By: Melissa Layne, Ed.D., Director of Research Methodology and Editor-in-Chief Internet Learning, American Public University System
Have you ever created audio clips of yourself narrating a piece of your work? A video to supplement or illustrate your research? Do you have a blog to share your thoughts, your research, or to allow readers to comment or write guest postings? Answers to these questions will likely depend on your view on digital scholarship, how that view applies to your personal and professional life, and skill level using these mediums.
As the newly-appointed editor-in-chief for Internet Learning, one of the first items on my to-do list was to take a close look at today’s scholarship landscape in relation to the referenced criteria. . One of the first articles I found was Gross and Harmon’s (2013), The Future Is Already Here: The Internet Revolution in Science and Scholarship, an overview of digital advancements in academe. The authors acknowledged innovative projects developed over the last two decades, but deduced that, “mainstream publication has yet to be seriously affected.”
After combing through academic articles, blogs, etc., I also found that most of them that scholars are producing today are not representative of today’s digital age . Although researchers claim to routinely use electronic tools in their professional lives, this use doesn’t seem to have transformed their scholarship.
Why is this?
A recent survey by Housewright, Schonfeld, and Wulfson (2013) may shed some light. Their findings from faculty members at US institutions granting a bachelor’s degree or higher reveal that, even though digital practices may influence scholars’ work in a variety of ways, two-thirds of faculty in various disciplines said they do not know “how to effectively integrate digital research activities and methodologies” into their work and that they:
• believe this kind of work would not be valued by peers in tenure and promotion decision-making;
• need more technical support and advice on implementing digital research activities and methodologies into research;
need more time to learn about digital research activities and methodologies; and
• need help understanding how digital research activities and methodologies could be thoughtfully integrated into research.
Using the study findings as a baseline, this post introduces a five- part series focused on the reimagination and restructuring essential to developing scholarship around these innovative changes.
The first part will briefly outline the importance of expanding interpretation of scholarship as more of a collective, rather than isolated, practice. This notion proposes that behind every research study, white paper, experiment, opinion piece, blog, etc. there is an individual or group of individuals that may experience the transformative possibilities of digital collaboration . Subsequently, I briefly discuss emerging trends in digital scholarship as they pertain to collective authorship.
Trends in Digital Authorship: Expanding Conceptualization of “Scholarship”
The proliferation of digital tools available to scholars will certainly open up opportunities for readers and writers to reflect upon, reimagine, and connect both in the traditional forms of scholarship and informal, social, digital spaces. Additionally, activities such as modelling, mentoring and engaging other researchers as collective practices allows us to be co-constructors of learning as well as participants in collective problem-solving.
Digital Authorship: Spaces and Tools
Although the skills required to use digital spaces may be minimal, taking the time to create them tends to be viewed as discretionary. Additionally, some of us in academe are less adept at acclimating to changing environments and situations; while some will be eager to embrace new opportunities, most will depend on traditional practices.
There are, however, several digital spaces that are fairly simple to create, maintain, and use to showcase scholarly work, including the following:
eJournals have been largely fueled by the exponential growth in tablet computing, therefore the academic community will demand that eBooks and eJournals be more immersive and intuitive, including presentations, portfolios, brochures, and photo albums.
Academic Social Media Networks
Although Facebook remains the most widely-used social media network by academics, there are other more scholarly-focused hubs taking center stage: Academia.edu and ResearchGate. Both of these networks connect and support users by enabling them to: Add your publications and access others’ research
- Connect with colleagues, peers, co-authors, and specialists in your field
- Obtain statistics on views, downloads, citations of your research
Topics shared on these sites are specifically geared for scholarly exchange and cover a wide array of disciplines.
I see one common mistake many bloggers make after deciding to create a blog: failing to establish a purpose or rationale for creating the blog. Without one, in all likelihood, the blog will end up unfocused, unorganized, and unappealing to potential readers.
As we look at digital authorship in future years, it will be necessary to continually re-imagine and re-structure our thoughts and actions around emerging definitions of digital authorship according to the world in which we live. New methods of communication will yield new methods of how our society is organized.
What will remain constant, however is that academics will continue to converse, address a problem with supporting evidence, and disseminate our findings to others. Digital authorship must support all of these tasks if it is to replace traditional scholarship and adhere to the mission of education alongside present-day opportunities.
2. Ross Housewright, Roger C. Schonfeld, and Kate Wulfson, “Ithaka S+R US Faculty Survey 2012,” April 8, 2013, p. 44, figure 24.
Melissa Layne, Ed.D., is the Director of Research Methodology at American Public University System. In addition to her role at APUS, she serves the Editor-in-Chief for the Internet Learning Publication.