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Academe’s '1 Percent'

Taken for Granted
Kelly Krause, AAAS

A few months back, we reported on research that reveals growing inequality between a small percentage of scientific "stars" and the general run of less renowned academics. These studies concentrated mainly on publications and research funding. But for favored faculty members, academic stardom can translate into other rewards as well: astronomical pay, fancy digs near campus, second homes in exclusive vacation spots, and celebrity far beyond the boundaries of one’s discipline or campus, according to a pair of intriguing articles by Christopher Shea in The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Fueling the rising prosperity and prominence of the academic "1%," the articles indicate, are efforts of universities to raise their standing by luring famous names to their campuses. Another factor is the increasing visibility of TED talks and other "similar ideas-in-nuggets conclaves" in which invited speakers—generally academics and often scientists—give short talks that expose their ideas to a wide, general audience.

The aggrandizement and enrichment of a celebrated few—often with university funds—is happening, Shea notes, "[a]gainst the backdrop of a rampant reliance on adjuncts," who, as we reported a while back, provide the majority of undergraduate instruction in the United States and outnumber tenured and tenure-track faculty by more than 2 to 1.

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