By Adam Smith
“I’ve kept my head down a bit,” a senior university figure in Scotland told me recently. “There’s the feeling that coming out is career suicide.”
He was talking about taking a position (or not) on Scottish independence. Although a handful of academics have thrown their support behind the yes or the no camp, most academics are keeping quiet.
To find out more about this phenomenon—and to count academics on both sides—Research Fortnight is conducting an anonymous, independent and unattributed survey of researchers and university staff. Respondents can be entered into a draw to win one of five subscriptions to Research Fortnight or Research Europe.
Take the survey here. It’ll close on 13 May.
It is the only survey we know of that is focused on the implications of independence and the debate on research, higher education and science. The five-minute survey is open to researchers in universities, research office staff, managers and researchers in industry. Responses will not be attributed to individuals or their institutions.
As well as counting the number of ayes and naes held on university campuses across Scotland, we want to hear more about what might stop academics from speaking their minds and which aspects of independence they’re concerned or hopeful about—be it research funding, tuition fee policy or science policy.
If enough people take the survey, the results will be fascinating and give us the first true picture of researchers’ views, hopes and concerns. We’ll publish the results in a supplement to Research Fortnight magazine, which will be made available for free to everyone who takes the survey regardless of whether their institution subscribes to the magazine or Research Professional, our online news site and funding database.
“It is absolutely right that academics…are encouraged and feel free to express their views,” said a spokesman for the first minister Alex Salmond in November. He was defending Chris Whatley, a historian at the University of Dundee who identified himself as a no voter while taking part in an academic debate on independence and found himself under fire from a Scottish National Party MSP.
Even if you feel you can’t voice your view in public, we hope you can feed into our anonymous and independent survey.