Reflecting on the Roles and Responsibilities of University Faculty and Management
Edited by Roger Sugden, Marcela Valania and James R. Wilson
Chapter 15: Where were you?
All too few academic economists these days seem to be engaged in policy debates, and that seems especially true in the UK. Maybe that is because of perverse incentives, because promotion and reputation rest in large part on publication in prestigious journals that few people read. That may well be because the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)/Research Evaluation Framework (REF) in the UK amounts to little more than top journal paper counting. Sadly many of these papers are cited by few and are not written to solve a deep policy question and indeed, in some cases could even be summarized as an answer in search of a question and worthless. A ‘major’ contribution on a quite trivial technical point in the economics profession usually receives more approbation and attention, and even a salary increase than a small contribution to an important question. Trying to solve some narrow theoretical point may well be less than useless. The big emphasis on theory in many UK economics departments seems to have been a mistake, as it seems to have little impact and has done little or nothing to improve the human condition. Playing clever mind games, which is the equivalent of counting angels on pinheads, should be a hobby rather than an activity subsidized by the British taxpayer.
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