“The fundamental activity of the university is thinking, but it is only slowly and fitfully that thinking is congealed into publicly accessible thoughts. The intense arguments in the half hour after the seminar and before hall, the afternoon spent with the graduate student, the proof of a lemma vital for a colleague’s theorem thought up over a game of chess in the Mathematical Institute, the unlikely reference vouchsafed during lab tea, the long country walk exploring a new interpretation of an old master—these are pre-eminently the activities of the young, but none register unless in the fullness of time they result in a publication. True, even in old age one seeks to continue in the ways of one’s youth, but as one concentrates on getting one piece of work finished, one has to leave intriguing by-ways unexplored, and resolutely refuse to move on yet to fresh pastures. I am more disciplined, more concentrated in my thinking now than I was when I was young, but for that very reason less wide-ranging, less sparky, less ebullient. I have gained in competence, but lost in fizz.
“Does fizz matter? I think it does. We do not need to have universities in order to encourage people to do well tasks that other people can approve and assess: what is special to universities is that they are places where people are able to think things that others had not thought of before. We damage ourselves if we pressure the young to publish what they hope will be approved-of works in order to get a living wage, we are acting contrary to our most important values if we stick with a pay scale that rewards academics less for doing what is most important than for the later residue of such activities.”