31 March 2008

I would like to support the suggestion of "Aggrieved Goose" (Monday Paper Feb 18-2 March 2008) that individual researchers at UCT should receive a substantial cut of the government subsidy for journal articles.

The claim by the administration that this will lead academics to publish in journals of "dubious quality" is disingenuous, since journal publication is already a criterion for promotion and RFJ.

Prof Vaughan claims that (some of) the universities that "earn greater subsidy than UCT ... based on the number of their publication outputs" have a great number of "publications of dubious quality".

However, without further information, nothing can be deduced from this. It is absurd and insulting to suggest that academics will publish anywhere just to get money - no one goes into academia for the paycheque, and any subsidy money would go directly into one's research account.

Here's one reason I can think of for rewarding academics a substantial cut of the subsidy: conferences. UCT's conference awards committees meets only twice a year, in February and September.

Often, calls for papers come out between these dates, making it impossible to apply for funding from UCT. And sometimes funding received during the September round arrives too late.

One colleague had to cancel his conference attendance because, by the time he was given the award, airline tickets had increased drastically. Moreover, one receives no funding to attend conferences without giving a paper.

If academics had more research money available, this would give us greater freedom to attend the conferences we deem important.

I also note with interest that UCT is not averse to granting researchers money in other ways. In that same edition, Monday Paper proudly reported that: "Fifteen UCT researchers... have benefited from a collective R232 000, awarded by the Innovation Fund for South African patents granted in 2006.

The money is an incentive to encourage researchers to file patents". I rest my case.

Featherless Biped
Humanities Faculty

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