The popular stereotype of the researcher is that of a skeptic and a pessimist. Nothing could be further from the truth! Scientists must be optimists at heart, in order to block out the incessant chorus of those who say "It cannot be done."
Academician Prokhor Zakharov
Seven hundred and thirty two years ago, University was the University of Armstrong, a large and reputable institution for higher learning in the Independent Worlds. Known for its inquiries into physics and engineering, it was well thought of, even beyond the Independents.
Then five hundred and thirteen years ago, Armstrong University received its largest endowment ever – a planet and enough funds to do something with it from Prokhor Zakharov. Originally a Spacer emigrant to the Independent Worlds, he was perhaps the most renowned scientist and inventor in Independent Worlds, famous for groundbreaking work in both high-energy physics and artificial intelligence. He and his wife parleyed these inventions into a vast fortune. They both graduated from Armstrong University, and when he retired to teach he was a particularly influential figure, adept at winning support from politicians for his scientific and engineering projects.
Zakharov wanted to establish a civilization dedicated to learning and research, and on his death gave his employers and alma mater the tools and directive to do it. The board of regents, not being fools, and captivated by his posthumous appeal, agreed and over the period of a hundred and thirty years, Armstrong University became, simply, The University.
Over the next century it grew and developed, drawing immigrants from all human civilizations, including some unexpected sources, particularly the Logicians and Mechanicans, shaping the culture of the emerging civilization. The University is devoted to rational and scientific inquiry. They value a deep understanding of the physical universe, and the mastery of physical systems which comes from such understanding. They are impatient with metaphysical philosophy, and have no use at all for "spiritual" or religious ideas. This approach sometimes causes them to ignore ethical considerations in their pursuit of knowledge.
The University does make some ethical commitments. Intellectual honesty, the ability to argue logically and reach conclusions based only on empirical evidence, is paramount. The University also supports the free flow of information, avoiding secrecy and falsehood at all costs.
The University surpasses other civilizations at the business of scientific innovation. From shortly after founding they have had the best computers, sensors, and laboratory equipment. Their ideology makes them dedicated and honest researchers. University citizens are also superb engineers, good at putting their scientific discoveries to practical use. They are likely to be talented gadgeteers, improvising engineering solutions to new problems on the fly.
The University maintains an open society, sharing information freely within and without. This stance is integral to their scientific endeavors, but it can also be a vulnerability. Spies and saboteurs from other civilizations often have an easy time penetrating University security.
Academic's dedication to rational inquiry, even at the cost of ignoring ethics, can often lead to social unrest. This is particularly acute among the University's "underclass," the ordinary citizens who have no scientific talent, duties or valued degrees.
The University's government is democratic, but only among the academic class, and there is a strict hierarchy even there. The higher social classes are theoretically open to anyone, but a citizen who wants to reach the rank of full Academician must go through years of strenuous and intellectually-demanding work. Candidates must earn advanced degrees, perform well as research and teaching assistants, publish original results, navigate the dangers of academic politics, and earn tenure.
Even an academician's field of expertise can affect his social standing. Physicists and computer scientists have the most prestige and influence, with pure mathematicians following close behind. For some reason psychohistorians are low in the pecking order, and students of the arts, humanities and letters are at the bottom.
The University has established a society centered around the academic culture of old Earth. Senior academicians control the state, setting policy and performing day-to-day administrative chores. Lesser academicians do most of the teaching and oversight of research. Students do most of the actual work of research. Finally, there is a large class of non-academics who do support work, growing the food, obtaining the resources, manufacturing and maintaining the equipment needed by the academic elite.
Life in University is comfortable, but not luxurious. Economic surpluses are normally dedicated to laboratory or manufacturing facilities, not to luxuries for the elite. Even "non-academic" citizens receive sufficient living space, food, and entertainment. Class distinctions in University society tend to be social, not economic (although they are no less strong for all that).
University is primarily interested in being left alone, and will coexist happily with other civilizations so long as they do not impinge on the University's interests. It tends to be hostile toward factions which are driven by "religious" ideologies – the Disciples and Cargo Cults in particular.
Of the official societies, only Organized Crime, the Darwinians and the Transcendental Worshippers are hidden. Among the unofficial ones, all are there and relatively open.
Common Name: Academics
Benefits: Academics all have an Academic special ability. It functions as Programmer and one specialization of Researcher professions at level 4. They also gain one extra Twist per game to be spent on Comprehension.
Inspector Status: Equivalent to FBI, RCMP and Customs Inspectors.
Core Values: Rational Inquiry and Free Flow of Information
Rational Inquiry means an Academic will aim to augment knowledge, resolve doubt, or solve a problem, by using rational and logical means. Typically this means gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence through observation or experimentation and subjecting it to reason. This Core Value can be added to attempts to win over others in scientific debate and argument, or persuade them of the benefit of the scientific method.
Free Flow of Information is the Academics dedication to the uncensored flow of information on public, academic and scientific issues. This means the CV can be added to attempts to persuade others not to lie, cover up or otherwise obscure information. This also means they abhor censorship and other restrictions on information.
University As a Society
Not everyone who attends University stays and becomes a citizen – many graduate and leave, returning to their home worlds and civilizations. Those that have graduated and moved on are frequently members of the University Alumni Society. While they do raise funds for University (among other things), it is largely a social organization.
Benefits: Increase Cognitech or Stringtech by 1. This may increase it over their civilization's maximums without suffering a reduction in Import.
Core Value: Rational Inquiry means an Alumn will aim to augment knowledge, resolve doubt, or solve a problem, by using rational and logical means. Typically this means gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence through observation or experimentation and subjecting it to reason. This Core Value can be added to attempts to win over others in scientific debate and argument, or persuade them of the benefit of the scientific method