Stephen Battersby ~ News Feature: Can Humankind Escape The Tragedy Of The Commons?


Photo: wikipedia

Selfish resource exploitation threatens societies and livelihoods. But there could be ways for nations and communities to circumvent narrow self-interest in favor of the common good.
Consider a simple pasture, common land where anyone may let their cattle graze. Any rational, self-interested person wants to increase their livelihood. So each adds to their herd, one more animal at a time, until eventually the common land can’t sustain any more cows. The pasture is overgrazed and all of the cattle die.

This bleak picture, sketched out in an 1833 pamphlet by the British mathematician William Forster Lloyd, remained an obscure snippet of social science until 1968, when ecologist Garrett Hardin picked it up. In his profoundly influential paper, “The tragedy of the commons”, Hardin wrote, “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.”

It has proved to be a powerful idea. To Hardin and others, the same grim logic was behind many of our biggest problems. Common resources, such as fisheries, forests, and even the air are threatened by selfish individuals and nations taking what they can, even though they know the resource will be wiped out if everyone does the same. Hardin’s solution was to cede our freedoms to the state, to be bound by “mutual coercion mutually agreed upon”.

This brand of tragedy is particularly urgent today as our population and technology put more and more strain on limited nature.

Read more: http://www.pnas.org/content/114/1/7.long

 

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Peter Scott ~ Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics And University Performance Targets


Pilate asked: “What is truth?” No, this is not just another attack on the “post-truth” brigade – Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, and the rest engaged in counter-revolution against liberal society. Every serious person knows that the consequences for universities of leaving the EU, and the wider Brexit-style tide of reaction, will be dire. Whatever social media trolls so aggressively believe, there is no upside.

There are other dubious “truths” – in particular, the cult of performance. As well as a knowledge society, the audit society, the network society, we have now have the performance society.

The signs are everywhere – targets (and “stretch” targets) for organisations and performance management of individuals; Ofsted scores in schools; and gold-silver-bronze rankings in the forthcoming Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in higher education.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/university-performance-targets

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David Matthews ~ German Research Ministry Demands Open Access


All research funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will have to be open access, it has been announced, but the strategy does not go as far as open access advocates would like.

The new policy means that BMBF-funded research will come with an open access clause, although scholars will still be able to publish in closed journals and make their work open after an embargo period.

Read more: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/german-research-ministry

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Yusef Waghid ~ Our Universities Must Be Centers Of Open Debate For Africa To Make Political Progress


Photo: en.wikipedia.org

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

To understand what an African philosophy of education is and why it’s so important, consider the role that universities should play in any society.

Universities, no matter where they are, ought to be places where knowledge is internalized, questioned and considered. Such knowledge should respond to a university’s particular social, political and economic context. The pursuit of such knowledge happens in a quest for human development. What would a university be if its only purpose was to produce knowledge without considering its effects on a society and its people?

But it’s perhaps precisely this disjuncture—between what universities purport to do and what happens in society—that starts to explain why knowledge in Africa has become so misplaced. This has happened in several Arab and Muslim states, where some universities have seemingly become reluctant to encourage critical learning. Knowledge produced in such universities does not attend to public concerns, whether these are political, economic, social or cultural.

Read more: http://qz.com/our-universities-must-be-centers

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Jonathan Gray & Stuart Lawson ~ It’s Time To Stand Up To Greedy Academic Publishers


MAHow should research travel from the notebooks, hard drives and laboratories of researchers to the desks of their peers? Who should get access? And who should pay?

Over the past few years, these deceptively simple questions have been beset with controversy. Librarians at some of the world’s wealthiest institutions have announced that they can no longer afford to purchase the materials their researchers need. Leading academics have organised boycotts, petitions and mass resignations to protest the combination of prohibitively high prices and profit margins that rival those of the big oil, pharmaceutical and technology firms. A recent paper found that just five multinational publishing conglomerates accounted for 50% of all papers published in 2013.

It may seem like an administrative afterthought, but the issue of how research is communicated in society raises questions that cut to the heart of what academics do, and what academia is about. The scale of the entanglement between academic research and big publishers may well lead us to ask: who is serving whom? Does our scholarly communication system put the needs of researchers first? Or does it prioritise the uninterrupted profitability of a handful of publishers?

Reda more: https://www.theguardian.com/why-academic-journals-expensive?

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Elizabeth Redden ~ Turkey’s Fraying International Ties


A crackdown on Turkey’s higher education sector is hurting international academic collaborations and student and scholar exchanges.

A joint statement signed by 42 American and European scholarly groups describes what’s happening in Turkey as a “massive and virtually unprecedented assault” on principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression and says “the crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government.”

Since a July 15 coup attempt, Turkey’s government has reportedly suspended, detained or placed under investigation tens of thousands of soldiers, police officers, judges, teachers and civil servants in a push to rid government and educational institutions of suspected followers of Fethullah Gülen, the Muslim cleric whom the Turkish government accuses of being behind the failed coup (Gülen has denied any involvement). It has ordered the closure of 15 universities and 1,043 private schools suspected of links to Gülen. The government has also reportedly detained academic staff, suspended four university rectors and demanded the resignation of all university deans, 1,577 of them. In a statement about the forced resignations, the Council of Higher Education described it as “a precautionary measure” and said it is “very likely” most universities will reinstate the deans after an investigation.

Read more: https://www.insidehighered.com/how-crackdown-turkey

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