The cloistered quality of academic life is not a state of affairs unique to design, though public intellectuals seem much more plentiful in other disciplines. I had better also make it clear that I’m talking here about academics, most probably with PhDs, who are active researchers, and not about the many designers-turned-teachers who also work in education. No doubt onerous workloads are a critical factor in limiting design academics’ inclination to reach out. Present-day career paths require the continuous generation of auditable “outputs” perceived as signs of an institution’s status and rank. If you want to get on in academia, you must be an effective producer within this system here’s the UK’s. Publishing a paper in a prestigious journal only read by other academics counts, on those terms, as a personal triumph. It may even be the only way to achieve promotion from lecturer to senior lecturer and beyond in a university or college that wants to be taken seriously as a center of excellence in research. Time spent on writing for non-peer-viewed publications, commenting on blogs, or speaking at non-academic conferences and events, is seen as time not devoted to academic duties and self-advancement.In other words, the generation and transmission of knowledge, which ought to be a matter of wider public interest, has become thoroughly institutionalized within academia.The flipside of this empire of closely monitored, university-level research is the failure of professional, non-academic design publications and organizations to build more bridges to academia and to try to prize open its knowledge-bank. The tenacious habit of design-hero navel-gazing at international design conferences does the field no credit. Why aren’t there more presentations by researchers with penetrating ideas and new findings?
The Closed Shop of Design Academia: Observatory: Design Observer