A real challenge to think back to why we are in the academic space, the values that we need to hold onto!

There was never a golden age in which academic values such as universalism and disinterestedness were not at risk, argues Bruce Macfarlane. But in an age of sponsorism and insecurity, all scholars must hold fast to the precepts that make our intellectual endeavours worthwhile

Which values define what it means to be an academic today? We live in an age in which universities take full advantage of their intellectual property. The divide between public and private institutions has blurred. Students have become customers and lecturers are treated as service providers and knowledge entrepreneurs. This brave new world threatens the values that are core to academic identity.

In an article published in the Journal of Legal and Political Sociology in 1942, the US sociologist Robert Merton identified what he regarded as the four norms of science: communism, universalism, disinterestedness and organised scepticism – or Cudos for short. Merton’s use of the word “science” included the social as well as hard sciences. The norms he identified might be thought of as academic values more broadly. The aphorism Cudos has since become widely used. It represents one of the most important and enduring expressions of academic values.

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