Research, Taxation, and Comprehension by George Wilson

Should research  – especially research produced or undertaken by people funded by taxation – be accessible to all? Should it be always in the public domain? Should there be a compulsion to have it written in clear English (or French, Russian, Mandarin……), using terminology that is pretty much universally accessible and comprehensible? If our taxation paid for it, it’s ours?
Is there any value – other than to those in the inner circle of its production – in research for continued funding, for publication, for status, for career progression, ego or for the impressing of close colleagues. It seems that may be the currency currently driving our HE institutions, and maybe researchers don’t like it but if them’s the rules, what can they do but comply? But is that the case, and should it be?


Is the biggest prospect an academic has for promotion based upon the amount of research she gets published, irrespective of the practical value it may be delivering to the society that paid for it? I don’t know …. I feel it might be.  Would it be justifiable to use taxpayers’ money to fund that?

Does research for publication, for status, for career progression, ego or for the impressing of close colleagues come with an opportunity cost, that of alternative research not undertaken which might have led to cures, developments, solutions, wealth creation, and general improvements to the condition of the planet and all upon it?
I really don’t know. I do know that a lot of the textbooks I read are written in a most convoluted and complex terminology, when in fact the same message could easily be delivered in simple comprehensible English. Can we reasonably talk of widening access and widening participation whilst at the other end of the process we produce material almost guaranteed to exclude the people we profess to want to attract?

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