Journal of Research in Astrology - Volume 25(1) 2007
Editorial - Academic censorship and research in astrology
It seems that with every passing year, it becomes increasingly difficult for researchers pursing research questions that are out of the mainstream to have their proposals accepted by the UK Russell Universities. It is not just astrology but any unusual discipline, such as complementary medicine, that will find its proponents struggling for access to the rich resources of these elite British universities to enable them to carry out sound and rigorous investigations into their research subject.
In my role as Deputy Convenor for the Research Group for the Critical Study of Astrology (RGCSA), I come into contact with many prospective researchers, both in and outside astrology, who want to investigate some unusual area of life. The Group exists to promote good research in astrology, and we find that we must increasingly support astrologer-researchers in their search for an academic institution that will take them on board, whether it is for a master’s, a doctorate or a fellowship. We are needed, more and more, to locate universities where there are academics who are intellectually equipped and free to take on students with interesting, challenging and potentially innovative research ideas, and where the necessary supervision that will enable the researchers to carry out their investigative studies can be provided. However, recent changes in the conditions under which the Russell Universities (those universities that are the 20 major research-intensive institutions) will accept research projects have limited this academic freedom.
Two of the aims and objectives of the Russell Group of Universities in the UK are particularly relevant. On their website (see reference), they state that among other objectives, they are “committed to a UK education sector in which:
(1) There is the opportunity for an increasing independence from state regulation and funding.
(2) The leading universities act as the focus for best practice in the dissemination and application of cutting-edge research, including the commercialisation of research ideas and innovations.”
The first point suggests that economic considerations are crucial when considering which research projects should be encouraged. This is to say that it is preferable to have business-funded research rather than state-funded research. The second point emphasises the importance of research that has the potential to lead to exciting new discoveries: “the commercialisation of research ideas and innovations”. However, taking into consideration the first point, it would seem that innovation and cutting-edge research must first be of commercial interest (i.e. attract funding from the business sector) for a Russell University even to consider undertaking it.
Astrology, therefore, is somewhat at a disadvantage, as are other unusual areas of research that are not attractive to the kinds of corporate bodies that can see a potential return for them on their investment. In seeking to be “at the forefront, internationally, in their respective subject areas” (see online reference), there is an implicit expectation that the universities will engage in less pioneering research.
Complementary medicine, like astrology, is not attractive on these terms. Indeed, complementary medicine might be seen as a positive rival to the big pharmaceutical companies that have large amounts of money to invest in research into medicine. This is, I think, because complementary medicine is concerned with avoiding the use of pharmaceutical drugs in favour of more natural remedies. Having said that, though, the government does fund some research in this area; but the level of research carried out within complementary medicine does not compare in scale with that carried out into the development of drugs. If the level were the same, it is possible that society would need fewer of those drugs and perhaps the UK health service would be saved funds vitally needed for real crisis areas of care such as geriatrics. We cannot know this, however, until these leading research universities permit such a level of rigorous research; and it is unlikely that this will happen, because economic considerations are putting increasing restrictions on the freedom of academics to choose the research projects that they would genuinely wish to supervise.
This is a ‘Catch 22’ situation into which astrology, which has the potential to be of value to society in many different ways, including health1, also falls.
However, it has been possible to form links with academics who are genuinely interested in research projects that have an astrological component to them, particularly within the newer universities, where there appears to be greater academic freedom. The RGCSA can supply the high level of academic rigour in advice on research design for students who want to carry out high quality research in and into astrology but who are not able to register with a Russell University. Certainly, the RGCSA will continue to support and promote students’ interests through contact with the considerable number of friendly and impartial academics in various UK universities (Russell or otherwise) to achieve research placements, and as editor of Correlation, I will always welcome papers arising from such research that are submitted for consideration for publication.
1. “Applications of astrology to health psychology: astrological and psychological factors and fertility treatment outcome”. A PhD in the social sciences based on this doctoral thesis was awarded to the editor on 24th July 2007 by the University of Southampton (one of the Russell Group of universities). For details of the thesis please contact the editor.
On-line ref: http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/about.html. Accessed on 4 December 2007.
GeomagneticCorrelation@yahoogroups This is a reminder to readers to visit this forum website (http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/GeomagneticCorrelation/) and enter into serious discussion on astrological research matters. Please see, in this issue, “Seasonal cycles in the Gauquelin data follow geomagnetic indices: further support for solar influences in professional data (Part 1)” by Graham Douglas, the founder of this discussion group, for an indication of the pioneering ideas that are currently being pursued.