Phi Beta Cons

Re: Commercial U.

A few quick points on that.

First, I’m not sure I have such a problem with campuses pursuing profitable research over unprofitable research. If people are willing to pay more for certain knowledge, it’s because they value that knowledge more.
And even within a specific research topic, the profit motive can give incentives for the correct results. For example, if we could access their data and analysis, I think we’d find that marketing researchers have at least as clear a conception of human nature, and are at least as good at predicting human behavior, as sociologists and psychologists. If the goal is to get ahead in academia, political correctness is the way to go, but in the marketing world, you have to understand human nature and human differences accurately in order to exploit them.
(On the other hand, if interested parties offer profit for research on political topics, they can give incentives for specific results instead of correct ones.)
Also, knowledge’s “inherent value” is a squishy concept, whereas knowledge’s market value is quantifiable, so the latter lends itself to a more objective approach.
Finally, this has important ramifications for public funding of universities. At the very least, I think it’s important to concentrate funding on instruction rather than research, if such a distinction is possible. Or better yet, let’s divorce the two entirely, because there isn’t much evidence of a correlation between the two skills.

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