Saturday, June 21, 2014
Money is the cheapest form of justification used in social science research. Now that 90%* of you reading this are too offended and pissed off to think straight, let me explain.
I was raised on the belief that money cannot buy happiness and that I must go to college so that I will not be poor (a little contradictory don’t you think?). Despite all the lovely quotes about happiness and the evils of money (1 Timothy 6:10 is the oft repeated one in America, “For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil”) the lesson I internalized was basically that money is not the most valuable part of life, but it is still a part. I think of it like food and water, one can live longer without food than water, but that doesn't mean one can forsake food in favor of water.
You don’t have to agree with my food/water analogy. I’m simply giving a little context so you can understand why this issue is a pet peeve of mine. You see money is important. Everyone knows this. There is no argument.
So when money is used as justification for research, I find it to be a cheap. Why? For several reasons, actually, but I’ll keep this short and focus on the most important one: People and academia.
People are more valuable than money. Every time I read an article that starts by quoting the economic clout of the game industry (just as an example since this is what I study) I feel that money is being placed over the participants. I would much rather read that 10 million people play WoW rather than Blizzard has made millions on WoW.
Furthermore, stating money as the justification for research into something devalues academia.** First, since everyone knows money is important, it is about as intellectually stimulating as Captain Obvious. Worse, it implicitly says that knowledge without direct and obvious economic benefit is not worthwhile. Yet without the passion for innovation, curious minds, failed experiments, and starving artists, where would we be?! How will we solve the world’s problem if we continually limit universities for financial concerns, thereby quashing creativity?
And now, as way of apology to anyone who was offended by the first sentence. This was not meant as a personal attack. In fact, I have also used money as justification, because, let’s face it, sometimes you just have to play the game to pay the bills. In fact I recently reviewed and recommended a paper for publication that did this also (the trigger for this post in fact) but I recommended it despite their use of money as justification. This is an institutional attack for allowing money to be the bar for publication.
*Yes I did just make up that statistic.
**Unless of course the research is about money. I’m not saying economic behavior shouldn't be studied. My argument is against using money as a justification up front for research that does not cover or mention economics again.