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Environment & Climate Change

Is the Ivory Tower's decline in relevance a symptom of a post-factual world?

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St John's College at the University of Sydney

In his article for The Conversation, University of Michigan Professor Andrew Hoffman discusses why academics and scientists are losing relevance in the eyes of the public and how they can - and must - reverse this trend. Hoffman is the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at U of M.

"People are guided by motivated reasoning, and in these politically divided times, information is being coded as liberal or conservative and science falls into that as well," said Hoffman. 

Hoffman argues that, historically, scientists have been “poor communicators” and that we’ve seen a growing “antagonism toward science.” He makes a case for using social media to disseminate academic articles.

“How do we take that work, from the world of academia, and bring it to a place that can use it, such as the general public discourse or the political process," he asked.

He also suggests there’s a generational shift underway whereby many current graduate students are pursuing higher education specifically in order to contribute to the real world, rather than hide out in academia. Many academics find this promising, hoping that current graduate students will help carve a path for greater community engagement.

Further, Hoffman said several academic institutions are experimenting with making community engagement a criterion for promotion and tenure. 

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Hoffman above. 

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