Against bureaucratization of Science

I would like to propose that EURASC takes some initiatives against the “bureaucratisation” of science.

What I mean is (unfortunately) very well know to each of us.
We spend more and more time in writing reports and in submitting proposals.
We have less and less time to do research and follow our students.
But also research tends to be accepted (through proposals) and evaluated (through reports) by using more and more “objective” parameters base on counting the number of papers, patents, thesis, etc but which are not really centred on the main aspect of scientific innovation and scientific outcome in term of knowledge.

This is not just at the level of the personal work of scientists. The scientific performance of universities and research centres is also evaluated using bureaucratic or economic criteria which are not always adapted to evaluate a scientific enterprise. 

Several scientists, philosophers, sociologists have reflected on what are the conditions under which we can develop creative thinking which can bring to new concepts and new discoveries.  For instance, Max Weber in his lecture “Science as a Profession” of 1919, writes that one needs “sincere and profound enthusiasm”, “inspiration”, “intuition” but also that such qualities need “months of time”, “very hard work”, and finally that often “hazard” is a key factor since “ideas come when we do not expect them, and not when we are brooding and searching at our desks. Yet ideas would certainly not come to mind had we not brooded at our desks and searched for answers with passionate devotion”.

Today there is a huge emphasis on excellence in science and on the need of having original ideas in research projects. However the time and the reflection needed to develop them is less and less, submerged as we are by administrative procedures. This implies a transformation of the role of researchers and teachers which leaves our original missions uncovered. In the long run, the quality we offer to students and stakeholders of the university system is dangerously at risk.

This transformation is particularly evident (or very often driven) by the way scientific projects are evaluated and managed at the European level (one partial exception, in my opinion, is ERC grants). Therefore I think that EURASC would be in a very good position (as potential natural interlocutor of the EU) to raise this question.

               Dimitri Batani
               Officer of the Scientific Committee
               Physics Division