Nobody talks openly about this topic. If they do it’s in hushed tones. It happens in colleges and universities large and small. No one is exempt, from undergraduate students to principal investigators. The humanities and social sciences are not immune to this phenomenon either. A few graduate student members of my knitting group in those disciplines told me horror stories of committee disruption and taking up to 10 years to finish dissertations.
Reasons abound for why research isolation occurs. Bad projects happen. Research interests may conflict. Budget woes are often part of the mix. General neglect of the situation seems the mostly likely cause. The right kind of mentoring for students and faculty would probably address most of the reasons for research isolation. If you’ve been paying attention, NSF really encourages concrete mentoring plans through the broader impacts requirement of their grant proposals.
I experienced a few of these research isolation scenarios myself over 20+ years of the academic life. Having funded research helps. Not long ago I wrote a white paper that describes what happened to me and what I did to fix the problems. Click the button below to receive the white paper.