Thursday, January 5, 2017

Climate Science Drives Out a Pioneer

Dr. Judith Curry Hangs Up Her Spurs:

Effective January 1, I have resigned my tenured faculty position at Georgia Tech.

Before reflecting on a range of things, let me start by answering a question that may have popped into your head: I have no plans to join the Trump administration (ha ha).

Technically, my resignation is a retirement event, since I am on the Georgia State Teachers Retirement System, and I need to retire from Georgia Tech to get my pension (although I am a few years shy of 65). I have requested Emeritus status.

So, I have retired from Georgia Tech, and I have no intention of seeking another academic or administrative position in a university or government agency. However, I most certainly am not retiring from professional life.

Why did I resign my tenured faculty position?

I’m ‘cashing out’ with 186 published journal articles and two books. The superficial reason is that I want to do other things, and no longer need my university salary. This opens up an opportunity for Georgia Tech to make a new hire (see advert).

The deeper reasons have to do with my growing disenchantment with universities, the academic field of climate science and scientists.
. . .
Apart from my own personal career trajectory and the ‘shocks’ that started in 2005 with our hurricanes and global warming paper, and the massive spike in 2009/2010 from Climategate, I’ve found that universities have changed substantially over the past 5-10 years.

At first, I thought the changes I saw at Georgia Tech were due to a change in the higher administration (President, Provost, etc). The academic nirvana under the prior Georgia Tech administration of Wayne Clough, Jean-Lou Chameau and Gary Schuster was a hard act to follow. But then I started to realize that academia and universities nationwide were undergoing substantial changes. I came across a recent article that expresses part of what is wrong: Universities are becoming like mechanical nightingales.

The reward system that is in place for university faculty members is becoming increasingly counterproductive to actually educating students to be able to think and cope in the real world, and in expanding the frontiers of knowledge in a meaningful way (at least in certain fields that are publicly relevant such as climate change). I’ve written on these topics before, I won’t belabor this here.

So why not try to change the system from the inside? Well, this is not the battle I want to fight, apart from any realistic assessment of being able to shift the ponderous beast from within.

Or maybe it’s just a case of ‘wrong trousers’ as far as I’m concerned. Simply, universities no longer feel like the ‘real deal’ to me (note: this criticism is not targeted at Georgia Tech, which is better than most). It’s time for me to leave the ivory tower.

A deciding factor was that I no longer know what to say to students and postdocs regarding how to navigate the CRAZINESS in the field of climate science. Research and other professional activities are professionally rewarded only if they are channeled in certain directions approved by a politicized academic establishment — funding, ease of getting your papers published, getting hired in prestigious positions, appointments to prestigious committees and boards, professional recognition, etc.

How young scientists are to navigate all this is beyond me, and it often becomes a battle of scientific integrity versus career suicide (I have worked through these issues with a number of skeptical young scientists).
As they say, read the whole thing. She's quite eloquent, and I have nothing to add.

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