conference,  digital scholarship,  Presentation

Digital scholarship recognition – the debate

So, I was the invited keynote debater at this year's EdMedia conference in Lisbon. I had ten minutes to put my case in favour of the following motion:

"This house believes that in the next decade, digital scholarship (in open journals, blogs, and social media) will achieve the same status in academic settings as traditional scholarship"

My (poor quality, one take audio) slidecast is below.

My argument was that there are a number of converging pressures which will make recognition inevitable. These were:

1) Impact

2) Efficiency

3) Efficacy

4) Complementarity

5) Institutional benefit

6) Variety

7) Human factors

Antonio Figueiredo put the opposing motion, and Paulo Simoes captured it in everyone's (well AJ Cann's anyway) new favourite tool, ScoopIt. We ended up kind of agreeing that it would happen, but Antonio suggested it would take longer than ten years. He pulled a nice trick here inviting the audience to close their eyes and picture their university ten years ago, 'was it really so different?' he asked. He must have struck a chord with this as the no vote won the day.

Chatting to people afterwards the sentiment seemed to be that they thought it would happen, and indeed, should happen, but they were generally pessimistic about the ability of universities to change to accommodate it. I've got to say I find this kind of depressing if it turns out to be true. I'd have preferred it to be rejected because people felt it abandoned core scholarly principles or something. But to think that despite us all thinking it's a good idea, an entire decade is still not long enough to bring about a modest change in university recognition processes? If true, one wonders how displaced from society unis will look in ten years' time.

Or is that just sour grapes because I lost?



    I go though alternating phases of optimism and pessimism about “progress” in higher education. I suspect Universities are mirroring societal changes more than the used to (the ivory tower is pretty much gone), which is a depressing thought. I need to join some other sort of (non-religious) priesthood. Maybe that’s what this web 2.0 thing is really all about.

  • Dominik Lukeš

    I must say I share the skepticism of the audience. 10 years is a relatively short time in the live of a federated institution such as the university system. There are too many preconceptions not just on the part of the universities and academics themselves but also students, parents and employers. But the changes could be quicker if some of the brand name players (Oxbridge, Harvard, etc.) would get ahead of the game. Also, the research assessment exercise and its equivalents would need to extricate themselves from their well-meaning delusion of value.
    Also there are still some technical issues to be resolved. I suggested a solution here:

  • Pepsmccrea

    Adapting to a new environment is tough for organisations that have a sense of academic rigor on systems that inhibit revolutionary change. It will be interesting to whether the current political climate will actually facilitate new structures (private and smaller Universities) that are more adaptable, perhaps through a ruthless focus on perceived ‘customer demand’?
    I think you were robbed. The 10 years previous argument is very crafty but essentially an abuse of logic!

  • Mark Smithers

    I agree the earlier commentators. Particularly AJ Cann as I too go through alternate bouts of pessimism and optimism about changes to higher education over the next ten years. At the moment I’m looking vainly for signs of change but I’m really not seeing anything. This particularly true in relation to the recognition of digital scholarship.
    Incidentally I am about to start putting my Klout and PeerIndex scores on my CV but I expect it will be a completely meaningless gesture. I don’t have a PhD you see.

  • cristina costa

    it just reflects the slow pace of the institution and the structures and rules it is based on. It also reflects ‘accommodation’ and the need to perpetuate tradition. It is no less a disguised fight about preservation of prestige…. oh I could go on and on!
    Change has never come easy and in this instance it is a case to say that Universities have still not received the postcard! We have witnessed a ‘professionalization’ of HE but I’m still waiting for its modernization. Those are two diff ‘beasts’

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