The academic politician

A good few years ago I was standing with a drink and a canapé or two at a university reception. A colleague from another department came and chatted with me, and he invited me to scan the assembled company. ‘All of these people’, he suggested, ‘are either scholars or networkers.’ He then proceeded to point at individuals known to both of us and identified each as either ‘scholar’ or ‘networker’. I pointed to one individual and suggested, ‘scholar and networker’.

‘No’, said my friend, ‘you’re not playing the game. He cannot be both. It’s either one or the other.’

I have always wondered about this. Do your scholarly credentials absolutely rule out networking skills? Does your ability to work a room stand in contradiction to your intellectual ambitions? I still wonder. If ever I write my memoirs, I shall need to know the answer before drafting the last chapter.

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8 Comments on “The academic politician”

  1. Vincent Says:

    If you change the parameters a bit to scholar and mother/father, but then tweak it further to scholar and single parent. Doable, of course it is. But it’s rare.
    All in all, that last 10,000 words should be a paean to your ancillary people whether at home or office.

    Yea, another bog body found. Bronze age they are saying. Why is it I wonder that the current Gaelic Irish are so cavalier with the remains of their ancestors when the todays trends with indigenous peoples worldwide are to insist that all such corpses are returned for interment. It’s hardly that they were jetsam originally now is it.

  2. Anna Notaro Says:

    hmm not sure whether ‘politician’ is the most appropriate term here…it conjures up some different associations, at least to my mind…surely you know the answer to this question already *before* writing the memoirs, in some respects writing something like that is the very last act of networking, isn’it?

  3. revd rob Says:

    If you are either or, then doesn’t make you valuing people for what they can do for you rather than appreciating people for who they are as a person!
    Also, if you are lacking self awareness, this can spread to people who are close to you. What they can do for you to “advance” your sense of self!

  4. Al Says:

    1- no
    2- no

    Is it Prof Jeykl and Mr Hyde?

    Or Mr Jekyl and Prof Hyde?

  5. don Says:

    Ferdinand, here are the answers: I agree with Al: No and No. Will I (and Al, above) get an acknowledgment in your said memoir…?

    Assuming you were standing on scholars’/academics’ home ground, i.e. tertiary level education, then the mark of a good (and noble) scholar includes those necessary networking skills that help to achieve the scholar’s academic objectives. The best scholars have had this networking skill down the centuries anyway. Alas, not all modern day academics can demonstrate the same ability, and your friend’s opening premise reflects this…

  6. kevin denny Says:

    Of course No & No. It may be that some academics focus on networking because they are not good at scholarship or vice-versa. The former are the one’s at conferences who know everyone, are on every damn committee but haven’t written a decent paper in years.

  7. Mary Says:

    How did your friend categorise himself?

    I dislike things like that – there is usually some implied hierarchy, or at the very least the idea that good soft skills somehow detract from one’s reputation as a serious researcher. It’s so facile.


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