学术怎么了? – How is academia doing?

高校自身这种极不合理的规定,无疑在扼杀学术生机,无异于中国高校研究生教育的集体自宫。
博士生、硕士生需在学校指定的“核心期刊”上发表规定篇数的论文后才能拿到学位证书,从1999年到2008年,包括武汉大学哲学系教授邓晓芒(现为华中科技大学教授)、南京大学中文系教授王彬彬、厦门大学中文系教授易中天在内,不少知名学者对高校的这一硬性规定多有批评。众所周知,《中华人民共和国学位条例》中并没有类似规定,但高校依然我行我素,犹如独立王国。
这一问题从浮出到现在已经过去十多年,但学者的批评还在继续,我们作为在这个规则下生存的博士生群体,仍深受其害。作为一名文科博士生,我希望道出一个局中人的心声。
我曾视学术为信仰,梦想着像柏拉图、孔子那样的圣哲,徜徉在学术的神圣殿堂,而现在这个信仰已几近崩溃。当博士生发表论文被收取版面费、托关系走后门已由潜规则变成常态的时候,这种明码标价、巧夺豪取、被期刊绑架的学术再也不是一个神圣的殿堂,不客气地说,这里面乌烟瘴气,完全没有学术本应有的尊严!对学术的敬畏已在我的心目中荡然无存,我自己甚至为当初的选择懊悔,有一种逃离的冲动。
现在的博士生,将来会成为学术界的主体。作为准学者,国家每个月给补贴一千元生活费,这与同年龄段已工作的同学、朋友的收入相比,可能少得可怜,但并不能击溃一个真正有志于学术的人。学术界的腐败,为发表一篇文章需要动用各种关系,还要赔上自己的生活费作为版面费,如此种种,才让我们不得不放弃最后的坚持。因为这种学术已经让我们颜面尽失!
在别有机会的条件下,博士生已开始集体逃离。我周围许多有很好知识基础和理论功底的优秀博士生已经选择离开,大部分或报考公务员,或另谋出路。就我的了解而言,在博士生群体中,学术已经不被作为人生理想的第一选择,留下来继续做研究的,更多的是面对生活的一种无奈选择而已。这何其悲哀!
那么,我们的博士培养反而导致博士生学术信仰的丧失的原因何在?究根结底,就是高校在彼此竞争中,为增加所谓的学术影响,对庞大的博士生群体的那个毕业前必须发表论文的“混账规定”(易中天语)。而这种规定必然会滋生种种学术腐败,进而导致博士生群体学术信仰的集体崩溃。
我是历史学的博士生。就个人专业而言,许多有重要影响的期刊的编辑见到博士生的论文,根本不看,何谈发表!可见学校的发表要求与期刊的论文质量要求之间有巨大的鸿沟。
我认为,期刊的那种处理大体上是无可厚非的。因为人文基础学科有其特殊性,一般情况下,需要长时间的知识积累与理论思考甚至是广泛的人生阅历,才能有好的论文出来,这也是学术界的共识。民国学者黄侃五十岁之前不著述,已成学术界的佳话,但是现在的文科博士生有在读博士期间发表论文三四十篇的,还被个人和社会津津乐道,这又是何其荒谬!
按道理说,文科博士生在攻读博士学位期间,需要培养独立研究的能力,接受系统和扎实的学术训练,最多也只能算是学术上的入门者而已。读博士期间的论文更多是一种习作,是自己对一些学术问题的心得,大多是根本无法达到发表水平的。
不算论文写作时间,一篇论文按照正常渠道从投稿到发表的理想状况是:三个月的审稿周期,之后还要排队,大体需要一年到一年半的时间才能最终刊发。而现实状况是,面对学术上已经成熟的学者的论文,博士生的论文水平根本无法望其项背,而在具体刊物发表时,编辑对论文质量的评判却是同一个标准,所以博士生论文胜出几率很小。所以一篇文章反反复复投许多刊物是很正常的。这样,按照正常的途径在毕业前发表一定数量的论文(编按:博士生需要至少一篇核心期刊论文、一篇一般期刊论文,硕士生公开发表一篇论文即可,各高校标准不一)基本上不可能。为正常毕业,歪门邪道由此滋生。
或许博士生应该洁身自好,但博士生总要毕业,总要生存,所以就必须要在核心期刊上发论文。没有关系的博士生更多的选择是,寻找能够花钱发文章的期刊。
发表论文的钱多从自己生活费中扣,但是很多期刊狮子大张口,花五六千元很正常,这就不得不求助于父母了。一次我对父亲说,现在期刊发表论文都要钱,父亲立刻就问我需要多少,给你汇过来。并不是父亲多有钱,父亲仅仅是一个农民,年复一年在陕北的黄土地上辛勤劳作,赚来的血汗钱也就仅能维持温饱,至今我和妹妹上学的助学贷款还没有还上。我今年已经28岁,在这个年龄段上,不能孝敬父母已是心有余悸,还能让父母再为我花这冤枉钱?
对我们来说,安静坐下来读书是一种奢侈,“十年磨一剑”似已成一个学术传说。只听说过写文章还可以赚稿费,可面前摆着的却是版面费汇款单……我们眼下最重要的事情是发文章,大家“笑贫不笑娼”,花钱发文章很正常,只有毕不了业的才会招致嘲笑。
高校自身这种极不合理的规定,无疑在扼杀学术生机,无异于中国高校研究生教育的集体自宫。这种规定,让我们收获学术垃圾,失去学术信仰,造成正在成长的学人的集体自卑与迷失。
(作者系中国人民大学国学院博士研究生)

“These unreasonable self-imposed provisions from universities no doubt stifle academic vitality, and are tantamount to the collective self-castration of Chinese graduate education.”

PhD and Master’s students need to publish a predetermined number of papers in ‘core journals’ selected by their institution in order to graduate. From 1999 to 2008, many famous scholars have criticized these demands from universities, including Wuhan University philosophy professor Deng Xiao-Wang (now a professor at Huazhong university of Science and Technology), Nanjing University Chinese professor Wang Binbin, and Xiamen University professor Yi Zhongtian. As we all know, official regulations on academic titles do not have similar provisions, but universities still impose them, as if they were an independent kingdom.

It has been ten years since this problem came to the surface, but academics are still complaining about it, and we PhD students still have to live with this rule, and suffer from it. As a PhD candidate in the arts, I wish to give the direct feelings of one of the players here.

I used to have faith in academia, I used to dream of wandering through the sacred halls of the academy like Confucius and Plato, but now, my faith has almost collapsed. When a PhD candidate discovers that there is a charge to publish a paper, and that the norm is for secret backdoor deals, then this academic journal taken over by price tags and clever deals is no longer a scared hall, but, to put it bluntly, a pandemonium, entirely devoid of all academic dignity! All reverence for the academy has gone from my mind: I come to regret my choice, and I feel a strong impulse to flee.

Today’s PhD students will become members of the academic body in the future. As quasi-scholars, the State gives them 1000 Yuan every month to subsidise their living expenses. Compared with the income of their friends and classmates of the same age who are already working, this is probably very little, but it’s not enough to discourage someone with real academic passion. But academic corruption, the fact that you need to pull all sorts of connections to publish a paper, and on top of that give up your meagre income as publishing fee, this is the last straw for us. This kind of academia has completely made us lose face.

In conditions like these, where they have no opportunities, PhD students have begun to flee in mass. Of the many outstanding PhD candidates around me, with solid knowledge and understanding of the theory, a majority have already decided to leave, either by joining the public service, or finding another way out. As far as I know, among PhD candidates, academia is no longer the first choice of career, and those who pursue research mostly do so by lack of other choices. How sad!

So, what is the reason why our doctoral culture leads PhD candidates to lose faith? The root cause is that higher education institutions compete with each other; and in order to increase their so-called ‘academic impact’, they set up these ‘damned provisions’ (in the words of Yi Zhongtian) forcing students to publish before graduation. These demands inevitably breed all forms of academic corruption, and lead to the collective collapse of faith in academia by PhD candidates.

I’m a PhD candidate in history. From a professional perspective, I can say that if many influential and important scholarly journals received my doctoral thesis, they wouldn’t even look at them, let alone publish it! The visible gap between the quality requirements of the institution and those of the journals are huge.

In my view, this gap is understandable. The Humanities have their own peculiarities: in general, they require long study, an accumulation of theoretical knowledge, and even a wide range of life experience before you can produce a high quality paper; this is also the consensus among the academic community. Huang Kan, the specialist of the Republican period, did not publish anything before he turned fifty, yet he’s now become a pillar of academia. But now, PhD candidates publishes thirty to forty papers while writing their thesis 还被个人和社会津津乐道, that’s ridiculous!

It stands to reason that a PhD candidate in the arts, when they haven’t yet finished their thesis, still needs to develop the ability to do independent research, that they need to assimilate the theory and gain solid academic training; they can, at best, only be regarded as academic beginners. Papers written while completing a thesis are mostly exercises, a way of tackling certain academic questions oneself, but the majority of these papers absolutely cannot reach the adequate level for publication.

Not mentioning the time required to write it, the ideal situation for publishing a paper according to normal channels is like this: after three months of peer-review cycle, the article gets in a queue, and it takes a year to a year and a half before it can be published. But in reality, you’re competing against articles by already mature scholars, and there is no way for a piece by a doctoral student to stand up against them: the editors of academic journals use the same criteria to judge the different articles submitted, and so the proportion of successful articles by PhD students is probably very small. Therefore submitting an article again and again to numerous publications is normal. And so, to publish a number of papers through normal channels before graduation is basically impossible (editor note: a PhD candidate requires at least one article published in a specialist journal, one article published in a general journal; as for publication requirements to receive a Masters degree, universities have different standards). For normal graduates, this is what breeds dishonesty.

Perhaps PhD candidates should keep themselves clean, but PhD candidates want to graduate, they want to survive, and so they have to publish in the ‘core journals’. The only choice for a PhD candidate with no relationships is to find a journal that will accept to publish their piece for a bribe.

The money spent on publishing a paper may come from reducing their living expense, but many journals have a big appetite, and it is normal for them to ask for five or six thousand yuan; and so the student’s only resort is to seek help from their parents. I once told my father, to publish a paper, the journals all want money now, and my father immediately said, how much? I will help you out. But my father is not a rich man, my father is just a farmer, who’s been working hard year after year on the Loess of the Northern Shaanxi plateau, and he makes just enough money to live decently, 至今我和妹妹上学的助学贷款还没有还上. I turned 28 this year, and at my age, not being able to honour your parents is a lingering fear, so can I let my parents waste this money on my behalf?

For us, to sit down and read quietly is a luxury, “十年磨一剑”似已成一个学术传说。 You only hear that publishing can earn you royalties, but before this happens, you need to pay to be published… the most important thing for us now is to publish, and everyone ‘laughs at poverty but not at prostitution'”, so spending money to publish a paper is normal, and only not graduating will make us ridiculous.

These unreasonable self-imposed provisions from universities no doubt stifle academic vitality, and are tantamount to the collective self-castration of Chinese graduate education. Such provisions will make us harvest academic garbage, lose faith in academia, and result in low self-esteem and lack of direction among the growing generation of Chinese scholars.

(The author is a PhD candidate at Renmin University )

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