A remarkable firing has taken place at Aalborg University. Because of the university’s financial problems, acclaimed researcher in low-frequency noise Professor Henrik Moller lost his position with the official explanation that he had the lowest ‘income generating performance’ amongst his colleagues.
The dismissal marks the latest decline of values at Danish universities, where the political and managerial pressure to participate in business cooperation and attract external funding can now be truly said to threaten the freedom of research.
In itself, one can question the management’s motives for firing a professor who has frequently been critical of the noise calculations made for wind turbines, when Aalborg University at the same time is trying hard to expand cooperation with wind turbine industry.
But even if one takes the management’s firing criteria at face value that the professor was simply the one ‘that best could be omitted’, there is reason to firmly reject the economic unit his research is measured by. Good research is not necessarily equal to what corporations and foundations are currently interested in and can set aside money for.
Universities’ official purpose is to teach, conduct research and mediate results, not to run gainful activity. From this definition we must urge the professor’s union, the Society of Engineers, to raise the issue in principle, to determine whether the university’s firing criteria are valid.
As far as we know this professor’s sacking is so far the only one of its kind with so much emphasis on the economy, but the secondary normative impact on other researchers’ work is far worse.
Right now it requires a certain courage for the individual to research what is academically most relevant, and not only what is most likely to lead to the next invoice.