In “Opinion: Academia Suppresses Creativity” (The Scientist, May 9, 2012), medicine prof Fred Southwick warns, “By discouraging change, universities are stunting scientific innovation, leadership, and growth”:
Unfortunately, in the academic world—where much of today’s scientific innovation takes place—researchers are encouraged to maintain the status quo and not “rock the boat.” This mentality is pervasive, affecting all aspects of scientific research from idea generation to funding to the training of the next generation of scientists.
Many who succeed in advancing to leadership positions in academia have been cautious, making few enemies and stirring little controversy. But such a strategy fails to generate the insights that drive scientific fields of research forward. The history of science is filled with mavericks who refused to accept the prevailing theories and challenged the status quo.
That was then. This is now:
Ironically, the tenure system designed to allow academic professors to speak freely without risk of losing their position also allows them to resist change and discredit leaders who encourage it.
What no one considered was how the same system would enable most of them to simply take shelter among a herd of independent minds.