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January 11, 2010


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Eric Muller

Interesting thesis. Looks like a book that's worth at least a skim. I confess, though, that I'd be more inclined to approach this work with with a charitable eye if the author had ever been on a university faculty. (See her bio at

Kim Krawiec

Thanks, Eric, though I guess I don't agree that her status as a post-doc/fellow is relevant to an assessment of the book’s quality. The Vox article, as well as her prior article on the same topic (link below), purports to draw conclusions based on quantitative analysis, supplemented by qualitative research. The research may well be shoddy or the conclusions suspicious (as I took Cowen to suggest), but I would think that question doesn’t turn on her current position on or off the tenure track.

Eric Muller

My point is that I think that the interpretation of data about institutional matters can often usefully be "seasoned" through experience in an institution of that sort.

I don't think this is true for empirical analysis generally; I wouldn't argue that a person making a claim about (for example) which sort of chemical best transmits a particular signal from one neuron to another needs to have been a neuron.

But if you're writing a book in which you're making an argument about "why research institutions should be led by top scholars," I think you're inevitably going to have to make some fairly sophisticated claims about what works well in and for research institutions, and what doesn't -- and that there will be components of those inquiries that are not susceptible to (or best understood through) quantitative analysis and from-the-outside qualitative inquiries. Particularly when the subject of study is academia, and the person studying it is in academia, I think it's too much to expect.

As I said, the book looks interesting and I'm generally quite receptive to what appears to be the book's central claim.

Eric Muller

What I meant above was that I "don't think it's too much to expect" that a person drawing conclusions about whether research university administrators ought to be top scholars would herself have extensive experience as a faculty member at a research university.

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