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Ladder Award: The Slow Science Academy for their work to reclaim the ivory tower as a space, with time to discuss, to wonder, and to think

A Ladder is awarded to The Slow Science Academy for highlighting the need to make opportunities available for taking the time needed to think.

In their manifesto, The Slow Science Academy state:

We maintain that science, as well as the society as a whole that is funding our science, will profit greatly on the (very) long run, if a non- real-time / off line, integrative and sustain able culture of thinking is encouraged and kept alive.

Science needs time to think. Science needs time to read, and time to fail. Science does not always know what it might be at right now. Science develops unsteadily, with jerky moves and unpredictable leaps forward—at the same time, however, it creeps about on a very slow time scale, for which there must be room and to which justice must be done.

Slow science was pretty much the only science conceivable for hundreds of years; today, we argue, it deserves revival and needs protection. Society should give scientists the time they need, but more importantly, scientists must take their time.

We do need time to think. We do need time to digest. We do need time to misunderstand each other, especially when fostering lost dialogue between humanities and natural sciences. We cannot continuously tell you what our science means; what it will be good for; because we simply don’t know yet. Science needs time.

—Bear with us, while we think.

From earliest civilisation certain people were supported to have time and space to do thinking that societies considered to be necessary. Whether this was time mainly in contemplation, reading, conversations, disputes, or mixtures of these, people doing this concentrated thinking were valued and supported by the community, because taking time to think and discuss was seen as a benefit to the overall life of society.

Now, when time for good thinking and quality discussion and debate are most needed to deal with unprecedented and increasing risks to well-being, prosperity and survival, the university needs more than ever to hold out to preserve, and make the better use of, academic space for such activities.

However, the university needs the independence to do this, and the members of a society who want vision and direction to navigate these complex and challenging times must in turn support that independence.

We would be interested in your views on this and other matters (comment below). Send in your proposed Awards.

Thanks also to Jeremy Hunsinger, Center for Digital Discourse and Culture Virginia Tech who publicised this initiative, and for his signature quotation which has been placed on this week’s Village Noticeboard (side panel).

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