The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

1  Recognition and reward

Described image
Figure 1 Reward

This week is focused on Chapter 11 and starts from page 82. The chapter sets out some problems in recognising and rewarding digital scholarship, and also some methods by which it might be recognised. As you read consider the following questions: what is your view? Should we find ways of rewarding these non-traditional types of activity? If so, how might institutions do it in a way that is robust, and isn’t open to gaming, or manipulation?

In the following video Martin Weller discusses issues of the use of digital scholarship with two PhD students and how it can be used for early career researchers.

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Skip transcript: Research interview

Transcript: Research interview

Martin Weller
So we’ve been looking at various digital-scholarship approaches, and I thought it would be interesting to chat to a few early-career researchers. So I’m here with two of my PhD students. So perhaps, if you can, just introduce yourself first. First, Katie, for you?
Katie Jordan
So I’m Katie Jordan, and I’m currently finishing up a PhD which has looked at academics’ use of social-networking sites online.
Martin Weller
Janesh?
Janesh Sanzgiri
I’m Janesh Sanzgiri. I’m from India, and my research is looking at massive open online courses and, in specific, in the Indian context.
Martin Weller
So both you guys are kind of quite in the digital world, in your research. I wonder if you could say you how digital scholarship has kind of helped you establish an identity as an early-career researcher.
Katie Jordan
I think for me it’s allowed me to build a profile that’s sort of bigger than just my PhD work. So, for example, I’ve been doing some work on MOOCs, alongside my doctoral work, and doing that sort of in the open, online, has been – it’s been a really key part of that project. And it’s allowed me to build an identity more as, broader than just being my doctoral research.
And I think I’ve sort of established more of an identity in the field beyond my institutional niche, really. And that’s helped me in various ways.
Martin Weller
That MOOC example was very interesting, because you blogged some MOOC-completion-results data, and they got picked up by a blog in America and kind of became the de facto piece to go to for about MOOC completion rates. So, almost by accident, you kind of became – but that only happened because you operated in the open. So I think it’s a really good example of that open-scholarship approach, if you like.
Katie Jordan
Yeah. I could quite easily have done that. Because it started out being a project for a MOOC in itself. And if I’d just submitted it and not blogged about it, then it wouldn’t have gone any further.
Martin Weller
Yeah, that’s right. So, Janesh, for you, how has digital scholarship helped your academic identity?
Janesh Sanzgiri
So, for me, when I was in my first year, I went to a couple of conferences. And it was quite challenging, as a new student in a new field, coming in to rub shoulders with the experts. So I found that Twitter was really helpful in giving me a voice and allowing me to sort of have my own views heard by the community.
And I found it really useful in just putting my tweets out there and getting responses from people, and then I would have people at the conference walk up to me and say, oh, you’re the guy from Twitter. I saw your tweet. And that was a way for me to get introduced to people in the community. Which would otherwise be much harder, if I were just on my own.
Martin Weller
Yeah, so you felt that it kind of democratised space, in a way—
Janesh Sanzgiri
Yes, absolutely. And if you had good tweets, you would get retweeted, and it would automatically go up. So it doesn’t matter what your status is in the academic community. You could be a professor, or you could be a first-year, you still would get the recognition for your work. Which I thought was really great.
Martin Weller
So have either of you found any downsides to the pressures that being a digital scholar adds to your work, or encounters you’ve had online?
Katie Jordan
Initially, there can be a bit of angst around being open, I found, with my work about MOOCs. Because suddenly it goes from being something quite personal that you’ve just been working on, yourself – just posting it online. Then you really can get anybody putting in their two cents.
So developing a bit of a thick skin was part of the process. But it’s something that you can turn around and turn it into a positive, because it is a way of getting open peer review and being able to respond to comments and develop your thinking in really useful ways, ahead of then submitting things for more formal peer review.
Martin Weller
You see it as complementary, not in competition with traditional scholarship.
Katie Jordan
Indeed. Yeah.
Martin Weller
Janesh, have you come across any downside?
Janesh Sanzgiri
I think Katie’s example of MOOCs was really sort of the exception to the rule. And how she went viral was impressive, but the reality is, most of our blogs are not going to get that viewership. And so, initially, I had the fear that, oh, what if I say something wrong? People are going to criticise me.
But the reality is, not many people are going to read it. And even if they do read it, and it’s a poor piece, they tend to ignore poor pieces rather than critique them. And so just getting your work out there in the open seems to just give you the opportunity to share your work and get feedback from others.
Martin Weller
It’s initial kind of confidence thing—
[Interposing voices]
Janesh Sanzgiri
Exactly.
Martin Weller
—needed to kind of build up to overcome that.
Janesh Sanzgiri
That’s right.
Martin Weller
So, just lastly, if you had one piece of advice to give people who are thinking of becoming involved in digital scholarship, what would that be?
Katie Jordan
Do it. [LAUGH]
Martin Weller
Just do it. Just do it.
Katie Jordan
Do it. And I would say that it’s better to try and start building your identity and your network and contributing early on, not to see it as being something that’s a sort of dissemination exercise at the end of the process. Building it into your research early on, to build those social connections, and to build up reciprocity with your network. That's something that is important, because you only get out of it what you put in.
Martin Weller
Janesh?
Janesh Sanzgiri
I think Katie more or less covered the thing. But I think it’s important, as well, if you are coming into a new field, to sort of already look at what’s going on and what the other people in the community are using. What tools do they use, and how often do they use—
For Twitter, for example – what are the good, important hashtags in the field? So it’s good to get a sense of the broader community first and then to just slowly approach it. That's what my approach would be.
Martin Weller
Yeah. I agree. So, thanks very much. That's been really useful.
Janesh Sanzgiri
Thank you.
End transcript: Research interview
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