Competitivity and creativity in academia

Via Mark Changizi, I arrived to this post at It’s OK to be smart , which has as a conclusion: [for PhD students] “… faculty jobs ARE the alternative career”.  Went from here to  The Tenure Games, which lot of people know. The problem is big, one hears about particular cases all the time  and a natural question is:  is academia facing a real problem or it is just about people who don’t  stand the heat of the fierce competition?

I think there is a more important side question: is academia delivering? It should, because it selects the best of the best, right?

Don’t believe my suggestion to the contrary. Let’s see another, older academia in action, more than a century ago: [source]

The most famous art competition for students was the Prix de Rome. The winner of the Prix de Rome was awarded a fellowship to study at the Academie francaise’s school at the Villa Medici in Rome for up to five years. To compete, an artist had to be of French nationality, male, under 30 years of age, and single. He had to have met the entrance requirements of the Ecole and have the support of a well-known art teacher. The competition was grueling, involving several stages before the final one, in which 10 competitors were sequestered in studios for 72 days to paint their final history paintings. The winner was essentially assured a successful professional career.

The ultimate achievement for the professional artist was election to membership in the Academie  francaise and the right to be known as an academician.

All this to the result, a 100 years after, of decorating a chocolate box. Art followed another, much more creative path.


This is part of the same problem as academic publishing, what is intriguing is that  the same parallel works.



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