Too many ' papers '

My favorite passage of the extensive and delicious interview – memorable as a whole – that Julio Cortázar awarded to Spanish television in 1977 is the one in which the presenter of the program "thoroughly", the unforgettable Joaquín Soler Serrano, asked the Argentinian writer why Motive It was so difficult to decide to publish the first book signed with its real name (the play of the Kings, appeared in 1949, when it was already around the 35 years) and not with the pseudonym of "Julius Denis", with which it had presented in society its first verses. The reason, Cortázar argued with parsimony, between a shot of whiskey and puff to the cigarette-is that I felt nothing safe... Honestly, I saw what I had written up to that date as a sort of draft--the relief of a teenager--unworthy of being printed and delivered to the public. Moreover, he added the author of Hopscotch, he observed with shame and embarrassment that my friends of literary youth had already edited his first works: pamphlets naively provocative, of little quality objective, which in no case justified Such an investment of paper and ink.

I come to mind this anecdote by reflecting on the inhumane quantity of papers that, in the form, above all, of unsmokeable academic articles (also of conference proceedings, collective books, monographs, etc.), we write and publish those who work in the University. Certainly, the university system suffers from structural problems rather more serious, but within the course that has taken over the last few years this noble institution, supposedly dedicated to teaching and research, that of exaggerated mass of papers does not seem to me a minor issue, since it is the symptom of a way of understanding the process of creation of knowledge and because it links, directly, with another recurring issue and no less debatable: the system of evaluation of the research quality that It governs in Spain (I refer to the ANECA and other bodies whose initials I prefer to omit, for the mental health of the common reader, who lives happily oblivious to this reality).

To say that the University professor is "obliged" to transfer his knowledge to society is something so obvious, that no one puts it in doubt. Any minimally responsible investigator does not know that his laboratory or archival work only makes sense when the results or conclusions go beyond the walls of the academy and come if not the "general public", to which we have already renounced centuries ago, Yes, at least, what we usually call the "scientific community." what function, but the same, have the books published by university publishers and scientific journals that, despite being read by a negligible percentage of the population (even of the academic population), are still published with an astonishing regularity? That is not the debate, then.

The problem is that the industrial production of papers – whose offer was always far superior to demand, we did not deceive ourselves – has reached such an insane level that it is almost unbearable

Consider, for example, the figure of the so-called PhD scholar, the first link in the evolutionary scale of Homo academicus in Spain. Although common sense advises that this person should dedicate the years of his scholarship to be formed (his official name is "research staff in training"), to acquire knowledge and to reflect on them critically and Reposada, with the ultimate goal of To elaborate something as serious as a doctoral thesis, it happens, precisely, the opposite. The anxiety for "making merits" that affects the "elders" with whom they live in their department or research group (the teacher who needs the ministry's accreditation to consolidate their place or the official who aspires to get another administration to be Professor) ends up Afectándoles to them, who end up catching this collective madness. The consequence of this paranoia, which exerts its pressure from top to bottom, traversing all the levels of a estates system, is that someone who just starts to investigate and who, therefore, hardly knows how to do it well, is forced to do everything, except for What you're supposed to be paid: Write your thesis. It is very common to see a research fellow teach without being sufficiently prepared; To travel the Spanish geography to a thousand absurd congresses of young people – or not so young – researchers, in which there are twenty or thirty parallel tables and workshops; To make research stays which, in many cases, are extended sine die unnecessarily, since the same as many do in Paris, London or new York, could do it perfectly in Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia; And, of course, publishing and publishing papers that, in 90% of cases, being generous, go straight to the trash because no one, in their right mind, would spend half an hour of their lives reading them.

If the quantitative criterion is imposed on the qualitative, the university becomes a bureaucratic machinery with no sense in which, as in any organization, as explained by the German sociologist Robert Michels in the political parties (1911), is imposed The "Iron Law of the oligarchy". In our guild, the dominant ideas are the ideas of the "class" that possesses the ability to issue certificates or to facilitate access to publish. You are no one or worth anything, if you do not have a certificate with a stamp and a signature that says you are someone and you're worth something. Transferred to the field of scientific production, this translates into the systematic manufacture of kilos and kilos of backpack: refried ideas of others and thousand times repeated, lacking analytical depth and, of course, the slightest literary value. No content, no way. No ethics, no aesthetics. The obligation to survive and adapt to the environment is imposed on the personal dignity and self-esteem of each, in a Darwinian environment in which academic NGOs proliferate: an IP (Principal investigator) who uses money from the research project or the Chair Who manages to inflate the CV of his disciples with the undisguised objective of promoting them and "placing" them in a position of advantage with respect to others who, even though they are better, do not have access to those "reserved funds". In other words, accumulation of that that Bourdieu and passé called "symbolic capital", not by the way of personal merit, in free and healthy competition, but of the union co-opting: If your thesis director has project, "free bar" of consumption; If not, to do "overtime" to find your life.

If the quantitative criterion is imposed on the qualitative, the university becomes a bureaucratic machinery with no sense in which, as in any organization the "Iron Law of the oligarchy" is imposed.

If we really aspire to the so vaunted excellence, one of the unpostponable debates that the Spanish university has to look at in the mirror and decide between quantity and quality, in every possible way of the dilemma: in the number of universities (it is Obviously there can not be an excellent university in each Spanish province), of degrees and masters (the last course was taught about 4,000 masters in all Spain), students per teacher (can not teach and evaluate equal working with groups of 30-40 Students, with groups of 80-100), etc. With the current model, conditioned by the sword of Damocles that is the publish or perish, it is very difficult, if not impossible, that a young researcher whose place is not definitive (someone who still needs to consolidate to achieve a minimum Work stability) medium-or long-term objectives, other than to go by, are raised; To go adding items to the CV under the premise that all sums. Why organize a good Congress, convincing foreign speakers of level, if others do it with people of their faculty-and with some friend from outside-and sell it as an "international symposium"? Why invest three or four years of time and effort in writing monographs of 400 pages, if you then count the same as two articles or three chapters in conference proceedings paid for by the project? If the quantity is imposed on the quality, the only thing that compensates is to manufacture an ad hoc CV and adapt it to each scholarship you ask or to each place that opositas. We must decide if we want people with a weight CV, or one that weighs literally.