Monday, July 28, 2014

In Hard Times, Independent Research Institutes Give Up Freedom in Order to Survive

The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 28th, 2014

A year ago, the faculty governing board of the 126-year-old Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Mass., on the verge of the busy summer research season on Cape Cod, gathered for an emergency meeting with a terminal purpose: to vote itself out of existence.
The independent lab, reliant on diminishing federal research grants, had been in dire financial straits for years. To save itself, its leaders proposed surrendering its autonomy to the University of Chicago—adding some salt to Chicago’s freshwater veins, as one dean put it. When the time came to vote, the lab’s scientists stood up, almost as one, in favor; the tally was 158-2. Rarely has extinction been so inspirational.
"Change is scary. Usually academics tend to be cautious and conservative," said Jane Maienschein, a science historian at Arizona State University who watched the vote. These researchers were giving up their freedom, but they would survive. "They stood up quickly and proudly and said yes, we have to embrace change."

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