Thursday, 9 June 2016

Academics ARE biased (but that's usually OK)

It was with interest that I read in the Times Higher Education an interestiing article exploring bias in EU-funded public policy-related professors when speaking about Brexit.

And it lead me to think - well of course. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

I doubt if anyone really wants to make a career in what they do not believe in. As they are only human, they do have a point of view and it will leak out even if they are trying to be neutral. Of course, the funding system may (and I would argue does) distort the civil discourse in higher education on a more systemic basis. But to dismiss an individual on that alone would be wrong - that would be an ad homineum attack.

We just need to know where the argument is coming from and what outside influences may be in play (as in common in medical research). Then people can make up their own mind who or what they believe.

And making people to be able to make up their own minds about something (even if one may not agree with it) is surely what we working in higher education are about..

We can never remove bias, but for universities to maintain their role as a neutral space they can be transparent.

The article also notes the efforts of the academics concerned not to abuse their position.

And for those reasons I really see no problem in the situation that the article covers. What worries me are academic and orther 'independent' reports where the funding and influences are not in the open. I am unsure that the Brexit debate has been free of those.

No comments: