HITTING LEFT #21 with Pidgeon Pagonis

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Putting the brakes on university research

More biting the hand...

Research faculty looking into corporate behavior, are now even more concerned for their jobs, tenure and university funding. Case in point: SIU prof, David Gilbert and his assistant did critical research on Toyota's deadly accelerator issues.

Gilbert sought to show that electronics might be to blame for the problem in Toyotas. The world’s largest automaker tried to discredit his findings. Toyota even questioned whether he should be employed by the school, which has long been a recipient of company donations. Electronic messages obtained by the Associated Press show the automaker grew increasingly frustrated with Gilbert’s work and made its displeasure clear to his bosses at the 20,000-student school.

Toyota also had its own pet profs over at Stanford (no surprise there). 
Gilbert’s work“could result in misguided policy and unwarranted fear,” Chris Gerdes, director of Stanford University’s Center for Automotive Research (CARS), told reporters. His organization is funded by a group of auto companies that include Toyota. (DAWN.com)
Funny?--CARS, as you might expect, is also funded by the Gates Foundation and its affiliate center is housed--guess where?--in Stanford's Gates Computer Science building.

Toyota implied threats to pull SIU's funding and withdrew some internships.
One of Gilbert's research partners, an assistant professor named Omar Trinidad, nervously asked Owens whether the findings would "negatively affect my tenure track or even jeopardize my tenure with SIUC? If you have any reservations on what we are doing, please do not hesitate to inform me." Owens tried to reassure Trinidad: "If your investigations are upheld and have major impact resulting in papers, presentations, and national recognition of expertise, these are all factors that will benefit your research productivity." (AP Wire)
The same dilemmas exist--maybe even greater ones, with current conservative, privatization pressures, for those doing ed research. Arne Duncan's federal innovation grants (i3) are geared only to those who will toe the Race To The Top line. And then there's Gates money controlling the educational research field as well as, apparently the automotive field.  All I can say is. Courage, courage. Thanks Prof. Gilbert.

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