The Haldane Principle -- and the next Mellon lecture
My colleague Peter Mandler was absolutely right last week to point to the erosion of the "Haldane principle" and the creeping idea that academic research should work to the government's objectives (would we have had Leonardo, Darwin, Freud, Einstein . . . if they had been made to toe the government's strategic line?)
The particularly offensive thing was that one of the new research priorities was to be reserach into the Big Society. How come a half-baked electoral slogan becomes an AHRC research priority?
The facts are all a bit murky here. Where did the pressure come from? It looks like from the government. But the AHRC deny categorically that they were coerced into supporting this bit of government blather. And even some government spokespeople say that the idea of putting reserach into the Big Society as a priority actually came from the AHRC.
I began to speculate that this was a clever idea from the AHRC (even if one that has back-fired). Imagine you were running the AHRC and Willetts and co want some research objectives. Wouldn't it seem a great wheeze to suggest the Big Society. After all the whole idea is so vacuous (and capacious) that anything you like would fit in (so business as usual) -- and the government couldn't possibly say no to it, because it is THEIR idea.
Well maybe; but I still cant help thinking that the principle of no government intervention in research priorities was the right one, that anything else is truly disastrous and that this might just have sold us all down the river.
Meanwhile I have just finished my powerpoint for Sunday's lecture. Two and a half days it took this time (with a lot of help.. thanks Laura and Mattie).. so I hope you enjoy it. Some stop press news
1) there will be an extra room this Sunday, so -- all being well -- noone should be turned away.
2) I fear that the movies have got a little squeezed out. I SHALL be returning to them, but I found that I really needed to get into tapestries this week. So if you were only coming for the movies, pleased be warned. In fact I had a great still from Sign of the Cross that I was going to use nonetheless. And then I went and forgot to include it . And I am NOT changing the damn ppt now, as it is all installed on the auditirum system. So it is fo rthe time being at the top of this post.
Hope to see some of you Sunday.
(Great list of movies David Thompson in your comment to my last . . .)