David Mitchell on the point of research

By Juliana Adelman

David_mitchellI didn’t catch Mitchell’s column, ‘Pointless studies are the key to evolution’, in the printed Observer this weekend, but it has been doing the rounds in cyberspace.  Mitchell was reacting to the news that the British government will ask funding bodies to evaluate whether research has economic or social value before funding it.  This is to replace the Research Assessment Exercise, with a new ‘Research Excellence Framework’ (Ref, how cute).  I don’t think economic and social value were ever really off the radar in terms of funding research, but this article in the Guardian implies that the initiative is directly intended to discourage research which has no economic outcomes.  I haven’t read much about it so I’m not sure if Mitchell is making a mountain out of a mole hill, but his article is very funny indeed.  There is now a move to nominate Mitchell to a research council, put forward by academic Steve Fuller.  I will follow the story with interest…

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