/ The cultural side of naming routes: some dodgy research

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Frank the Husky - on 30 Aug 2014

I came across this article on the BMC:

https://www.thebmc.co.uk/route-names-reveal-20th-century-climbing-culture-in-north-wales

I'm not sure how useful it is as it only looked at 145 routes on four cliffs, but the most interesting thing was a couple of sentences towards the end:

"None of the climbs analysed had been named by women. There have been about six female first climbers in the UK, who have named approximately 84 climbs between them."

Now I'm no expert, but "about" 6 female first ascentionists in the UK? Balls.

Karin Magog
Jill Lawrence
Nea Morin
Glenda Huxter
Kath Pike
Gwen Moffatt
Lucy Creamer
Hazel Findlay
Marion Wintringham

...and this ignores those who aren't famous or have just been recorded as "J. Smith" for instance.

Maybe I've missed something here, with my night shift addled brain, but that seems like ill informed research to me.
Post edited at 01:07
The Pylon King on 30 Aug 2014
Greenbanks - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

A paper entitled "Naming and claiming: marking vertical landscapes/territory" is always going to be up its own *rse. An excellent contribution to Pseuds Corner though.
Blue Straggler - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

They say "about six". You are able to name only nine and allude to more. Are you really in that much of a stronger position that you can spout off like that?
Dave Garnett - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

>
> ...and this ignores those who aren't famous or have just been recorded as "J. Smith" for instance.
>

And all the ones who have have made first ascents who haven't felt the need to name anything - that's a bit of a male thing.
Blue Straggler - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> And all the ones who have have made first ascents who haven't felt the need to name anything - that's a bit of a male thing.

You can't blame a researcher for not knowing the unknowable!
Dave Garnett - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

When it comes to women you are always to blame for not knowing the unknowable.
pebbles - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to The Pylon King:

checked the f.a's profile. f.a appears to be a large green frog? Are they perhaps related to Mystery_Toad?
FactorXXX - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Your list: -

Karin Magog
Jill Lawrence
Nea Morin
Glenda Huxter
Kath Pike
Gwen Moffatt
Lucy Creamer
Hazel Findlay
Marion Wintringham

Between them, how many First Ascents did they do in the 20th Centaury?

Saying that, Emma Alsford should definitely be added to the list!!



Chris Shorter - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to FactorXXX:
> (In reply to Frank the Husky)
>
> Your list: -
>
> Karin Magog
> Jill Lawrence
> Nea Morin
> Glenda Huxter
> Kath Pike
> Gwen Moffatt
> Lucy Creamer
> Hazel Findlay
> Marion Wintringham
>

Just off the top of my head, I can name two more and a likely third:

Mrs Emily Daniells 1915 Hope on the Idwal Slabs
Bonnie Masson 1983 China Girl on Craig Ddu

Pat Kelly was a very fine climber in her own right as well as partnering her husband Harry ("HM") on many early gritstone ascents. I would be surprised if she never did any first ascents of her own.

There ware probably quite a few others. Didn't Gwen Moffat do some stuff in the Moelwyns?

Chris
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Chris Shorter:

Other names that come to mind (not sure how many first ascents they did, though):

Fliss Butler
Airlie Anderson
Anne Arran
Ruth Jenkins
Gill Kent

And there must surely be many female climbers who have emerged over the last few years who are already climbing at a very high standard, and possibly putting up new routes.?
Gordon Stainforth - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Chris Shorter:

Forgot:

Angela Soper
Al Evans on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
And Gwendoline Taylor. I know for a fact she has done new routes.
Sorry, Geraldine Taylor,
Post edited at 09:17
Stevie989 - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Naomi buys
Michael Gordon - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Obviously the 'research' seems dodgy to say the least but I'm surprised folk think female ascents are rare enough that they try to name them individually! A cursory look through the SMC new routes pages will confirm that there are women involved with putting up lines each and every year.

However, there are undeniably very few women doing FAs in comparison to men. I wonder if the rigors of the activity just don't appeal as much? If you walked into the mountains to see a lone climber cleaning/shunting a new line, you could bet your life they'd be male.
Frank the Husky - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> They say "about six". You are able to name only nine and allude to more. Are you really in that much of a stronger position that you can spout off like that?

What are you talking about? Of course I'm in a stronger position. I challenge you to name the street where you live when you're half way through the third of four night shifts picking numpties up off the streets of Manchester.

This is supposed to be formal research and it's poor. I'm just a casual climber who hasn't done any research but I've easily demonstrated that this research is slapdash at best. If they want to call it research, they should do some research, surely?

Of course! Emma Alsford, perhaps the most prolific female FA in the world?
aln - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Jo George.
The Pylon King on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:



> Of course! Emma Alsford, perhaps the most prolific female FA in the world?

Yes!!
Howard J - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

She has 'analysed' 145 routes from four crags - just one of them, Cloggy, has more than 200 routes according to UKC. She must have been very selective in the routes she chose. It would be interesting to know the basis for her choice.

It is unfair to judge her presentation on the basis of a brief summary, but if the BMC article is accurate her conclusions appear to be a statement of the bleeding obvious. But when was that ever a bar to academic research?
Doug on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Howard J:

Seems its a PhD student, who is also a Lecturer in Performance (especially dance, see http://www.bangor.ac.uk/creative_industries/kate_lawrence.php.en )

Maybe such areas of study have different standards of rigour to the sciences? But then its not a peer reviewed paper, maybe more of a report on work in progress
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Blue Straggler - on 30 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

> I challenge you to name the street where you live when you're half way through the third of four night shifts picking numpties up off the streets of Manchester.

Sorry I failed to know your job and duty shifts. I'll try harder with the telepathy next time.
bpmclimb - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to pebbles:
> checked the f.a's profile. f.a appears to be a large green frog? Are they perhaps related to Mystery_Toad?


The giant frog is me, I think, although it's actually supposed to be a dragon. Cedric the Dragon in fact. Cedric is definitely male (having a huge green knob).

A climber called Clare led Pelvic Thrust first and named it. She doesn't have a UKC profile. (She was also the FA of Seven Deadly Dwarves at Symonds Yat).
bpmclimb - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> And there must surely be many female climbers who have emerged over the last few years who are already climbing at a very high standard, and possibly putting up new routes.?

Yes, and probably still more female climbers who climb at relatively modest grades, but put up new routes.
Frank the Husky - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Blue Straggler:

> Sorry I failed to know your job and duty shifts. I'll try harder with the telepathy next time.

The piece is described as research and came up with 6 female FAs. I casually commented and came up with 9, debunking it as meaningful research.

So no, it's fine, don't worry about telepathy; just think before you post, be less confrontational and try to use some common sense next time.
Blue Straggler - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Fair response, thanks and apologies. I was not at work, but it WAS late!
In reply to Frank the Husky:

It is pretty shocking that you (and we) can only come up with a handful more names though. So although the writer might have been wrong, she might not be wrong by much. For instance, someone mentioned looking in the SMCJ to see more female names, and I'm sure that's true now, but when I was living in Scotland in the 90s you saw very few women climbers particularly in winter. When a friend and I did a very minor new winter route it was quite noticeable that Alison was quite possibly the only woman to record a first ascent that winter. I guess things are changing but not particularly fast.
Postmanpat on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Am I being paranoid in fearing that our taxes paid for this "research"?
scott titt - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to TobyA:

There is a crag at Swanage (Winspit Sea Walls) where 5 females climbed their first FA!
Offwidth - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Postmanpat:

Yes certainly paranoid for the fear and probably for the funding. In the arts its a real struggle to get any state grant funding for research although all academics quite rightly get an allocation of time (alongside any of their own time) where they can do their own research as they like (at least nominally these days..... constraints are increasing), as any sensible person would expect; unless of course the benefits of academic freedom are to be shelved to make you and a handful of other philistines happy.
Howard J - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> It is pretty shocking that you (and we) can only come up with a handful more names though.

Why should it be shocking? I suspect most of us don't pay too much attention to who the first conservationist was, unless it was one of a handful of big names. A bit of casual name-association is not the same of what is meant to be academic research.

What would be interesting would be to examine all the ascents on the crags she has identified, rather than just the 145 she has selected. That would definitely include a number of female FAs.

Women may always have been a minority, but they have participated in the sport from its beginnings and often at the highest levels. In the early days of the sport women were involved in many first ascents, not only in the UK but in the Alps. In the last 20 or 30 years the numbers of women climbing in the higher grades has increased enormously. Whilst it may be true that none of the routes in her sample were named (ie first climbed) by women, a moment's thought should have made her question whether her sample is representative, rather than draw (or infer) conclusions about women's participation as the summary suggests she has done.
Ron Rees Davies - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Postmanpat:

Be aware that the report linked above is just that - a brief summary REPORT by someone else on a presentation given at a conference, NOT the presentation itself. The 'six female first ascentionists' comment is only a minor part of the research (the main part was looking at trends in route naming) and may have been taken out of context by the reporter.
Postmanpat on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Offwidth:
constraints are increasing), as any sensible person would expect; unless of course the benefits of academic freedom are to be shelved to make you and a handful of other philistines happy.
>
Lol, are you implying that it is "philistine" to think that the State should finance research on the naming of rock climbs, or simply drawing the bizarre conclusion that thinking that State financing of such activities is a waste of our money is a wholesale attack on academic freedom?

I'm not sure which is weirder. Anyway, thanks for the gratuitous abuse but what did the Palestinians ever do to upset you?
Post edited at 14:04
Offwidth - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Postmanpat:

If you check a good dictionary you will see the word has different meanings depending on the capitalisation, even though the etymology does link them (and is, as they say on the TV, QI). You sound like a classic case of little p.
In reply to TobyA:

> It is pretty shocking that you (and we) can only come up with a handful more names though. So although the writer might have been wrong, she might not be wrong by much. For instance, someone mentioned looking in the SMCJ to see more female names, and I'm sure that's true now, but when I was living in Scotland in the 90s you saw very few women climbers particularly in winter. When a friend and I did a very minor new winter route it was quite noticeable that Alison was quite possibly the only woman to record a first ascent that winter. I guess things are changing but not particularly fast.

It's hardly "shocking". There's nothing stopping women putting up new routes, and it's hardly an important pursuit for either men or women.
In reply to Howard J:

> Why should it be shocking? I suspect most of us don't pay too much attention to who the first conservationist was,

I suspect plenty of people actually do look through the history section of guides or read the name under a route, and it is very very rare to see a woman's name. And I don't disagree with the other things you say, but still I reckon of British graded rock routes it will be something like 99 to 1 or even less male to female first ascent (although possibly Emma Alsford has done so many she might swing the balance back a little if we are counting routes as opposed to people).
In reply to Malcolm Tucker's Sweary Aunt:

> There's nothing stopping women putting up new routes,

Well, perhaps from a cultural perspective, there is (although I'm not particularly interested in that debate).
Postmanpat on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to Offwidth:
> If you check a good dictionary you will see the word has different meanings depending on the capitalisation, even though the etymology does link them (and is, as they say on the TV, QI). You sound like a classic case of little p.

Yes, funnily enough i don't need a dictionary to establish this but thanks anyway.
If thinking spending taxes on people writing research on rock climbing names which half the people on here could have done for fun is a waste of money then i'll happily put my hand up to being a huge philistine with a small ' p', but of course it doesn't.

Now, cheer up and stop being stroppy x
Post edited at 21:13
Bulls Crack - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to TobyA:

Shocking? Or just that's how it is? Shocking of there as something preventing there being more perhaps.
bpmclimb - on 31 Aug 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> I suspect plenty of people actually do look through the history section of guides or read the name under a route, and it is very very rare to see a woman's name.

But it is pretty common to see an initial letter rather than a forename, in which case gender isn't known.
Howard J - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> I suspect plenty of people actually do look through the history section of guides or read the name under a route,

Perhaps, but how many of those names will make an impact(unless they're someone famous) when it comes to later recalling female first ascents for a list like this?

There are certainly fewer women's names than men, but women have always been in a minority. However whilst it may be less common I don't think it's necessarily rare, and guidebooks often don't indicate gender, let alone all those ascents by X "and party". I'm sure a detailed study of all the routes on those crags, rather than just a small selection, would reveal a number of female FAs.
ads.ukclimbing.com
lowersharpnose - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

I agree with your point completely. Reading a few guidebook pages and making unmerited generalizations is top-notch dodgy.


Offwidth - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Postmanpat:

If an academic chooses to spend their pretty limited but partly tax payers funded personal research time on something like this, that is their business. They won't get very far doing such work and once put forward for publishing they are open to peer review, but one of the key points of academic freedom is that by letting academics explore a little where they want, society gains way from the more better outputs than it loses from less successful work. It cheers me up no end to get a chance to defend such principles and also to play with words on the internet.
In reply to Howard J and bpmclimb: I had considered the initial thing so grabbed the first guidebook near me - Rockfax Gritstone East, and quite a lot of routes do have the full first name if it is recorded at all for many of the older easy routes.

Perhaps we should just start a new thread listing routes with female first ascentionists! I still don't think it would be particularly long beyond Ms Alsford's hundreds (thousands?) of FAs (and I guess her contributions would be weighed against avid male FAs like Messrs Gibson and Nisbet for example).

Postmanpat on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:
It cheers me up no end to get a chance to defend such principles and also to play with words on the internet.
>>

Very worthy, but in this particular case your enthusiasm seems to have led you to mistake a windmill for a principle . On, on….
Post edited at 10:40
Iain Peters - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Frank the Husky:

Virtually all the early exploration of the N coast of W Cornwall was accomplished by A W Andrews in the first years of the 20th Century, often accompanied by his sister who is only identified in the 1950 guide as Miss Andrews. George Mallory made the FA of the lower half of Ledge Climb at Bosigran with the Misses Andrews, S Cox and W Cox and in 1953 Nea Morin was on the FA of Nameless with D Kemp and the tricky direct start to Doorway.
bpmclimb - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to TobyA:

> I had considered the initial thing so grabbed the first guidebook near me - Rockfax Gritstone East, and quite a lot of routes do have the full first name if it is recorded at all for many of the older easy routes.



Got interested in this, and just checked two recent definitives for my area - Symonds Yat and Lower Wye Valley (CC). They both have extensive chronologies that use nothing but initials. However, Miss is occasionally (but inconsistently) used for female FAs.

I've worked on various guidebooks; personally I find the use of Miss slightly unpalatable, so have tended not to use it for new additions to the record, but retained it for preexisting entries (because for all I know that's the preference of the FA herself). So I know for a fact that a few female FAs are "hiding" in this way.

Having said that, I don't think anyone can doubt that it's a very small minority.



Offwidth - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Postmanpat:

Academic freedom is a windmill for academics to tilt at eh? Very poetic.

Anyway there is loads more to get your small p going on here:

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/creative_industries/kate_lawrence.php.en



skog - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to bpmclimb:

> The giant frog is me, I think, although it's actually supposed to be a dragon. Cedric the Dragon in fact. Cedric is definitely male (having a huge green knob).

Wouldn't a dragon have a cloaca?
Doug on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

As already posted ! (I must admit I was surprised no one commented on her profile or previous publications)
Offwidth - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Doug:

My apologies ;-)
Howard J - on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to TobyA:

I grabbed my (old edition) Tremadog guide, as that is one of the areas the researcher included. That simply gives initials and surname. I spotted a FA by "Pete Livesey and J Lawrence", which I assume was Jill but there is nothing there to indicate gender. Where the names are less well-known it is difficult to identify other possible female FAs. Presumably this was an editorial decision and of course other guides may take a different approach.

The information is probably there in the original reports but would need more detailed research than a skim through current guidebooks. It would be interesting to know - I suspect the number is higher than you might expect.


Postmanpat on 01 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

> Academic freedom is a windmill for academics to tilt at eh? Very poetic.

Read it again and check with your GP. You seem to have caught a nasty touch of Hookeritis. You have confused "this particular case" with an attack on academic freedom.This particular case", not academic freedom, is the windmill.

> Anyway there is loads more to get your small p going on here:


Rolls eyes…..
johnl - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

>

> However, there are undeniably very few women doing FAs in comparison to men. I wonder if the rigors of the activity just don't appeal as much? If you walked into the mountains to see a lone climber cleaning/shunting a new line, you could bet your life they'd be male.

Not always: http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=245087
Michael Gordon - on 02 Sep 2014
In reply to johnl:

I'm glad I've never seen that in the mountains!
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

> If an academic chooses to spend their pretty limited but partly tax payers funded personal research time on something like this, that is their business. They won't get very far doing such work and once put forward for publishing they are open to peer review, but one of the key points of academic freedom is that by letting academics explore a little where they want, society gains way from the more better outputs than it loses from less successful work. It cheers me up no end to get a chance to defend such principles and also to play with words on the internet.

Why should academics be paid to pursue their own interests? They could do it on their own time like everyone else!
Dave Garnett - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

Any academic who isn't personally interested in their research is the wrong job. As long as they have agreed the funding pursuing their own interests is what they are there for.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> Any academic who isn't personally interested in their research is the wrong job. As long as they have agreed the funding pursuing their own interests is what they are there for.

Correct.

But there is a clear difference between an interest in your work and being allowed to complete whatever job takes your fancy. A car mechanic can't roll into work one morning and decide to fix bikes instead of the car that is on the ramp. They can fulfill that interest on their own time.
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> A car mechanic can't roll into work one morning and decide to fix bikes instead of the car that is on the ramp. They can fulfill that interest on their own time.

Perhaps there is a fundamental difference between a car mechanic and an academic?

Although if you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, maybe not.
Dave Garnett - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

Well, I don't know the circumstances, but maybe this work fitted with the interests of the department and is thought valuable and academically rigorous. Without a certain amount of academic freedom there isn't much point in doing research. At some point this researcher will have to justify what they do to a grant-awarding body or to their head of department in a research assessment exercise - and the penalty for being seen to have wasted their time will be no next contract or no promotion.

I'm arguing on principle here, there's a lot of sociological research I struggle to take seriously but, fortunately, I don't get to decide on the basis of my own prejudices!
Ramblin dave - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

When my girlfriend was in humanities academia, she'd have found this "own time" idea intriguing and wanted to know more. By and large, in the small segments of the year when she wasn't doing teaching preparation pretty much every waking hour, she was frantically scrabbling to do research that had a chance of getting into a reasonably prestigious publication in the hope that when her one year contract came to an end she might increase her meagre chance of getting another one.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> When my girlfriend was in humanities academia, she'd have found this "own time" idea intriguing and wanted to know more. By and large, in the small segments of the year when she wasn't doing teaching preparation pretty much every waking hour, she was frantically scrabbling to do research that had a chance of getting into a reasonably prestigious publication in the hope that when her one year contract came to an end she might increase her meagre chance of getting another one.

That sounds like a supply and demand issue. Maybe academics are in over supply?
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> there's a lot of sociological research I struggle to take seriously

Possibly less and less, much sociology now seems very quantitative and data driven. But anyway, this academic seems to be a lecturer in "Performance", a choreographer and specialist in "site specific dance". She doesn't seem to have anything to do with a sociology department.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Perhaps there is a fundamental difference between a car mechanic and an academic?

> Although if you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, maybe not.

Yes, mechanics are useful ;)

Joking aside. I'm not sure the differences are that big. They are both paid by someone who expects certain outputs and they both have to constantly learn as their fields evolve. If they want to study different stuff it's up to them to find the time and fund it personally IMO.
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> That sounds like a supply and demand issue. Maybe academics are in over supply?

If she's spending all her time teaching, perhaps there's a shortage of academics who can teach?
Dave Garnett - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to TobyA:

OK, my prejudices against site-specific dance are possibly even more uninformed and an even better illustration of why it shouldn't be down to me to award its funding.

Seriously, my point would be that you set up committees and funding bodies staffed by people who are expert in the relevant areas and you trust them to fund the best projects. I don't suppose this research cost very much, it's not like she blew a month's time on the LHC or reviewed the orignal sources in zero gravity.
Ramblin dave - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

Yes, definitely.

But they're consequently in ridiculously tight competition for the scraps of funding that do exist, which means that if they aren't publishing stuff in high impact journals then they won't be academics for very long, and high impact journals that publish fluffy, irrelevant research that no-one apart from the author cares about don't stay high impact for very long.
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> Yes, mechanics are useful ;)

One wonders how Britain managed to produce world-class universities given its wide streak of philistinism ;)

> Joking aside. I'm not sure the differences are that big. They are both paid by someone who expects certain outputs and they both have to constantly learn as their fields evolve. If they want to study different stuff it's up to them to find the time and fund it personally IMO.

As a taxpayer, I don't want to see my money being used to fund academics to produce a "certain output". I want them to produce new findings and expand the bounds of human knowledge and ability. That stuff often happens by accident, and limiting their work to "certain outputs" seems to be counter-productive.

Have a read of this, if you can be bothered:

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2013/10/managerialism-the-culture-war...
SteveRi - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

Equally it's a privilege to pay taxes for all sorts of services I'll hopefully never use, to pay the license fees for the far corners of BBC4 I'll never watch. I'm not convinced there's a large body of joke research we're all paying for.

I was thinking about John Peel in the context of what would have been his 75th birthday. There was an decent portion of unlistenable bilge on his show. Would the world have been an immensely poorer place without him? Yes!
999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

"What he's driving at here is a conflict between two cultures, between what Alasdair MacIntyre called the goods of excellence and those of effectiveness. The former are goods which are internal to a particular practice, such as mastery of a craft or vocation, or great scholarship - goods which can only be conferred by other practitioners. The latter are money, wealth and fame - external goods which are conferred by outsiders. Managerialism is the attempt to supplant the former with the latter."

What the other practioners probably can't confer though is a salary. If the taxpayer is paying the piper, the taxpayer gets to call the tune.
flaneur - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> That sounds like a supply and demand issue. Maybe academics are in over supply?

As a farmer, I'd have thought you would be very familiar with subsidising 'unproductive' activities.
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:

> "What he's driving at here is a conflict between two cultures, between what Alasdair MacIntyre called the goods of excellence and those of effectiveness. The former are goods which are internal to a particular practice, such as mastery of a craft or vocation, or great scholarship - goods which can only be conferred by other practitioners. The latter are money, wealth and fame - external goods which are conferred by outsiders. Managerialism is the attempt to supplant the former with the latter."

> What the other practioners probably can't confer though is a salary. If the taxpayer is paying the piper, the taxpayer gets to call the tune.

A logic taken to its delightful conculsion in California...
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> If she's spending all her time teaching, perhaps there's a shortage of academics who can teach?

In that case a wise academic might consider moving into teaching?
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to flaneur:

> As a farmer, I'd have thought you would be very familiar with subsidising 'unproductive' activities.

Are you an academic?

I really hope not because the day that we see food production as an unproductive activity we will have a huge problem!
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> Yes, definitely.

> But they're consequently in ridiculously tight competition for the scraps of funding that do exist, which means that if they aren't publishing stuff in high impact journals then they won't be academics for very long, and high impact journals that publish fluffy, irrelevant research that no-one apart from the author cares about don't stay high impact for very long.

And therein lies the risk of speculating on anything from commodities to your own academic prowess!

You have to speculate to accumulate and if you don't have the drive to speculate any more it's probably time to move on.
Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:
Except the taxpayer doesn't strictly fund much these days towards staff costs in performance/dance. Students do through fees for their degrees, University profits, arts charities and endowments do for installations and research projects. The piper is schizoid and in the arts some of the piper personailties particularly delight in confounding the crowds.

Many top UK universities are getting most of their income from external to government sources these days (counting UK student undergrad fees as part of the government bit) and if students would still pay to study there quite a few could afford to tell the government to get stuffed. The 'business' in overseas students amounts to a multi-billlion export trade. Various studies have shown that expenditure in Universities is one of the most efficent ways to ensure economic growth.

I dont think Universities are perfect...too little diversity despite arguably too much autonomy (I'd like to see more regional thought), much research seems to be for the sake of bean counting to get time for more beans, teaching is regarded too much as second class even when it's the main source of funding, and managerialism is doing serious damage in a few areas from time to time (certainly too many good staff expensively retired early or made redundant to be replaced with more cost only a couple of years later as trends change (where if Universities planned better or cooperated more across subjects, the system could be more staff efficient)...but overall the institutions and their societally useful outputs are in good health.
Post edited at 12:15
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> One wonders how Britain managed to produce world-class universities given its wide streak of philistinism ;)

> As a taxpayer, I don't want to see my money being used to fund academics to produce a "certain output". I want them to produce new findings and expand the bounds of human knowledge and ability. That stuff often happens by accident, and limiting their work to "certain outputs" seems to be counter-productive.

That's your choice, other taxpayers may hold differing opinions.

My feelings would be that new findings are vital in some fields, the sort of guff highlighted in the OP isn't something this taxpayer wants to fund when his taxes could be spent on useful stuff like the NHS.

> Have a read of this, if you can be bothered:


Blimey a bit pretentious innit ;)

Some parts of the message may have merit, sadly the messenger apparently lacks the ability to communicate the message in a clear and concise manner.

Is he an academic by any chance?
999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

Do performance dance degree courses not qualify for student loans? (genuine question)
KellyKettle - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> One wonders how Britain managed to produce world-class universities given its wide streak of philistinism ;)

I would guess that pure and applied science research in developing the technology which brought about industrialisation...

AFAIK Britain is not especially noted for humanities; Especially not newer ones, In fact as I understand it some of Britain's greatest psychological researchers contributed little of lasting value to the field (though contributed a lot to statistical analysis and pure maths in the process of trying to validate their own biases).

mountainbagger - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> sadly the messenger apparently lacks the ability to communicate the message in a clear and concise manner.

To be fair, the site is called Stumbling and Mumbling!
Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:
Yes.....those who dont pay these off are the main government cost bit towards the teaching outputs of those staff and yes its quite likely more dance students loans will be written off than those of say engineers. Trouble is if you set up a daft system that increases fees for all from 3k to 9k with no control on who studies what and with an estimated pretty much neutral cost to government (and the taxpayer) you cant blame the dance students or the dance lecturers. I'd suggest the taxpaper piper needs to ask the government what the hell happened before questioning performance funded almost entirely by someone else..
Post edited at 12:41
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999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

All the money that is loaned to the student comes from the government, so whilst they are being taught, they are doing so on government money. I don't think I was blaming students or lecturers for anything. (I agree it's a daft system btw)
Dave Garnett - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to seankenny)
> Blimey a bit pretentious innit ;)
>
> Some parts of the message may have merit, sadly the messenger apparently lacks the ability to communicate the message in a clear and concise manner.
>
> Is he an academic by any chance?

More likely a 'management guru'. If you think academic jargon is impenetrable you should try US managementspeak.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

> Yes.....those who dont pay these off are the main government cost bit towards the teaching outputs of those staff and yes its quite likely more dance students loans will be written off than those of say engineers. Trouble is if you set up a daft system that increases fees for all from 3k to 9k with no control on who studies what and with an estimated pretty much neutral cost to government (and the taxpayer) you cant blame the dance students or the dance lecturers. I'd suggest the taxpaper piper needs to ask the government what the hell happened before questioning performance funded almost entirely by someone else..

I'd suggest that you need to question the integrity and efficiency of those wasting the money as well as the politicians who created the situation.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> More likely a 'management guru'. If you think academic jargon is impenetrable you should try US managementspeak.

Surely a management guru is just an academic with a different name and maybe a different paymaster?
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:


> My feelings would be that new findings are vital in some fields, the sort of guff highlighted in the OP isn't something this taxpayer wants to fund when his taxes could be spent on useful stuff like the NHS.

Well it probably is guff, but then the problem is not the guff, it's the mechanism by which one separates wheat from chaff. I would rather have more guff and more good stuff, given that attempts to reduce the former seem, however indirectly, to impact upon the later.


> Blimey a bit pretentious innit ;)

Clearly, I over-estimated my interlocutor ;)

> Some parts of the message may have merit, sadly the messenger apparently lacks the ability to communicate the message in a clear and concise manner.

> Is he an academic by any chance?

Actually he's a columnist on the Investor's Chronicle. Personally I find him a clear writer, but the ideas are not always straightforward, especially if you're unfamiliar with them.

Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:

Except formally it doesn't up front. For instance it doesnt count to the deficit because of the accounting rules . The same applies to PFIs. The UK government has been pretty sneaky about what debt constitutes as up front government debt. In contrast this lecturer has an open public profile for any small p to see and critisise.
Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

Another small p eh? If you made any attempt to discuss what might constitute possibly waste in the arts it would help.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Well it probably is guff, but then the problem is not the guff, it's the mechanism by which one separates wheat from chaff. I would rather have more guff and more good stuff, given that attempts to reduce the former seem, however indirectly, to impact upon the later.

Not a good business principle, upping output on the offchance of producing soem good stuff should not be rewarded ;(

> Clearly, I over-estimated my interlocutor ;)

Could you pass the dictionary please ;)

> Actually he's a columnist on the Investor's Chronicle. Personally I find him a clear writer, but the ideas are not always straightforward, especially if you're unfamiliar with them.

A clear writer would use less words and simpler language. If you feel the need to hyperlink anything to help the reader understand WTH you are wittering on about it is probably a good idea to explain it more clearly in the first place.
999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

http://www.slc.co.uk/about-us/remit.aspx

"... Student Loans Company, which is owned by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland is entirely Government-funded and non-profit making."

timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

> Another small p eh?

A rather large one thanks, too much coffee this morning ;)

> If you made any attempt to discuss what might constitute possibly waste in the arts it would help.

Surely we can't do that without first defining the good outputs from "the arts"?

Over to you ;)

timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to mountainbagger:

> To be fair, the site is called Stumbling and Mumbling!

I stumble and mumble when I'm drunk, maybe that is the authors problem ;)
Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

I would argue that in their widest sense (in that I'd include the 'art' in STEM but there is no need to include that for the sake of this particular argument) they illustrate the peak of human acheivement. Over to you.
Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:

Smoke and mirrors. Its public debt but not part of the deficit. No implied dishonest incentive to government at all.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18101729



seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> Not a good business principle, upping output on the offchance of producing soem good stuff should not be rewarded ;(

Well there you go, business is different to academia!


> A clear writer would use less words and simpler language. If you feel the need to hyperlink anything to help the reader understand WTH you are wittering on about it is probably a good idea to explain it more clearly in the first place.

I think they hyperlinks are to avoid the presentation of an argument as pure fact. He wants to say "this is so (and here, in the link, is more on why I believe this)". He has a particular world view and is explaining it, nothing wrong with that. An awful lot of writers on the internet do that these days...
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

> I would argue that in their widest sense (in that I'd include the 'art' in STEM but there is no need to include that for the sake of this particular argument) they illustrate the peak of human acheivement. Over to you.

Why does the taxpayer need to subsidise "the arts" in order to "illustrate the peak of human acheivement"?

I think we may need to work out what "the arts" is?

timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Well there you go, business is different to academia!

It might like to believe that it is different, can you convince the taxpayer that it should be?

I can see a case for science, medicine etc, but maybe humanities and arts should remain as amateur pursuits or hobbies to be pursued on our own time?

> I think they hyperlinks are to avoid the presentation of an argument as pure fact. He wants to say "this is so (and here, in the link, is more on why I believe this)". He has a particular world view and is explaining it, nothing wrong with that. An awful lot of writers on the internet do that these days...

There is nothing wrong with that and you may like his style. I'm baffled as to why you felt I should "be bothered" to read his pretentious piffle?

seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> Why does the taxpayer need to subsidise "the arts" in order to "illustrate the peak of human acheivement"?

Because the Medicis ran out of florins, the Habsburgs are no more and the Catholic Church isn't hiring so much these days?



999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

The key point with respect to this discussion is that the money which goes to universities, via the student loan, is sourced from the taxpayer. I'm not particularly bothered if it's called public debt or deficit.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Because the Medicis ran out of florins, the Habsburgs are no more and the Catholic Church isn't hiring so much these days?

How about either taking their funding direct from their consumers as paying customers or keeping "the arts" as an amateur field?

Once you start taking funding from any source you are likely to have to demonstrate that you are delivering good value. I wonder what the attitude of the Medicis, Habsbergs or the Catholic Church was to those who didn't deliver good results?
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> It might like to believe that it is different, can you convince the taxpayer that it should be?

Some taxpayers, probably not.

> I can see a case for science, medicine etc, but maybe humanities and arts should remain as amateur pursuits or hobbies to be pursued on our own time?

So you'd have no study and teaching of English, foreign languages, the classics, philosophy, politics, economics, international relations, history, art, film, design, music... Well, yes, good luck with a country like that.


> There is nothing wrong with that and you may like his style. I'm baffled as to why you felt I should "be bothered" to read his pretentious piffle?

I thought it was relevant, that's all. If you think not, then that's fine of course, but you seem to be hung up on it being a bit hard to read, rather than the content, thereby inadvertantly making the argument for good teaching of the humanities...
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Offwidth - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to 999thAndy:

Its partly sourced form the taxpayer and if its not part of the deficit, technically the payment is defferred (like PFIs) so we havent paid yet.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Some taxpayers, probably not.

Thats the joy of living in a tax paying democracy ;)

> So you'd have no study and teaching of English, foreign languages, the classics, philosophy, politics, economics, international relations, history, art, film, design, music... Well, yes, good luck with a country like that.

There's the problem, it's absurd to class all those things under one broad grouping. We would still be able to teach English to a perfectly acceptable standard without the sort of research highlighted in the OP. An approach that says academics should have financial freedom to research whatever they want can lead to an awful lot of dross getting funded. Everyone including us grubby oiks outside academia should be free to criticise the dross without lazy thinking academics calling us philistines.

> I thought it was relevant, that's all. If you think not, then that's fine of course, but you seem to be hung up on it being a bit hard to read, rather than the content, thereby inadvertantly making the argument for good teaching of the humanities...

That all depends on whether you hold the belief that good, clear, concise writing in the english language is somehow swept up in humanities. I'd say that it's a valuable life skill and we shouldn't be losing sight of that behind the poncy label of "humanities".

Ramblin dave - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:
> An approach that says academics should have financial freedom to research whatever they want

It's been said a couple of times before, but to reiterate, this isn't what they currently have.

Although they don't get their research tasks assigned to them in a bi-weekly status meeting with their line manager, most humanities academics realistically have the financial freedom to research whatever they think will help them to get a job - in an incredibly competitive market - when their contract ends in eighteen months, which basically means stuff that will get published in a prestigious journal or make for a successful book, which in turn means stuff that they can convince other researchers in their field is worth reading about.
Post edited at 14:26
999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Offwidth:

Am I missing something here? If the student loan is only part funded by the govt, what are the other sources of money?

seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:
> That all depends on whether you hold the belief that good, clear, concise writing in the english language is somehow swept up in humanities. I'd say that it's a valuable life skill and we shouldn't be losing sight of that behind the poncy label of "humanities".

Here's a paragraph from this difficult article which actually bolsters your argument:

"There is a grain of justification for the imposition of managerialist values. Without them, we might get a futile perfectionism in which nothing gets finished; Leonardo da Vinci might have benefited from a bit of management. And the pursuit of excellence can be a mask for self-indulgence or even idleness; several Oxford academics in the mid-20th century preserved their reputation for brilliance by dint of not publishing much."

Sure, I didn't pick it at random, but still I am struggling to see why this sort of prose isn't clear. There are some big words but they are hardly toughies. I suggest you avoid Will Self, he'll pop yer piles.
Post edited at 14:33
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Ramblin dave:

> It's been said a couple of times before, but to reiterate, this isn't what they currently have.

I gathered that. I'm suggesting that they can't have it, there is probably a compromise somewhere in the middle ground but you can't have taxpayer funded jobs where people do whatever they fancy.

> Although they don't get their research tasks assigned to them in a bi-weekly status meeting with their line manager, most humanities academics realistically have the financial freedom to research whatever they think will help them to get a job - in an incredibly competitive market - when their contract ends in eighteen months, which basically means stuff that will get published in a prestigious journal or make for a successful book, which in turn means stuff that they can convince other researchers in their field is worth reading about.

That's part of the problem of being paid to do stuff sadly. The rest of us have to live with it so why shouldn't academics?
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> That's part of the problem of being paid to do stuff sadly. The rest of us have to live with it so why shouldn't academics?

So strict overview by managers is the way to drive creative or intellectual excellence?
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Here's a paragraph from this difficult article which actually bolsters your argument:

> "There is a grain of justification for the imposition of managerialist values. Without them, we might get a futile perfectionism in which nothing gets finished; Leonardo da Vinci might have benefited from a bit of management. And the pursuit of excellence can be a mask for self-indulgence or even idleness; several Oxford academics in the mid-20th century preserved their reputation for brilliance by dint of not publishing much."

My point about that article was that any good stuff was masked out by the laboured style of the writing. I'd hate to have the guy negotiating anything on my behalf because he's too wordy and doesn't deliver a clear message.

> Sure, I didn't pick it at random, but still I am struggling to see why this sort of prose isn't clear.

Because it's masked out by a load of utter bollocks!

> There are some big words but they are hardly toughies. I suggest you avoid Will Self, he'll pop yer piles.

Will Self has a more mocking style, I get on quite well with him. He tends to capture you with the first line and draw you to read on. This other guy lost me in the first sentence of the article you linked to. I'd have to read an awful lot of stuff to stand a chance of convince myself he was worth reading. Somehow I can't quite be bothered, there are plenty of better writers to read instead.
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> So strict overview by managers is the way to drive creative or intellectual excellence?

You have to steer resources away from wasteful avenues somehow. How would you achieve it?
seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> My point about that article was that any good stuff was masked out by the laboured style of the writing. I'd hate to have the guy negotiating anything on my behalf because he's too wordy and doesn't deliver a clear message.

Oh I don't know, I've worked doing external communications for all sorts of organisations and if I found a policy expert who could write like this I'd be very happy.


> Because it's masked out by a load of utter bollocks!

Not quite sure what you mean by "masked out". It sounds like the content rather than the style is your problem, and that's to be expected, as he's opposed to your point of view.


seankenny - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

> You have to steer resources away from wasteful avenues somehow. How would you achieve it?

This is always the business approach to the arts, isn't it. Let's consider Graham Greene for a moment. Apparently his first three books just aren't that good. There was something there, but it wasn't fully formed. Still, his publishers let him get on with it until his breakout novel, at which point he actually started making them some money.

In a more rigid, managerial system - such as that in more modern publishing - it's unlikely he'd be given such creative freedom. Since your approach is one of the the overwhelming ideologies of modern life, the more vital question surely is how to keep the arts buoyant without letting the drive for profit crush emerging talent?
999thAndy on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

Is the metric to distinguish good or bad art, 'sales'?
Michael Gordon - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

I'm just glad you're not in charge of awarding grants/contracts!
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I'm just glad you're not in charge of awarding grants/contracts!

I wouldn't fancy that sort of job but I really hope that there aren't too many of the wishy washy results don't matter doing the job either!
timjones - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Oh I don't know, I've worked doing external communications for all sorts of organisations and if I found a policy expert who could write like this I'd be very happy.

I hope you never work for an organisation that represents me or my interests in any way ;)

> Not quite sure what you mean by "masked out". It sounds like the content rather than the style is your problem, and that's to be expected, as he's opposed to your point of view.

Not long back you were suggesting that some of the content supported my views, make your mind up ;)

Bear in mind that even with a good central message a poor writer can feck it up and render the article in such a way as to make it appear utter rubbish. This guy seems to fall squarely into that category.
Michael Gordon - on 03 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:

I don't see what's wrong with that article. If you don't understand the language that's fine (it's not directed at the layman), but it's not poorly written.
seankenny - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to timjones:
> (In reply to seankenny)
>
> [...]
>
> I hope you never work for an organisation that represents me or my interests in any way ;)

Putting a winky emoticon on the end of that sentence doesn't make it any less rude. I'll live, but just so you know - makes you look a bit petulant.
timjones - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to seankenny:

> Putting a winky emoticon on the end of that sentence doesn't make it any less rude. I'll live, but just so you know - makes you look a bit petulant.

Why on earth would you think it rude to wish that any people that represents your interests should value the ability to communicate in a clear and concise manner?


timjones - on 04 Sep 2014
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> I don't see what's wrong with that article. If you don't understand the language that's fine (it's not directed at the layman), but it's not poorly written.

Surely that is a matter of opinion?

I believe that you can be clear and concise regardless of whether you are writing for a "layman" or a pseudo expert.

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