We have had a time of it exposing the disingenuous claims by the University of Washington’s startup program. There is much more going on than the bits I’ve pointed out. But some folks would rather live the lie than restate their numbers and correct their press releases. When bragging status and public money is on the line–not personal integrity or business fundamentals–I guess one grandstanding self-illusion is as good as another.
Why the UW faculty and the state legislature put up with it, though, I dunno. Perhaps because in the grand scheme of things, so little of it matters for them. Perhaps University of Washington startups and University of Washington spending on startups simply do not matter one flea turd to these folks. “Go ahead,” the faculty and legislature mutter, “make up statistics, get undeserved awards, plump for money, dupe investors, invite politicians to your events, and call any question about your claims bullshit. That’s what we all expect from you anyway.”
Here at Research Enterprise, of course, we care about research innovation, even if some university leaders enjoy acting like World War I generals reciting foolish pontifications about doing good in the world to justify sending a generation to their deaths. It’s not that the generals intended to do so. It’s that they apparently had no clue what else to intend. See for instance Wade Davis, Into the Silence 15ff:
Britain had not fought a major continental war in a century, and the high command exhibited a stubborn disconnection from reality so complete as to merge at times with the criminal. A survey conducted in the three years before the war found that 95 percent of officers had never read a military book of any kind. This cult of the amateur, militantly anti-intellectual, resulted in a leadership that, with noted exceptions, was obtuse, willfully intolerant of change, and incapable for the most part of innovative thought or action.
Of course, university research is not some horrific war killing millions. And many university administrators are bright, dedicated, sincere individuals. But university research may not be all that important in the grand scheme of things, though one can make a case that it could be important, that it ought to be important. If so, then technology transfer also has to be more than a bureaucratic charade.
What then of all those bureaucratically induced startup companies created to impress government officials and to attract speculative investors? What about the faked counting of companies in order to claim best-in-the-country status when the actual practice is ho-hum, bordering on expensively incompetent? The speculative investors, at least, are not so much the fools as the administrators take them for. The scorecard is still out on the others. It would be great if government demanded something different from university administrators.
If no one in government, on the faculty, or in the press objects to the University of Washington’s cooked books on startups, that in itself is pretty damning. No one then really cares about University of Washington’s research programs or startups. If they did, they would clean house. That might be the stark reality here.