Times New Roman is currently one of the most commonly used fonts on the World Wide Web. It is also generally listed as the preferred typeface for most formal paper styles. Though, as Albert Herring observes above, Times New Roman is a rather unpleasant font to read in wide columns, and has drawn general ire from anybody in the typographic community for years, it remains the primary font in use for the simple reason that it is available on almost all computers. Also (or perhaps because of this), the vast majority of word processing applications have set Times New Roman as the default font for body text in documents.
These factors have conspired to make the reading of academic papers vastly more unpleasant than it has to be. The excessive sharpness of Times New Roman's characters and the severe angles at which its serifs proceed from all of the letters make reading text in the font much more unpleasant than it is with fonts like Nimbus Roman, Gentium, and DejaVu Serif, among others.
Recently, with the rise of professional design on the Web, the majority of high-traffic websites have shifted to using sans-serif web fonts such as Arial in order to distance themselves from the severely negative aura surrounding Times New Roman. Though serif fonts are in general understood to be easier to read, the very small range of font styles that can be counted upon for web use has sent the popular usage towards sans-serif typefaces.
However, web pages without selected fonts typically render in Times New Roman in modern web browsers, keeping it rather entrenched despite efforts to the contrary.
The rise of @font-face and technologies like Cufon and sIFR offer the web community a chance to break free of the stranglehold that the Microsoft Core Fonts have held on the design community for over a decade. Hopefully at last we will see the demise of Times New Roman.