Re: Understanding Academia

From: Steve (
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 12:26:42 MDT

Date: Wed, 03 May 2000 14:21:06 -0400
From: Robin Hanson <>
Subject: Understanding Academia

Robin, an interesting post. My background as a commercial publisher did not
prepare me at all for the labyrinthine world of academic journals (when I
returned to post-grad research a while back) ..... and I was horrified to
realise that many of the points you make in your posting are true. I have
always refused to submit any of my MVT (Median Vision Theory) material to
any academic journals ..... mainly because they don't pay much but expect
all the reproduction rights. Since I am not a "career academic" publishing
in these journals and playing the silly game you detail, always seemed
pointless to me. I prefer to retain my own copyrights.

>I think it helps a lot to understand why academics do what they do.
>For the most part it is not because they are stupid or lack imagination.
>It is mostly because they are using a winning strategy in the game
>they are playing: publish or perish. Sure lots of people aren't willing
>to sacrifice their principles to play this strategy. But a strong
>selection effect insures that they are a minority in academia.

>22. Do not write papers with breakthrough ideas at first

>Avoid writing about your breakthrough ideas, at least in the early stage of
>your career, unless your mentor is the editor of a major journal.

There might be other reasons for this too. If an idea is genuinely new, then
there are not going to be a lot of "references" you can cite, and academics
love references since they have a community bonding function.

In my case, MVT offers a solution to the hard/ mind problem in philosophy,
which reduces all the second-order theorising and "made-up names" that
comprises the "Analytic" school of philosophy. Academics want to perpetuate
problems, not solve them ... it simply isn't in their interest to shorten
their "philosopher's debate."

>If you do advance breakthrough ideas your papers will be rejected, and they
>might reappear in a modified, clearly written form from someone else later.

It is good that new and challenging ideas have an airing on this extropian
list. I am in the lucky position of having experience of 4 different
Universities but do not have to play the academics' game, so am free to
press a post-human reform agenda (at and -zine).

Does anyone else have negative experiences of academic politics?

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