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Plans for the year ahead

13 January 2016 One Comment

I’m not much for end of year or beginning of year posts but I have found that putting down plans is a good way of holding myself to account (and that a few people out there might help with that job…you know who you are). I also think my use of this space may change a little over the coming year, so for those of you still using RSS (yes! we do still exist!) this may have an impact on including me or not in your selection for 2016.

As it stands at the moment I’ve got two major projects for the year ahead. The first, which is the best defined, is supporting a pilot program on Research Data Sharing for the International Development Research Centre a Canadian funder of development research. This is really interesting because we’ll be testing the challenges of data sharing in real projects that interface with local issues in many corners of the world. We’re expecting a range of outputs from the project and I’m hoping the majority of those will be published or made public in some form. And some of these I’ll be sharing in progress here as we go. More details on that later.

The second major project is to bed down the academic work I’m planning with colleagues from Curtin University and other places. If you’re a regular reader here you will have seen elements of this already. The series I’m (intermittently) working on on the Political Economics of Scholarly Publishing is one piece of this as are the ideas swirling around in the talk I gave at City University for OA Week last year. The work our group from the Triangle SCI Workshop last year is doing is coming along nicely and should generate some interesting outputs soon and I’m hopeful of kicking off some more projects around the convergence of research communities, scholarly societies, and publishing venues (the artist formerly know as “the journal”).

There’s exciting stuff ranging from high theory (are the critical tradition in humanities and scientific empiricism actually the same thing from two different perspectives? what is reproducibility really?) to economics and politics (if we think of communities and journals as clubs what does that tell us about viable models of financing and governance? what should a C21 research institution look like?) to the application of data analytics to the growing information streams in scholarly communications (how can we actually use this data to support good decisions and figure out how to communicate more effectively? what infrastructures do we need and how do we make that work?).

In all of this I want to try and apply the theory we develop about communities and their viability, and networks and information, to the actual process of doing the work. What would a distributed research group/think tank/consultancy look like? How could a diffuse but dynamic network of people work effectively together on problems that are simultaneously scholarly research and practical implementation issues? And of course the perennial question for any academic; how do you actually fund that?

I’m more and more convinced that the answer to that lies in finding the right combination of baseline activities – keeping things turning over, writing regularly, keeping the lights on – with focussed periods of concentrated activity, probably in person with the right team for the job, in which the real intellectual work gets done and the progress gets made.

So what does that mean in terms of what will appear here? My current focus is to pull together a piece that draws a line under all the things I’ve been doing over the past ten years. Not so as to stop them, but so as to understand where they are. Even what they are to some extent. More on that at a later date. I want to try and add one post at least every two weeks the Political Economics series. I know various people are watching that; feel free to hold me to that promise if I start to slip!

I’m also going to go back a bit more to the original purpose of this blog (haven’t called it that in a while!). Thinking out loud was a big part of my original intent and as I grapple – naively – with new areas and ideas I’m going to try and post what seems interesting to me more as it comes. I expect to be told that a lot of this isn’t new, but one thing I’ve learnt is that the best way to be told where to look is to say something that is wrong (or at least insufficiently informed).

Alongside that, expect more of the usual as well. The talk texts, the complaints, and the commentaries. And, I hope, the responses and ideas that make this worthwhile from my perspective.