A Force for Renewal in Academia

  • Ulrich Nitsch


I start my essay by recalling the resistance at my university towards some groundbreaking results from environmental and global food production research in the early 1960s, when I was a student in agricultural sciences. I describe this resistance as academic inertia originating from group think in the scientific community. I argue that the problems we face today in our search for sustainable development on a global level require a long-term and broad systems approach in research. I conclude that the predominant scientific paradigm, which I define as the control paradigm, is insufficient given its inbuilt reductionist bias. We need the complement of a paradigm entailing a holistic perspective, which I call the co-existence paradigm. I explore how academic inertia and an increasingly competitive culture in the academic world counteract this development. Students at Uppsala University have managed to cross the boundaries of academic inertia in this area by establishing a Center for Environment and Development Studies which pursues a holistic and multidisciplinary perspective. The student-run center, called Cemus, has successfully acted as a force for renewal in academia for two decades. I describe how the center works and suggest that Cemus represents a model for institutionalizing renewal in academia that fills an essential function and is applicable for any university in a democratic society.


Academic inertia Group think Scientific paradigm Academic competition Student-run education Multidisciplinary studies 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Professor EmeritusSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesKivikSweden

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