- The point of creating new knowledge is to help us understand our world better.
- Lots of types of knowledge can be created.
- Knowledge can be documented in many forms: articles, blog posts, videos, etc.
- Knowledge can be created by anyone: faculty, students, interested folks, etc.
And I know that the above is the most generic set of statements. There is a wide spectrum in terms of seriousness and quality of new knowledge. But we see some shifting in this ground. Wikipedia, edited by anyone, can be rigorous. Some really new and really outstanding work is published in blogs before it makes it through the tedious and time-consuming peer review process.
So I think a bit about academic scholarship, and why we do it. That thinking goes something like this:
- Academic life is about creating new knowledge and sharing it with others (via writing, presenting, and teaching).
- Academic people need tenure, and sharing knowledge (properly) leads to that goal.
And I think about what I spend a lot of my time doing. I write for non-peer reviewed publications way more than I do for peer reviewed. I try to publish in places that people will go for information (and in a style that people will want to read), rather than the most prestigious–and locked-down–publications (and in a formal tone). I try to do things that will help my field and make my institution look good. And I figure it’s really not worth my time if it won’t achieve one or both of those things.
So it makes me think about tenure and why it’s set up the way that it is. Clearly, tenure is about:
- Impacting one’s field
- Increasing the reputation of the institution
- Helping shape the future of the institution
- Sharing information with students
But if it was just that, interviews with news stations, blogs, correcting Wikipedia, constructing useful learning objects, etc, would all constitute behaviors that would help one achieve tenure. And in most institutions, interviews, blogging, editing Wikipedia, and making learning objects isn’t necessarily all that useful. So tenure is rooted in more than just the above.
All that just to say that I wonder about tenure and think a lot about what constitutes scholarship in an internet saturated world. I wonder about authority today, too. Publishing a peer reviewed article is awesome, and the work will certainly be read by some people in the field. But writing something on professional work for a popular publication will reach a far broader audience and could potentially have a larger impact. My suspicion is that it’s good to have people doing both types of work. Though, in an academic environment, it can be tempting to focus more on the more scholarly, field-specific work, since that’s the coin of the realm.
Anyone here know of changing models of tenure that emphasize some of these newer areas? I figure there has to be something happening in this area with the increasing focus on Open Access, and the growing acceptability of academic bloggers. Does blogging count for anything anywhere?