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Least Interesting Units: a new concept for enhancing one’s academic career opportunities

In these days where ‘Publish or Perish’ pressures are rife in academia, scholars who wish to enhance their career opportunities might want to turn to the work of Marcoen J.T.F. Cabbolet, who is a research affiliate at the Free University of Brussels. In a new paper for the journal Science and Engineering Ethics he suggests the liberal application of Least Interesting Units (LIUs) in research – in other words the importance of prioritising investigations that are only just interesting enough to pursue.
He presents the concept in the form of a maxim :-

“Maxim 6. A researcher should pursue as many LIUs as possible.”

with the observation that :

“[…] this maxim yields an enhanced career perspective in the current `publish-or-perish’ world that academia has become.”

See:The Least Interesting Unit: A New Concept for Enhancing One’s Academic Career Opportunities’ in : Science and Engineering Ethics December 2016, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 1837–1841.

It should be emphasised however, that although Dr. Cabbolet suggests this as a viable strategy, he doesn’t necessarily regard it as ethical behaviour :

“[…] giving up on the grand ideas is not just a defeatist attitude, it also harms science itself. Of course, most of the grand ideas turn out to be wrong or not feasible, but it is precisely these rare cases where such ideas led to tangible results that have virtually completely determined the entire historical development of science. And even if such a grand idea turns out to be wrong, it can still remain useful. Taking this view, while a certain number of LIUs is not necessarily a bad thing, scientific progress would be undermined if fulfilling Maxim 6 would become the new norm in science.”

A full copy of the paper may be found here.


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