But what is academia? What is its structure and purpose? Whose interests does it serve? What makes it different from, say, Meatball or the New York Times? Sharp divisions will be hard to draw, but some general comments should be interesting.
The major actors seem to be universities, departments, journals, publishers, professional societies, professors, graduate students, undergraduate students, and patrons.
Academia's task is the production, preservation and propagation of knowledge, supposedly untainted by the desire for personal gain or ideological justification or any of the other background conditions which motivate us in our lives. In practice funding has a lot to do with the kind of knowledge that gets produced. And TheAuthor is extremely prized.
One current bottleneck to progress in academia has to do with AcademicPeerReview. While the procedure has its merits and has been perfected over a couple of centuries, it also has drawbacks. Because of the PublishOrPerish? imperative many academics will do whatever they can to please their 3-4 reviewers and get the paper accepted. It is often harder to publish original work than rehashed ideas that reviewers are more comfortable with. In other communities, the processes by which ideas get exposure and replication are quite different from AcademicPeerReview.
"...production of knowledge..." ???
According to Luhmann's SystemTheory, the main task of a social system is its own reproduction. Institutions are built to make the system stable and independent from single persons.
Compared to the energy that goes into the goals of "stability" and "reproduction", knowledge almost appears just as a by-product of TheAcademy. For example, people that have a lot of knowledge rarely play a role, are hardly heard, seemingly because they lack formal qualification. Only people that have worked up the scientific hierarchy head institutes and institutions. Outsiders are disabled to criticize the academic system (e.g. expert hierarchies, scientific languages, "freedom of science"). Its only logical therefore that no "quality of knowledge" concepts exist. "Knowledge is what TheAcademy produces, never ask what it's good for".
TheAcademy as an institution exists the way it is, because it has been stabilized as an institution and immunized against change. (Each institution will go that way, even meatball is built on loyalty and the agreement not to question its basic settings.) Outsiders can't change it, because the system defends itself. Insiders can't change it because they are obliged to be loyal to the system, stay in their place, play their role - otherwise they would risk their career.
So there seem to be only two ways to change such institutions. One way is a very strong external force: absolute lack of money, superior competition, the threat of complete destruction. The other way would be from a wise and influential top-insider, who advocates the need of change as a bold evolutionary step and who is powerful enough to get the transformation done.
I'm not sure I entirely agree with the preceding paragraph, but I only have a few moments to post some quick points. I'll come back to this over the holidays. -- HansWobbe
People frequently make the mistake of assuming that all of the elements of an Organization are of one mind, making them an instance of TheCollective.
I have found many examples in corporate culture of: