New South Wales

Mar 28, 2017

Rundle: the problem with unis taking cash to build biased research centres

Things have gone to pot at the Sydney University Centre for Identifying Americanism.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


There's trouble at Sydney University's Centre for Information on America (otherwise known as the Sydney University US Studies Centre). The main problem is that the centre is a travesty of academic process, and Sydney University should never have agreed to host. Set up by the Howard government to create, haha, unbiased research on the US, it received a $25 million direct bung on establishment, and a bunch more since. Now it wants another $17 million to keep going.

The establishment of the centre was part of Howard's culture/knowledge war, and displayed his characteristic style at it: basic competence. When the Abbott government tried the same trick, by trying to set up a "dissident" climate change studies centre headed by Bjorn Lomborg (whose work is mostly non-peer reviewed), academics and universities arced up about it, and no home could be found (we were still charged $600,000 for the production of a single book, a rort still not adequately explained).

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17 thoughts on “Rundle: the problem with unis taking cash to build biased research centres

  1. susan winstanley

    thanks for this expose of the US Studies Centre (and Tom Switzer of the American Enterprise Institute). Shame on you Sydney University. Always laugh a lot when someone from this propaganda unit is introduced on ABC morning radio as a serious independent commentator and interviewed as if academically legit.. and BTW there were reports that PM Abbott wanted to put 2000 boots on the ground after MH17, what for, other than to invade Russia? He had to be talked down by the military brass..

  2. rhwombat

    One simply must not point out the sins of the fathers…

  3. Vince

    Staff association? How anachronistic. Do you mean the NTEU (National Tertiary Education Union)? In any case the NTEU has long been vocal on the academic freedom of researchers working in Australian universities, competitive peer-reviewed application processes etc.
    The trouble might be VCs and university managements love money more?

  4. zut alors

    It may have been a worthwhile endeavour if the legit James Brown had been the fellow fellow, one can only begin to imagine the diversity of input.

  5. klewso

    What an incestuous black hole of primordial slime – with little to no light escaping.
    I had wondered what sort of “university” would avail themselves of his one-sided perspicacity ….. still The Dum thinks he knows his apples.

    “Howard’s culture war stuff” – like a nuclear fart.

  6. bref

    I guess we can all learn something from America. Especially how not to do things. From the spectacular failings of their foreign policies in the middle east, their domestic policies, their war on drugs to their ludicrous “healthcare” system. The ‘land of the free’ where every city and town have private army-like police forces, where there’s a mass shooting every day (, where racism and hate speech is out of control, where inequality between the haves and have-nots is ever widening. What is there to admire in all this…?

  7. Patrick Brosnan

    ” Switzer is an excellent commentator”
    No he isn’t. He’s complete knob … and excruciatingly deferential.

    1. old greybearded one

      I agree Patrick. He has ruined the Sunday mornings and talks utter crap more than half the time, crawling around to neocon idiots and collecting biased commentators. Taking himself oh so seriously. What my Argentinian mate used to call “el pajero grande”. They didn’t call them wanker wagons for no reason.

    2. Zeehan

      Nah, Switzer’s not a knob. He’s actually an excellent commentator. Runs rings around Brown academically.

  8. Shaun

    Once again GRundle shows that while he is a great polemist, he is totally incapable of actually doing some basic research with the claim:

    “Because the Sydney University Centre for Interest in Americanism has no collegiate tradition or depth”

    Ignoring the fact that the Centre does employ actual academics to do actual, peer reviewed academic research, on the United States (see

    1. old greybearded one

      Yes and having got 45 million ill spent Howard dollars, the bastards come cap in hand for 15 million more. Begone satan.

    2. Decorum

      Well, if Googling a nice webpage with mugshots of assorted eager-looking 12 year olds constitutes basic research, then Grundle is guilty as charged. But too many of the people on that webpage would likely put that sort of research straight onto their c.v.: some have no publications at all, others feature in bespoke outlets like “Sydney Studies in English”, or “Australasian Journal of American Studies”. There are others, of course, but, for mine, Guy’s assertion about depth is unrebutted.

  9. James O'Neill

    Guy, there is need for clarification on an important point. In Brown’s original essay he claimed that Abbott had wanted to send a brigade of troops to Ukraine (I agree with you that the idea was mad). Switzer’s response was that there was no such idea; i.e. Brown had got it wrong. After an exchange of emails via a group that both Switzer and I belong to, he admitted that the Defence Department had persuaded Abbott that sending a brigade to Ukraine was not a good idea and Abbott abandoned it.
    As a matter of logic, the Department would only have evaluated and recommended rejection of an idea that had been put to them. Brown was therefore correct. Abbott had wanted to send troops but was persuaded otherwise. For once the DOD got it right, for which we should all be grateful.

  10. AR

    .. as well as “pissed off”.

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