PhD mass production.

If you are in higher education for sure you are well aware of the whole publish or perish policy. Or the competitive academic position, or small number of industry position for PhDs, etc. The question is when this problem started to appear?

For me this topic is similar to “food mass production”.  Chemical nutrients, pesticides, and recently bio-engineered sources all came to help to have a successful food production, possibly to remove world hunger problem. Now we know that not only we did not diminish the world hunger, we lost all the taste of fruits and vegetables. Not to mention the possible side effects. All these problems can be translated in one to one correspondence to academic mass production.

The funny part is that these two processes seem started around the same time. It suggests the fact that, these ideas came from the same master mind. Nowadays, universities work like a factory, which aim to engineer new ideas. Sure, we get more people to learn and practice some stuff, but the question is this efficient or useful in making new ideas?

This type of approach to universities may somewhat work for applied fields, where students trained to acquire some expertise. However, this does not work for abstract sciences, such as philosophy, physics, chemistry, mathematics, etc where pure idea is the main concern. I should add that these abstract sciences are the main hub of future developments. The current approach of universities would lead to the rise of new technologies, and fall of abstract sciences, i.e., fall of future technologies. Now that I have spent more than 7 years in Canada, I can feel more than ever such problems.

World leaders should know that, fundamental sciences which only relies on the deep intellectual abilities are far different from applied fields which mostly relies on practice. Don’t get me wrong, I do not say that engineers are not geniuses, actually some of them are. What I am saying is that with no intelligence it would not be possible to create an idea with practice. (By ideas I do not mean Apple or Microsoft, I mean Newton laws of gravitation, relativity, or Euclid laws of geometry, etc)

In my opinion, for abstract/fundamental sciences university should act as a fertile environment to provide resources such as books, experts (faculty members), labs to help new ideas grow. You can not enforce new ideas, and you can not engineer new ideas. You can only provide environment and let new ideas emerge.

PS: This post was triggered by the recent article sent by my beloved wife. http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/may/24/why-women-leave-academia?CMP=twt_gu

Additionally I like this link which is somehow related to this topic:  http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/05/so-you-know-that-10000-hours-makes-an-expert-rule-bunk/

Recently, Macleans published something interesting while disappointing for PhDs in Canada:

http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/06/03/an-academic-dead-zone/

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One thought on “PhD mass production.

  1. Pingback: Optimizing graduate studies. | didgaha

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