Monday, 16 September 2013

Academia: The Violent Land of Giant Egos

Most hospital doctors, of all grades, will be familiar with the division of hospital medicine between the academic side, of teaching and research, and the non academic side, also known as "working for a living". Throughout my career I was often struck by the schism between the two, and the disdain expressed by both sides for the other. I was always a worker, slogging away on a daily basis, with no interest personally in research, or any time to do it. I always felt I should have a degree of respect and admiration for those working in the teaching hospitals, who I expected would be more talented, skilled and brighter than me. So whenever I met some of these people I was always a little disappointed to find that they didn't quite live up to my expectations.
Today, in two totally different areas I have found the problem with academia, both in medicine, and more generally, expressed succinctly and simply.
Firstly I read a resignation letter from a PhD student expressing his disappointment with his experience.
"I’ve lost faith in today’s academia as being something that brings a positive benefit to the world/societies we live in. Rather, I’m starting to think of it as a big money vacuum that takes in grants and spits out nebulous results, fueled by people whose main concerns are not to advance knowledge and to effect positive change, though they may talk of such things, but to build their CVs and to propel/maintain their careers."
Within just 20 minutes I read this, almost identical lament from "The Medical Registrar" on facebook: 
"And the whole point of publications (apart from enlightening the world about the thing you've discovered with slightly dubious scientific methods and downright fraudulent statistics which doesn't really mean anything and needs more research) is to put them on your CV to get points..."
I've often commented here on the worthlessness of some of the publications that have come to my attention. 
Perhaps it's time we stopped according the concept of publications and research such deference. When doctors who want to work are sidetracked into doing research they're not interested in, that they do badly and indifferently, what is being achieved? 

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