Wednesday, 30 March 2011

'Haldanegate'

The spat within the humanities community over allegations in Sunday's Observer that the AHRC had been forced to include the 'Big Society' in its research plans has now got its own name: haldanegate. I love the delicious combination of irreverence, scandal and hysteria that the name implies.

I mentioned the controversy in a post a couple of days ago, but a more measured (and hilarious) overview of the timeframe of 'haldanegate' has been provided by James Sumner of the University of Manchester. There's also a piece in the most recent Research Professional (issue 365) arguing that, rather than running counter to Haldane, the idea of research serving the needs of government was there from the start. What's different here, as Sumner says, is that the 'Big Society' is a party political initiative. And that's the worry.

In addition, whilst the AHRC has effectively refuted the Observer claims, there's still the question of how the Big Society ended up in the Delivery Plan. In some ways its worse that the Council's arm wasn't twisted: instead, they seem to have offered themselves up willingly to the service of Dave et al.

Finally, whilst the Observer journalist has been shown to have misquoted and conflated the thoughts of Peter Mandler, the chief source for the piece, there's still the question of his allegations over the British Academy. He said that he was talking about the BA rather than the AHRC. This doesn't seem to have been followed up by anyone. Sure, it was a smaller scale funder who was involved, but still...

Haldanegate will rubble on for some time, I think.

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