Ch5 e research and scholarly community in the humanitiesPresentation Transcript
Paul Genoni, Helen Merrick and Michele Willson Prepared for 2010 Graduate seminar informetrics and e-research (Prof. Han Woo Park), at Yeungnam Univ. in S. Korea Presented by Aran Woo [email_address] March 2 nd , 2010
These are emerging as the favored descriptors to signal both the shift in the practice and business of scholarly work, and an increasingly common direction for national funding and research priorities. As researchers begin to examine this phenomenon, it is becoming clear that displinary differences are crucial markets of success and uptake, with much work remaining to be done in areas outside the natural sciences (e.g., Lloyd & Sun, 2005; Jankowski, 2007; Wouters & Beaulieu, 2007)
There have, however , been considerably fewer investigations of the changing practices, cultures, and communinities of scholars in the humanities as they engage with an e-research environment.
‘ scholarly community’ has for some time been central to the understanding of scholarship and research, and the types of community (and communication) that are characteristic of different disciplines (Crane, 1972; Meadows, 1974).
Recent work on the structuring, diffusion and use of scholarship and research emphasizes the complicated and interdependent relations between disciplinary cultures, formal and informal communication, and scholarly communities (Hargens, 2000; Fry, 2004).
In the chapter, we consider the impact of e-research models on the informal communication practices of humanities scholars, and the extent to which their own perception of ‘scholarly community’ may have been altered.
Our focus on informal scholarly communication, and the role it plays in supporting and generating community or the ‘ invisible college ’ in a networked environment has necessitated the review of a large and diverse body of literature. This has ranged from older studies of patterns of scholarly communication (Meadows, 1974) and the invisible college (Crane, 1972) to research on the impact of ICTs on traditional research and communication practices (Bruce, 1996; Applyby, Clayton & Pasce, 2997; Houghton, Steele & Henty, 2003).
‘ e-science’ is not the most appropriate term to cover humanities-type research (Wouters & Beaulieu, 2007). Indeed, as Wouters and Beaulieu (2007) note, “the dominant use of the term e-science in discussion of new information infrastructure for the humanities and social sciences carries with it an emphasis on data-oriented computational or quantitative analysis”(p.584).
As Jankowski notes, in the Netherlands “the term e-science is avoided and preference given to ‘e-research’, which is seen as more reflective of the work of both social scientists and scholars in the humanities”(Jankowski, 2007).
It sums up a range of research objectives, methods, and resources that render any undifferentiated coupling with the ‘traditional’ or natural sciences problematic. Indeed, it has been suggested that the term humanities itself covers too broad and diverse a collection of research and scholarly communication practices to be able to be considered as a cohesive research employed in scholarly communication practices and research production.
however, there is validity in Fry’s claim that: Intellectual fields within a single discipline vary to such an extent in their knowledge creation practices and work organization as to render comparison of computer-mediated communication practices based on broad disciplinary grouping such as the natural sciences and humanities misleading. (Fry, 2006:302)
Where? In Australia
The Australian government’s proposed introduction of the Research Quality Framework (RQF) in 2007/8 emphasized national and international output and performance. Similarly, in 2005, the Australian research council (ARC) special research initiatives focused on e-research.
In Australia, “increasingly the dominant research model is derived from the sciences, NOT the humanities , with some of the benefits, and most of the complexities and difficulties that arise from such models of research teams” (Trigg, 2006:329)
Our initial research focused on the perceived changes to academic communication and community brought about by the increasing adoption of ICTs (Genoni, Merrick, & Wilson, 2005a; 2005b; 2006).
Network of Early European Research (NEER) is a subject for more detailed exploration.
The stated aim of the network is: to implement a formal framework for supporting and enhancing current Australian research into the culture and history of Europe between the fifth and early nineteenth centuries. It also aims to foster new research and new connections between researchers, and to develop and nurture the next generation of researchers in the field. (NEER, 2006).
As well as ( http://www.neet.arts.uwa.edu.au/ ) and electronic list (NEER offers access to commercial databases) is establishing a digital research repository, PioNEER, and an electronic Australian collections service.
there has been a slow uptake of the software’s collaborative possibilities with most researchers resorting to email, or to email style attachments within the software (Burrows, 2007).
This slow uptake may be related to the members’ lack of familiarity with the technology ’s possibilities (Burrows, 2007), and also possibly because these possibilities require changes to take place in members’ research practices.
Most respondents indicated that they had been, in NEER, in one way or another, invited to participate.
Respondents’ reasons for agreeing to become involved in NEER fell into three broad categories:
expansion of contacts or academic networks
access to information and knowledge
primarily resource driven.
These included opportunities
1) to attend conferences and seminars;
2) funding of projects
3) access to resources provided by NEER.
Another key reason was
the potential for NEER to strengthen the profile of Early Modern and Medieval Studies in Australia and internationally, and to counter the isolation of researchers in the field.
the sole author/investigator research project although the research itself may be engaged in a discussion with other researchers’ work, past and present.
In these circumstances a broader community is necessary in order to expand the development and dissemination of ideas and activities.
the possibilities of using communication technologies to facilitate broader collective projects has engendered greater interest in these endeavors.
21 had not been involved in any
4 involved with other NEER members
8 involved with non -NEER members
2 in projects both with and without NEER members
Despite its self-identification as a network, we asked participants to indicate which term they thought best described NEER: either network, team, collaborator, community, or other.
Network was chosen by 30 respondents
6 indicating collaborator
2 each for team and others
NEER provides a means of engaging and communicating with fellow researchers in a manner that performs and may even enhance the benefits of a more traditional scholarly community, in that it can support both ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ ties , or in other terms, both ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ relationships.
Three-fourths of the respondents were now more likely to contact with scholars they did not know, with about the same number agreeing the Internet had made it easier to approach senior scholars (Genoni et al., 2005b).
Only 19% of ‘frequently’,
(as opposed to 30% of those in sciences and 36% in social sciences).
2) 28% of ‘Never’ use the Internet to contact unknown scholars (28%), (compared to social sciences (4%) and sciences (9%)).
Among 38 respondents,
27 were in agreement ,
3 indicating ‘maybe’.
This resonates with the literature addressing the usefulness of weak ties (Granovetter, 1973; Haythornthwaite, 2002)
NEER had enabled research outcomes that was impossible in traditional environment.
25 respondents agreed
7 indicated ‘possibly’
One response was missing.
1) improved funding opportunities and
2) assistance to attend conferences / symposia.
3) served to provide a more cohesive framework and sense of identity for participants.
Importantly, a shift towards collaborative research models could be seen as positioning the humanities more favorably for funding and thus successful research outcomes .
Therefore, it is important to emphasize that it is as much the institutional and organizational effects of an e-research funding culture that are impacting on communication practices, particularly in the humanities, as the technologies themselves.
participation in NEER had impacted on their understanding or concept of scholarly community.
3 reporting ‘unsure’.
25, NEER hadn’t changed their understanding,
a number qualified their answer to indicate some degree of impact.
(in all only half gave a definite negative response)
participants emphasized the possibilities for collaboration and increased access to information and networks.
16 mentioned the development of collaborative projects (or the potential for collaboration to develop)
15 citing better access to information, expanded contact with other academics and disciplines and better access to information.
Funding was only cited by 3 respondents as a primary benefit (despite the high number of responses citing funding as a key element in their reasons for joining NEER.)
Our previous studies (Genoni, et al., 2005a, 2005b, 2006) tried to assess the academic’s sense of belonging to the invisible college which in individual cases would be constituted more by differing memberships delineated by discipline, or region (for example, Australian academics; medieval scholars).
Certainly for some members, ‘community’ remained only a possibility , needing more time for interpersonal relations and connections to emerge and be nurtured.
However, NEER was already viewed as a more relational ‘ community ’ than instrumental network, and indeed was considered by many as a welcome alternative to institutionally-driven formations.
Another interest is the social-technological relations of network and/or community
In seeking to examine the impact of ICTs on scholarly community and informal communication, there is recognition that many of the changes in an e-research environment are not simply technologically driven but result from and intersect with broader political and institutional developments.
Yet, particularly for humanities scholars, these same institutions do not necessarily provide the appropriate environments to meet these expectations, in the form of increased team-work or connectivity.
It appears that the very establishment of NEER is already helping to constitute a community of ‘Early European researchers’ in Australia in addition to (and separate from) the traditional markers such as published output in journals or papers presented at conferences.
As NEER, WE may need to make a community for out future research!!