… to the point …

Well, you may say I am burning in the Heraclitean Fire, carried away and not doing what the academic world-order asks me to do – moving on with the metaphor, one may add: this little bit of disobedience is like playing with fire, a dangerous not to say: life threatening game.

So to the point, reading Erwin Chargaff’s

Heraclitean Fire: Sketches from a Life Before Nature.

He refers on page 171 to another work by himself**, which he wrote earlier and where he contended:

The fashion of our times favors dogmas. Since a dogma is something that everybody is expected to accept, this has led to the incredible monotony of our journals. Very often it is sufficient for me to read the title of a paper in order to reconstruct its summary and even some of the graphs. Most of these papers are very competent; they use the same techniques and arrive at the same results. This is then called the confirmation of a scientific fact. Every few years the techniques change; and then everybody will use the new techniques and confirm a new set of facts. This is called the progress of science. Whatever originality there may be must be hidden in the crevices of an all-embracing conventional makeshift: a huge kitchen midden in which the successive layers of scientific habitation will be dated easily through the various apparatuses and devices and tricks, and even more through the several concepts and terms and slogans, that were fashionable at a given moment.

Chargaff’s book had been published in 1978, he was, as widely known, professor in biochemistry, he emigrated from fascist Germany … – and one may ask if it is purely by accident that with this background already

[a]s early as 1949, this eminent scientist described certain irregularities in the composition of DNA and formulated the concept of ‘complementarity’ – later referred to as ‘Chrgaff’s rule’ and still later as ‘base pairing’ – which was the most important single piece of evidence for the double-helical structure of DNA’ [from the book-cover blurb].

‘Back to the fire’ – what he states, looking at methods, can cum grains salis also said for today and social science: where ‘methodology’ chapters in theses too often present methods, not showing any awareness of the difference between method and methodology, where publications and universities and people are ranked on the basis of algorithms and where entities are cut into pieces, making us forget the following:

The insufficiency of all biological experimentation, when confronted with the vastness of life, is often considered to be redeemed by recourse to a firm methodology. But definite procedures presuppose highly limited objects; and the supremacy of “method” has led to what could be called by an excellent neo-German term the Kleinkariertheit (piddling pedantry) of much present-day biological research. The availability of a large number of established methods serves, in fact, in modern science often as a surrogate of thought. Many researchers now apply methods whose rationale they do not understand. [170]

*****

End of term, and of the academic year – students, sometimes inviting lecturers, celebrating; preparing for holidays, but also asking for references, preparing the next career moves.

I have to admit, I am am happy that some say they did not ‘invite me to their celebration’ but invited me ‘to celebrate with them’; and I also have to admit that it is an honour to be seen by some as 老师, as lǎoshī – a bit like the hojam as we use it at ODTU in Ankara.

An unwritten chapter for the

Diary from a Journey into another World: Diaries against nationalism, inspired by trying to overcome personal resentments

to be closed.

======

** Chargaff, E. 1965. On Some of the Biological Consequences of Base-pairing in the Nucleic Acids. In: M.D. Anderson (Ed.), Developmentn.l and Metabolic Control Mechanisms and Neoplasw. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, p. 19.

 

 

Annunci

Democracy – Freedom of Research

While in Turkey harshest measures can be found against academics and it is a witch-hunt like atmosphere, calls for  the Support of Turkish academics being answered with even more severe punishment, while there is the ongoing debate on the problems of socio-economic security for academics, another, more subtle, aspect should not be forgotten, linked to the ranking systems:

Fearing for their budgets, rectors responded with both carrots and sticks. A few weeks before the submission deadline, the CRUI announced a “university spring day”, on which every campus would hold a debate about the problems facing Italian universities. Meanwhile, Pisa suspended all planned appointments, promotions and payment of research expenses until the effect of the boycott on its budget is ascertained. And the University of Pavia announced that future resources would be distributed to departments on the basis of their VQR results: hence, fewer protesters means more resources.

An interesting way of strangulating democracy is shown  where

Academics in Italy have boycotted assessment

and the questions is

What has it achieved?

Why does a Professor have to be treated like that? One of my colleagues here at the College whom I told my story looked at me, there was a silence, …

Publish and perish at Imperial College London: the death of Stefan Grimm

Shocking — the story itself; and that in so many ways we accept it, refrain from massive resistance …

And even already little resistance bears harsh consequences …

if we then add those who retire at an early stage, looking for something else, working outside of academia etc., the picture is quite frightening …

Still, also One scholar’s crusade may matter, is at least necessary …