Friday, July 20, 2012

the "TANKER" party : 'tank' in academia, become a Republican and work in a think tank....

Thanks to the supposedly proven success of Big Science in winning the war , (government-funded) university research worldwide expanded so greatly after 1945 that tough peer-review became de rigueur for young Republican academics seeking to get into the best regarded science journals.

There was also much more competition from other young ambitious non-Republican researchers at your own university as well.

Thanks in part to programs like the various GI Bills around the world, suddenly university educations were not just for white Protestant native poor sons of the well off.

FDR couldn't draw flies in university towns ...

American university towns, for example, had long been strongholds of Republican party strength in the FDR Era, but after his death all that began to change to such an extent that even historians doubt me, when I mention this inconvenient fact !

This effect was duplicated in British university towns as well, indeed the effect was probably worldwide in its impact.

Informal quotas to keep out women, Jews, Blacks, Catholics,  working class democratic voters, ethnics and minorities began to fade out after 1950 in the best known universities----- under the growing external and internal response to the events at Auschwitz.

And Big Science and big mega projects were now so truly BIG that they began to overtly display global impacts - but not always a good global impacts.

So, after 1970 , government-funded university research began to shift in response to these changes: less government grant money went to production research (building ever an ever bigger machine) and more went to study the impact of the machine in the garden - ie studying its global effects out in the real world.

Research dollars also tended to divide politically - a smaller proportion went to production science - usually for weapons research, scooped up by production-and-defense-minded Republican party supporters.

But the bigger proportion went to study impact of these production efforts and in addition the all important academic prestige tended to hang out here as well - at the Democratic end of the academic pool.

The reasons for this was because the best science journals were now almost forced to accept fewer and fewer production science articles and publish more and more impact science articles.

After 1945, as they faced too many potential articles for too few spots in their journals, the editors of the big journals, those well read world-wide, tended to formalize a requirement that the successful articles had to be about subjects with truly great global impact.

(Say something of importance to most or all of their globe-wide readership.)

Rarely does a new production science process appear global in importance when it is first announced - that only appears evident perhaps twenty years later, in 20/20 hindsight.

But "global impact" research fits this requirement, almost as if by design !

Most Republican party academics, at least at first, adjusted well to the new realities - either continued to publish production science but in smaller journals or struggled to get their impact science articles into the big journals , just like everyone else.

But those who resented the fact that their colleagues (in formal academic review or simply behind their backs) regarded them as second raters began to see another alternative where they could get prestige, of a sort, and wreak revenge upon their leftish academic superiors as well.

After 1970, wealthy Republican party donors and wealthy Republican party-oriented businesses and business groups (often one and the same) decided to create a new parallel academia but oriented to production science and without either peer-review or experiments : the partisan think tank.

Tens of thousands of these Trojan Horses now exist worldwide : mercenary lobby groups guised (astroturfed) as mini-university research institutes.

(This was because the older universities were doing mostly Impact Science --- and Impact Science tends to say that the products of their corporations hurt almost as many people or creatures as they helped - who wants to hear that ?!)

Now there is a big place in academia and science for long thoughtful review articles that collect and then access masses of experiment science articles , to pick out their common threads and globally assess this particular field of research's importance.

In a sense, this is what most political think tanks do : they review and assess others' science experiments rather than create experimental evidence themselves.

(The relatively few truly non-partisan think tanks tend to do more original field research, in addition to review articles.)

Partisan think tanks fear peer review processes because their review and assessment efforts usually fail - badly - any common sense test of fairness and completeness : they selectively cut and paste tailor the evidence in their reviews to suit their pre-determined (partisan/self-serving) opinion.

Second raters in academia, once they had established a low minimum credibility as an academic (a PhD from a smaller university, followed by a few years in non tenured entry level position at a smaller university) could now get a good job at a Republican (libertarian) think tanks.

There they could drop the need to do slow difficult field or lab work or the equally long and hard process to first secure funding and secondly, find a suitable publication venue.

Now they were well paid to write all the opinion-oriented review articles they wanted, articles as long as they wanted them to be, for near instant publication.

In journals that the President himself might cite !

And Libertarian values were easy to espouse because these rebels from conventional academia had come to really believe in those values.

There are no individual efforts in today's academia  - a committee decides if you can get accepted into grad school, get a university job, get promoted, get a grant, get on a society executive, get into a good publication.

You either like this system or you don't.

If you are smart and well accepted socially by your colleagues, you probably not just accept it but defend it.

But if you are a second rate intellect and or your opinions clash with the majority around you and you fail to shine socially (in the academic world sense), you are likely to hate it and seek your revenge against it, if given a chance.

I am the child of an academic and I know of academics in my father's department whose opinions clashed badly with their colleagues but who were tolerated because they were either smart or charming.... or both.

So, that in mind,  I can't help feeling from the biographies of many deniers,  that they were people who tanked ,literally, in academia and have been wreaking revenge ever since, from 'the home of the tankers' : Republican think tanks ....

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