Cracks in the Ivory Tower : Antibiotics Research and the Changes in Academia 1980-2015

Sammanfattning: At the same time as resistance to antibiotics became an increasingly problematic health care concern around the world, major changes occurred in the condition scientists faced when conducting university-based research. This thesis aims to study these changes as they applied to antibacterial and bacteriological research, and how they influenced the researchers’ ability to make new scientific discoveries. Especially such discoveries that could be of critical importance for addressing the resistance problems of the era.Using interviews with researchers, funding data and political documents, this thesis has been able to confirm that findings regarding the global trend of changes in academic research from previous research also applied to the bacteriological research in Sweden in the late 20th and early 21st century. These changes included increased performance pressure, administrative burden, and concentration of funding to a few large research groups as well as decreased employment security and less time for senior researchers to be directly active in the scientific work. While there were many intertwined underlying factors for these developments, most of them could be traced back to the changes in funding model for academic science. Most crucially, research funding turned from being based on employment to being based on recurring applications to funding agencies.In conclusion, the changes in academic research conditions had major impacts on the ability of researchers to make new scientific discoveries. They incentivised doing safe, low-risk research with predictable outcomes, and producing many small, insubstantial publications. There were also some positive effects, such as a decrease in the impunity of senior researchers and a limitation on their ability to rest on their laurels. However, overall, this move away from taking chances and daring to research the truly unknown is likely to have decreased the ability of researchers to utilise their talents and follow-up on chance findings, decreasing their potential for discovery-making. Instead, it is likely that these changes within academia indirectly contributed to the antibacterial resistance problem by slowing down the rate of major breakthroughs in antibacterial treatments.