The slow but certain suicide of the academic endeavour

Talk | PhD in Cognitive Science
19 May 2022
Start time 
3:30 pm
Palazzo Piomarta - Corso Bettini 84, Rovereto
Room 13
Target audience: 
University community
Reservation required
Registration deadline: 
16 May 2022, 12:00


  • Paul van der Vet

Scientific Coordinator: Massimo Zancanaro


I will start this, my last lecture, by explaining why and how I became fascinated by science. Universities have been enjoying a privileged status for a long time. The usefulness of academic research has in the past seldom, if ever, been questioned. Universities have profited from often generous funding, from both governments and industry. The general public, although generally not well-versed in the intricacies of modern science, have looked favourably upon science as enabler of welfare and good health. All this is changing. There is no clear picture yet, but a number of threats for the current way of doing science can be identified. I will be talking about distrust in the general public because of unethical or potentially dangerous applications of scientific research; at fraud, both by scientists and by outside parties; at negative feelings about science furthered by politicians; and, briefly, at the role the internet plays in this development. My conclusion is that, barring a sudden general alert, academic science as I knew it is doomed.

Short Bio

Paul van der Vet (1948) is a researcher retired from the University of Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. He has a background in chemistry and philosophy of science. At the University of Twente he did research and lectured in the Computer Science Department. His interests include knowledge representation and ontologies, natural-language understanding, and human-computer interaction. Near the end of his career he became interested in applying his experience and skills in the field of bioinformatics, leading to a part-time affiliation at Wageningen University, the Netherlands. He has been heavily involved in education.

He redesigned the Bachelor course Artificial Intelligence and he set up the two Master courses, Knowledge Representation and Information Retrieval. Both Master courses have also been given at the University of Osnabrück for an international Master Programme. He played an active part in the group that set up the highly succesful Bachelor Programme Creative Technology. He co-ordinated the Dutch contribution to the EIT Master Programme Human-Computer Interaction and Design, in which the University of Trento is also involved. He now likes to talk about the growing gap between science and society, and he studies Italian literature.