The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

Week 4:  Public engagement and digital scholarship


The third of Boyer’s scholarly activities is known as ‘application’. This can be taking academic knowledge and applying it to a problem, working on committees, liaising with industry, etc. The particular focus you will take this week is that of public engagement.

The digital, networked environment offers many new routes to disseminate work, to engage with the public beyond the traditional channels of broadcast media, or writing popular books. Now through blogs, podcasts and social media the ability to communicate work to a broader audience has been democratised – as it is sometimes bluntly put, we are all broadcasters now.

Watch Martin Weller discuss this further:

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Transcript: Week 4 introduction

Martin Weller
It’s Week 4 already. And this week, you’ll be looking at broadcasting – although perhaps not quite in a television sense – to understand the third of Boyer’s scholarly activities – what he called ‘application’. The application of scholarly works is critical, for what use is research or academic publication if nothing changes as a result? The world does not become a slightly better place because of it.
One example is when research helps to influence future policy. Another good example is public engagement. That’s what we’ll mainly be looking at this week.
Before the internet, public engagement on a large scale was limited to the few academics who made it onto TV or radio or who wrote popular books. Apart from this, it would be restricted to public lectures, often with limited success. But now, through blogs, podcasts, Twitter, and YouTube, scholars have found new ways of reaching different audiences.
Sometimes these are hugely successful. For example, a former colleague of mine, Nigel Walburton, developed the very popular Philosophy Bites podcasts, with millions of downloads. Even less-successful broadcasts often reach a global audience in a way that published articles do not. And those who successfully develop online personas are different to the traditional hierarchy.
Institutions and research funders are increasingly recognising the power of this online presence and seeking to promote it. So, this week, you’ll look at the engaged researcher and consider how each of us becomes a broadcaster to some extent. You’ll also do your first quiz to count towards your badge.
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Week 4 introduction
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By the end of this week you will have:

  • gained an understanding of how digital, networked technology can influence public engagement
  • considered how engaged research can be conducted
  • reflected on how open approaches can be built into projects.

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