In the first half of the twentieth century a whole range of radical thinkers, from Einstein to Schrödinger, Russell to Wittgenstein, Woolf to de Beauvoir, were transforming our ideas. But many now wonder where the equivalents are today and point to a fundamental error.   Universities and research labs have become increasingly specialised and focus on small 'piecemeal advance’ leaving little room for originality and big thinking.  Studies confirm a bias against publishing novel research and 90% of papers remain uncited, and possibly unread, by anyone. 

Is the academy and our culture as a whole in desperate need of newer, bigger ideas?  Do we need to encourage a less specialised and broader approach to create the breakthroughs and radical ideas of the future? Do we need to change the way university appointments are made and articles reviewed to escape conventional set thinking?  Or have the big theories largely been found already and we have only now to fill in the gaps?

In association with TLS.

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