When bureaucracy engulfs academia

Yes, there are processes to follow before the grants flow. The results should “speak” for themselves. I have belatedly accepted the “reality” that while academia is hotly contested, the inherent motivations to “welcome international best talent” are sorely tested by limitations of institutional agendas, political climate, and biases of the principal investigators themselves. Here’s a ringside view from one of my favourite authors (an upside because we are connected on Telegram and allows an exchange of ideas):

Reluctant Philosopher Kings? Leadership in Academia

When I look at my colleagues and their colleagues, I feel that some of
them are like ‘reluctant philosopher kings,’ i.e. they understand the
necessity of shouldering the non-research tasks, giving up what they
probably enjoy most, so that others can continue doing the research.
To me, this always felt a little bit like a noble, albeit maybe
unnecessary, sacrifice. However, I was floored to hear senior professors
at my alma mater
confessing that they have about three hours (!) for research in
a good week. The rest of their time is spent with other tasks. I am not
quite sure what this does to a person over the long run, but as
a very harmful immediate consequence of this, we lose a lot of talent:
some people that are passionate about doing research are just not
incentivised to stay in this system. And why would they? At most German
universities, there are few, if any, permanent researcher positions. You
either exit as a researcher or stay long enough to not have any time for
research any more.

Administrative tasks are the bane of “leadership” positions; specifically in specific institutions where I have worked previously. Surprisingly, none of us are trained in the processes of administrative management. It is more to do with “learning” as you move up in the value chain”. Isn’t that surprising in medicine, where didactic teaching methodologies benefit from older experienced individuals, but they are tied up in the nitty gritty of the administration? There are few permanent positions in medicine as well. Healthcare collectively suffers from burnouts or pursuit of alternatives (or even admininstrative workflows) which leads to collective loss to academia (and the healthcare).

I could immediately see the parallels.

Research begets funding; publication and “advertising” (aka conferences), but the latter remains talk shops without actionable policies. What’s the point of an annual gathering of individuals from across the world when the “practice changing sessions” remain a victim of unchanging circumstances back home? What is the point of “late breaking abstracts” when most labs lack effective “genome sequencing” (as an example) while lacking the collaborative efforts of allied specialities?

The linked blog post makes us reflect on these realities, and we need to confront these issues. I think the way out is effective delegation, feedback, and creating efficiency loops (and matrices) to work. It is only then that we can create value systems for our junior colleagues and our patients.

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