Up and down the Ivory Tower

Charlotte Wien University of Southern Denmark


The ‘Ivory Tower’ is a metaphor being used to describe an elitist and self-sufficient research culture, which is relatively indifferent to the extent to which the conducted research is useful for the surrounding society, and whether the surrounding society is informed about the research and its results. Outside the tower, in contrast, citizen science is carried out, presentations are given at community centers, interviews are given to journalists, exhibitions are held, popular science articles are written, all to make the research understandable and digestible outside the tower. Over the past 50 years, scientists have alternately been chased up and down from the so-called Ivory Tower.

Because on the one hand, the current New Public Management paradigm at the universities has required measurable results that could be easily reported to the funders. Such requirement can most easily be obtained through a single-track publication strategy with a focus on publishing research results in international peer-reviewed journals.

On the other hand, university laws, journalists, the general population, politicians, together with a large group of socially committed researchers, regularly argue that activities held below the tower should also count on the researcher cv.

It is good news that on July 8th 2022 an agreement that serves to reform the current methods for assessing researcher and research quality have been finalized. The initiative comes from the EU Commission and the process has been short and effective. If the agreement becomes successful then it could be the key to the realization of a different, flexible, and multi-pronged publishing system, where researchers are encouraged to publish on many alternative platforms and as such that they may inhabit and populate the area below the ivory tower and all its floors.


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