Monday, 28 July 2014

Digital Scholarship

I read Martin Weller's book a while back - The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice (you can access it free here). This is no book review, but I just want to pick up on a few things that this book has me thinking about.

The book begins with Martin explaining to his daughter the concept of the book, that is, how technology like the Internet is changing the way people work. It seems quite obvious now that the Internet has changed how we learn and how we teach, but what about how we work? And is this digital, and often open, way of working recognised and rewarded?

Well for me, yes. Anyone who has read any of my posts will know I'm very open in sharing the work I'm doing via this blog. This form of Open Scholarship has been around for quite a while, and Martin delves into Boyer's work on scholarship to focus on four components:
"Discovery – This is the creation of new knowledge in a specific area or discipline. This is often taken to be synonymous with research. This is probably closest to the public conception of scholarship, as universities are often the site of significant breakthroughs. 
Integration – This is focused on interpretation and interdisciplinary work. It is moving away from the pure, ‘genesis’ research of discovery. Boyer states that it is ‘making connections across the disciplines, placing the specialties in larger context, illuminating data in a revealing way, often educating non-specialists’. 
Application – This is related to the concept of service, but Boyer makes a distinction between citizenship and scholarly types of service, and for the latter it needs to build on the scholar's area of expertise. It can be seen as engagement with the wider world outside academia, which might include public engagement activities as well as input into policy and general media discussions. This can also include the time spent peer-reviewing journal articles and grant applications and sitting on various committees. 
Teaching – Much of the interpretation of Boyer can be seen as an attempt to raise the profile of teaching. He argues that ‘the work of the professor becomes consequential only as it is understood by others. Yet, today, teaching is often viewed as a routine function, tacked on’."

Social Networking and Blogging can either tick these boxes or certainly support the components, so I tend to disagree when some question whether blogging is dead. For me, you have to relate that back to the original purpose of blogging. If like me, the primary purpose of blogging relates back to Boyer's (or Martin's) points above, how can it be dead? One of my primary goals in blogging is take stock of my own thoughts - it's often like I'm thinking aloud in this online space. It is primarily for me and the way I write probably reflects that. If other people see that, can connect with it, then great. No major problems if they don't.

But is there academic value in it? Again, yes.
As I am employed on an academic contract, I am expected to develop an (inter)national profile, especially if I am to go for a promotion to the next pay scale. My online presence is certainly helping that - for example I've recently been invited to keynote the upcoming eAssessment Scotland Conference in September. That certainly wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for the work I've discussed here. As a scholarship activity, that will be a huge tick in the box when it comes to PDR time.

Now I'm not getting carried away with this and I do recognise more formal routes of scholarship will need attending to - conferences, journal publications, etc. Why? Because the system is still the system. It takes time for these systems to change, and whilst that change is clearly happening, the transformation isn't complete. It may never be complete. But in the meantime, Digital Scholarship is valued.

Digital Scholarship is real.


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The Reed Diaries by Peter Reed is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Pete, I'm reading it at the moment and, like you, see much that I could comment on (enough for another book even). I'm liking it, so much to agree with.

    All the best, David