that aren't are independently wealthy or their company is paying for it." Over and over. I weighed my options and chose ****** over Michigan and U of I primarily because of this. I chose Non-Thesis because I wanted in and out ASAP. I've already written the equivalent of at least 2-3 in various R&D roles and I was fairly unimpressed with most papers being paraded around in front of me. (Most 2 semester "projects" would be a 4 week 6-Sigma project in the "real world").

    I applied to be a TA. Bright eyed and eager. I had 5 years of industry experience in the specific classes I wanted to TA. I had a 3.5 undergraduate GPA. I went to ***** for my undergrad so I know all the classes. I have this wonderful skill of being able to 'translate' any idea or notion into another realm. Come up with 10 ways to explain something based on what you already know. (I've gotten my Biology GF to understand control theory by relating it to her background in self regulating biological systems). I speak fluent & neutral accented Midwestern English. I WANT TO TEACH. What more could you ask for in a TA?

    I had to drop down to 1 & 2 classes a semester because I couldn't afford full tuition AND I was out-of-state. Thankfully I got some intern/PT work at ****** to help pay some bills because I was expecting the TA stipend to help cover food, tuition and health insurance. I reapplied every semester and every semester it was the same thing.

    I've bit my tongue until today. I was in 500 level class with a guy that was a TA. I've been in a few other classes with him and he sleeps or 'take notes' with his head down about 50% of the time (if he shows up). Just hearing him talk is like nails on a chalkboard. He was talking with someone else in the class and joking about a 300 level course (That he is a TA for). "Oh man, yeah. That class was rough. I barely go a C in it, I think they really curved the final." A class that I nailed with one of the top grades in the class when I took it. He got a C in a class and they let him TA it. Oh wait, he got funding. He's doing "research" (I can only imagine how useful that is). He's eventually going to be published. The schools name will show up in some obscure journal somewhere. The professor will get another notch in his publishing headboard.

    AC for obvious reasons.

  • by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @11:59AM (#39136999)

    As a researcher writing papers is part of your job.
    Almost every job requires you to do something that sucks.

    Most faculty, especially ones above the Junior College level, think teaching is the part of the job that sucks, not writing and publishing.

  • by MisterSquid ( 231834 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @12:04PM (#39137043)

    Teaching 2-3 courses per semester is a part-time job and they are not typically paying you to be a member of a professional organization.

    As a former academic at a research university, I can say you know not whereof you speak.

  • by FrangoAssado ( 561740 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @01:29PM (#39138119)

    That's a really interesting question. I don't know about Mathematics, but in Physics, its pretty damn important to publish negative results. Feynman used to tell a story to show that (available here []). Basically, the story goes something like this:

    Robert Millikan [], which was already a famous experimental physicist, published a (now famous) experiment that determined the charge of a single electron []. This was the first time such a thing had been done, so it was a really big deal. A lot of other physicists replicated the experiment, with lots of papers published all around. The thing about experiments is that the value measured always has an uncertainty, and experimenters make mistakes, so it's very common for later experiments to correct previously-measured values. The strange thing about this case is that, if you plot the "known" value for the electron charge over time, you get a curve that gradually grows from the value measured in the first experiment to the value we now know is correct (because today we have many different ways to measure the value, so we're pretty sure of it).

    So, why is the plot a gradual curve and not a straight jump to the correct answer? Why didn't the second experiment get the correct value right away? The answer is embarrassing. Since Millikan was so famous, subsequent experimenters didn't publish their results if the value they got was too far from the "currently accepted" value -- they thought of their results as "negative results", even though they probably had less error than the "currently accepted" value. The ones that got published were the ones with similar errors to the previous ones, or the ones that kept tweaking their setup (introducing all kinds of random errors) until they got a value that was closer to the original.

    Nowadays, physicists are very careful not to make mistakes like this. Part of that care means that you don't pay too much attention to the "expected" result, so you really should publish negative results. Of course, that's just the theory -- no one likes to publish negative results, because most of the time, they're just a waste of time.

  • by mbkennel ( 97636 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @02:30PM (#39138965)

    Princeton, not Oxford. And he had a day job and was teaching and publishing normal papers. He 'secretly' worked on Fermat on the weekends.

  • by martin-boundary ( 547041 ) on Thursday February 23, 2012 @05:51PM (#39141069)
    Because university administrators don't care about Science, they care about parking fees and paying for buildings and maintaining the greens.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI