Where Everyone Is Above Average

The American author Garrison Keillor had a catchphrase about Lake Wobegone:

“where all the children are above average”

combining a sense of humour with an understanding of basic statistics.

I was reminded of this when I read David Colquhoun’s post about new criteria for academic staff at Queen Mary University of London, where all staff will need to be above average. This will be necessary in order to do well in the UK 2014 Research Excellence Framework marking scheme.

He makes another point questioning the ethics of academic staff taking on new PhD students at a time when there are very few academic job opportunities and the future looks bleak. [Added: Here is a Washington Post article about it. [Added: another article]] This is a difficult issue. At the very least, we should inform prospective and incoming students realistically about their job prospects.

“Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average…”  Jay Leno


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