Signalling academic immobility

Tim Harford looks at signaling by criminals. In the process, comes this remark:

Other signals seem perverse. Gambetta describes a convention in Italian academia for some established professors to celebrate the poor quality of their published work. This, he says, is a credible signal that they cannot jump ship for somewhere like Harvard – so will remain in Italian academia as powerful patrons.

That does seem perverse. It also seems a self-serving excuse for low productivity in a low incentive environment. Surely, the way to signal a commitment not to become a Harvard professor but to otherwise want to contribute to society is to publish exclusively in the popular press.

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