By Paul Walker 07/05/2016 4


In the video below, University of Wisconsin Professor of Political Science Donald Downs explains why academic freedom and hearing opposing viewpoints is so valuable. 3:50 well spent.

“A fundamental way to learn is to encounter ideas with which you disagree.”


4 Responses to “Why we NEED academic freedom”

  • “Academic freedom”, in the sense which I most often hear it being used, does have a worrying side to it. It is often used as an attempted justification for publishing deliberately overly controversial articles in scientific journals. The idea behind it is that a controversial article gets more citations, which is good for both the author and the hosting institution. This leads to “tabloid science”, which I find repugnant.

  • Controversial or not articles go through peer review so even the controversial ones have to have some merit. But it is true that there is a bias towards new results or unexpected results in publishing. But this is not “tabloid science”.

  • Funny that you should mention “peer review” at this time. I am currently involved in a discussion on the list server Taxacom, where I started a thread about a just published opinion piece. Somehow, 14 authors, at least 2 reviewers, and the editorial team of a major journal in world entomology all managed to fail to notice that their argument was based on an obvious misinterpretation of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN)! An ICZN comissioner replied on Taxacom:

    “At least a few Commissioners, myself included, communicated with one or more of the co-authors of this paper when it came out, and pointed out the errors to them, but as far as I am aware, they have yet to acknowledge any errors. They most certainly did not include any Commissioners among the referees of the paper prior to publication. The Commission is also looking into the possibility of issuing a “position paper” of our own” See: http://mailman.nhm.ku.edu/pipermail/taxacom/2016-May/082634.html

    So, yeah, don’t talk to me about “peer review” and “merit”. It is a fine line which is often crossed. Crap gets published.