Do engineers and scientists give a sh**?

The DCU-led ‘Defend the University’ petition is gathering pace and has over 130 signatures at this point. I had a look at who has been signing the petition. I took a sample of 60 people and included only academics who I could track down within a few seconds (I do have other things to do!). I ignored those who might be termed as ‘activists’ and anyone whose identity I couldn’t be sure of. I started at the most recent signatory and worked back in time until I got fed up.

Of the 60 signatories, 4 were mathematicians, 4 worked in computing, 3 in experimental sciences, a miserable 1 (a PhD student) in engineering, 3 in linguistics and another miserable 1 in ‘business’. The remainder had backgrounds in what could be loosely described as the humanities.

Why is this I wonder? Are experimental scientists and engineers (especially) just apathetic or do they disagree with the petition or is it a case that many are actually quite happy with the direction that the modern university is taking. Many scientists who work in strategic areas, for example, are huge beneficiaries of the whole ‘centre of excellence’ culture. My money is on apathy.


About Greg Foley

A lecturer in Biotechnology in Dublin City University for more than 25 years. Trained as a Chemical Engineer in UCD (BE and PhD) and Cornell (MS). Does research on analysis and design of membrane filtration systems.
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6 Responses to Do engineers and scientists give a sh**?

  1. Andrew says:

    I think there are a couple of reasons for this Greg, and I think this is a generalised situation (attend a local union meeting and see the proportions from STEM departments vs. HSS departments). One is the ideological starting point you have already identified that people adopt from the off, and the fatuous and infantile student-politics type drivel that certain commentators spout (I want to scream when I see someone refer to “neoliberal” this or that, which is quite enough fight-the-power bullshit for me and I immediately switch off ). Another is the fact that many STEM academics need to engage with the system if they want to undertake research, have to deal with government-set objectives (whether they agree with them or not) if they want to compete for funding which is a prerequisite for much STEM research, and therefore there may be a more pragmatic approach to realpolitik in general amongst STEM faculty (which may explain the preponderance of STEM-types who rise to senior management positions).

    • foleyg says:

      Very true and many academics in STEM subjects have benefited hugely from the system. Also, researchers in STEM subjects are used to being accountable so don’t see monitoring of outputs as “surveillance”.

    • foleyg says:

      Cormac, No harm in that! In many ways I think the petition is good in that it brings the various issues to the fore but given the way it is written, I see absolutely no chance of it having any impact on policy. I try to imagine myself showing it to my architect brother-in-law who works in the private sector and I shudder to think at his response.

  2. Maybe they’re just busier than their colleagues in humanities?

    • foleyg says:

      Probably true but some poeple in the humanities can have every high teaching loads. Mind you, the general disparity in teaching loads seems to be huge and not just across disciplines.

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