Captain Cyborg to write UK science funding guidelines

Mutilating expertise

Uncowed by public ridicule, attention-seeker Professor Kevin Warwick has been appointed to a panel that will determine the basis for public research funding decisions for the UK's higher education institutions.

Captain Cyborg is one of twelve panelists chosen to set the criteria for public research funding in the UK's Electrical and Electronic Engineering departments. It's one of 68 panels encompassing medicine, the social sciences and the languages and is conducted by the Research Assessment Exercise, a quango funded by Higher Education Funding Council for England, and its counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The study, due to be completed in 2008, involves over 900 nominated academics. And Warwick himself, who in 1999 warned of the danger of "virtual reality drugs ...transmitted across the internet or using radio waves", and claimed that a passive radio tag implanted under his skin had made him the world's first cyborg.

But Warwick's mutilation fetish doesn't end with himself. Three years ago he was referred to the General Medical Council and a local authority for assault after advocating the implantation of a tracking device in an 11-year old. The device that Warwick said he'd designed didn't exist and never materialized.

The RAE repeatedly stresses the importance of academic expertise in setting the standards for research funding. "Expert review is central to the RAE. To maintain this confidence, we have appointed panels of experts who are currently or have recently been active in high quality research ... Expert panels will use their professional judgement to assess RAE submissions, supported by a range of quantitative indicators, as appropriate," we learn. "Panels are instructed to define appropriate criteria for identifying excellence in different forms of research endeavor."

But excellence isn't how colleagues, peers or a sceptical public view Warwick's work.

"The terms just tumble out, unlinked by any kind of coherent picture, never mind critical insight," in the words of reader Daniele Procida.

"Warwick is insulting and offensive to almost everyone - to people in his field, to those whose labours have produced knowledge he blunders past, to sufferers of illnesses he doesn't understand and hasn't apparently bothered to try to understand, to everyone who has tried to understand the things he oafishly grabs at to insert into his fantasies, to everyone who cares about any of these - because he appears simply not care about any of them."

The Electrical and Electronic Engineering sub panel is chaired by Professor Steve Williamson of Manchester University. You can voice your concerns about Warwick's appointment to the secretariat, here. ®

Related Link

RAE's Guidance to Panels

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