What is considered academic work? I.e. what is society paying us (university professors) for? What should be considered as criteria for academic promotion and hiring?
It seems to me that there has been a continuing narrowing in the way that the academic establishment is answering this question. It is getting closer to being narrowly defined as “international journal publications” (in CS, also conference publications). The two other pillars of academic duty are losing their gravitas: teaching is often belittled in practice (despite much lip service to the contrary) and academic administrative duties (department chairing, editorships) are loosing their prestige. Other forms of publication (national journals, popular press, even academic books) are getting less credit. (It used to be standard for Israeli economists to publish in Hebrew on the Israeli economy, but little academic credit is given for this anymore.) Founding commercial companies or consulting for them is frowned upon in some places, and slightly encouraged in others, but certainly not considered part of the academic work. Having a wide disciplinary knowledge (or even being a Renaissance man) is not expected or rewarded. Being involved with public policy, K12 eduction, public opinion, or politics is definitely not considered part of one’s academic mandate.
This is all not new. Am just ranting here? Maybe. But what I don’t quite understand is why we, tenured professors, keep going in this direction. Regarding our own work, we can do whatever we want — we are tenured — why are we so “academic”? Regarding others — it is us who sit in all these promotion, hiring, and tenure committees — why don’t we take the wider view more often?