“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd.
The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places
no one has ever seen before.”
Forget the CPD - just call me 'Mister'!
28th December 2015
Bah, humbug! It's that time of the year again. No, not Christmas - now is the time we are expected to fill in that wretched form that proves that we're still Real Scientists.
Our chances of promotion, getting new Clients, proving our academic worth - all will be fatally compromised if we don't have enough Continuous Professional Development points to convince some bean-counter that we are worthy of bearing the essential post-nominal, Chartered Scientist.
I became a scientist when I was a spotty youth of 16 years of age, way back in 1954, spending a four year 'apprenticeship' at one of the world's leading research laboratories (chemical analysis at the National Physical Lab, if you really want to know).
Then I spent a spell in the Army as a medical radiographer, Later I went on to get a degree in Zoology, and since from there worked my way up the ladder.
I've been a Mission Leader for International Development Agencies, and Principal Consultant and Team Leader for some of the largest civil engineering consultants around. And I'm still in the business.
But just for a lark I gave the CPD routine a go three years back, to test the water. After all, this Chartered thingy is all the rage now, from Insanity Inspector to Barrister, Laboratory Technologist to Research Director.
Must be something in it. I got the CSci letters (and the Certificate), stuck the letters on my business cards, and waited for the Clients to come rushing in, demanding my expert assistance and insightful analysis,
And waited. I'm still waiting. Nobody noticed. Anywhere. So the question is, what's the point of CPD?
Over the past couple of years I've been digging deeply into the heart and soul of modern science. It's sick, and I want to know why. What I've found is deeply disturbing.
Bureaucracy rules, targets have to be met, secrecy is endemic, blame must be avoided at all costs. Promotion depends on Results - patentable discoveries, high citation scores, finely honed management skills, all that guff.
Practical scientific skills and common sense are shrivelling up as computers and modelling take over from exhausting field work and understanding how the
world really works. Statistical analysis is hived off to mindless computer packages that provide answers entirely consistent with the miserable quality of the data that are ladled into their disinterested spreadsheets..
And blanketing the whole system are the all-powerful Qualification Inspectors. Everyone nowadays is assumed to be intellectually equal, so everyone is entitled to have an approved qualification, right?. If you're not a Qualified Recyclable Waste Disposal Officer ('officer'?) then you may not empty rubbish bins.
And even the bins have to be of standardised desig and construction, and not the rusty old tin dustbins that I used to empty during the vacations, to make ends meet when I was a student.
Yes, I know - times have changed and all that. But do our kids all really need to be debt-laden and unemployable graduates? Several young members of my extended family have degrees that are entirely worthless. They report getting only two hours a week teaching at British Universities.
That works out at around £150 and hour. They have absolutely no intention of trying to break into whatever fictional career their University mentors imagined they were preparing them for.
The brighter ones have taken up plumbing, golf course management, or hospitality and have excellent futures ahead of them.
They don't need, and will never rely on, their degrees in media studies, biology, forensic science (aka grown-up chemistry) or - God help us - fashion drawing,
But no doubt, sooner or later, they'll be pursued by the Work Authorisation Police and forced to become Chartered Citizens..
So I've been checking out what other professions think about this CPD, and it's not a pretty sight. It's tolerated by most, but there's an underlying feeling that the whole thing is yet another way to extort the last drop of tax out of each and every form of employment.
Barristers, for example, are not a happy bunch. They have to complete 16 hours of CPD a year. But if they run short of qualifying inputs, they can buy a couple of short Internet-based 'courses', each worth an hour or so each. thent hey can run them on their computer whilst they get on with other work, and at the end just
answer a few multi-choice questions until they eventually get the right results and there they go - job done for the year! Sensible folk, they know that if they're not up to scratch then the Clients will stop flocking to their doors. Keeping abreast of what's going down is a basic survival skill, CPD is only an issue within the profession itself.
Box ticking only gives employers a not-very-big stick to beat employees who are too lazy to keep up, and would otherwise just goof off when the Boss isn't looking.
In fact, supplying these absurd CPD courses has become Very Big Business, a growth industry, designed to allow anyone to qualify at pretty well any job you can think of with the minimum effort.
You can now build up your CPD scores in almost any field at all, simply by watching short videos on specialist subjects for free.
And it seems that every scientist in the business is now expected to produce such instructional videos to litter the Internet. But then, of course, producing such excruciatingly bad 'learning material' counts towards one's official CPD anyway!
In fact, so absurd has this whole 'qualifications' scam become that (if I could really be bothered) I can now claim several hours worth of CPD this year for the 'Informal Learning' that I've just done in researching this whole silly subject!
Just the other day I came by a fascinating bit of information. It seems that “CPD is a major disease problem in many countries”.and has a worldwide distribution. Yeah,right on! So it was a bit of a disappointment to discover that this might be a bit of a blind alley after all - CPD, it seems, is also a disease of sheep.
But I can't help feeling that it sums up the qualifications nonsense rather well.
So I'm off. Forget the CPD stuff , I'll not be filling in my form this year. I'm still a scientist, and .I've got my (expired) CSci Certificate to file away with my collection of other curious post-nominals that I no longer use. Now I'm just living 'off the grid', as I have for the past 40 years.
I work in the most dangerous biological occupation around (consulting environmental 'activist' - an average of 300 of us are killed every year) and have survived by keeping my head down. Those who need my input know where to find me.
Just call me 'Mister' - life's safer that way.