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The word mountain

Academic life is being crushed by the weight of unwanted articles and books that the new productivity assessment systems require. Noel Malcolm proposes a reform based on agricultural "set-aside"

What is the greatest threat to academic life today? Most university teachers asked this question will start talking about cutbacks and underspending. They are wrong. The greatest threat is overproduction. A tide of unnecessary publications is rising through our universities and libraries; it is threatening to drown real intellectual life, and nobody knows how to stop it.

This year more than 80,000 new books will be published in this country. In the US, the figure will be more than 160,000. Not all of these are academic, but academic publishing is where the rise in quantity is matched most startlingly by…

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