It’s been a while between blog posts here on the blog… anything happen since February? I’m now at least belatedly posting link to my interview I did over on the Ronin Institute blog back in August/September with Ronin Research Scholar Michele Battle-Fisher as part of our “Better Know a Ronin Scholar” series. Michele’s fascinating interdisciplinary research spans public health, complex systems and bioethics. We had a wide-ranging conversation, from the failures in our public health system revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, looking at health systems from a complex systems perspective, and the emerging Black bioethics movement.
Over on the Ronin Institute blog, I recently conducted an interview with Rebecca Willén of the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (IGDORE) one the Ronin Institute’s Fellow Travelers: organizations share some common goals, approaches or philosophy with the Ronin Institute.
In this interview, I asked Rebeccca about the motivations for founding IGDORE, discuss what “New Academia” is all about and our changing academic cultures . [This is a edited version of our conversation. Full disclosure: I am an affiliated researcher with IGDORE].
Tell me a bit about IGDORE?
IGDORE stands for the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education. It’s an independent institute I founded in 2016, directly after I had finished my PhD. It’s a virtual research institute, just like Ronin. We have one non-virtual facility and that is on Bali in Indonesia.
What motivated you to…
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Reposted from my Ronin Institute blog post
Performing the World (PTW) is a biennial conference with a focus on building communities, social change and performance. This year it is being held in New York City on September 21-23. Here’s the description from the conference website:
Since the first PTW in 2001, the conference has been a gathering place to explore and celebrate performance as a catalyst for human and community development and culture change. PTW is now a global community of hundreds who creatively engage social problems, educate, heal, organize and activate individuals, organizations and communities, and bring new social-cultural-psychological and political possibilities into existence.
Building on the conversations started in the related CESTEMER meeting last year, several Ronin Institute Research Scholars will be holding a session “Performing New Models of Scholarship at the Ronin Institute” at 5:15pm on Saturday afternoon. I’ll be joining Research Scholars
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Reposted from my Ronin Institute blog post
The Ronin Institute’s Research Scholars are drawn from many different career stages, levels of experience and backgrounds, and given that we don’t advocate a single model of a career in scholarship (in contrast to the traditional academic pipeline), it isn’t surprising that Research Scholars explore many different means to support their scholarship (we are still analyzing the results of the independent scholarship survey we did last year, but this much is clear). For many Research Scholars who are also freelancers, especially those in the sciences, one common means of support is being hired for short or long-term projects by academic institutions, private companies or non-profit organizations. This may be in in full-time or part-time capacity as an independent contractor or consultant. Ideally these projects utilise the scholars’ unique research background and skills and the experience and skills gained during consulting activities will…
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I’ve previously blogged about our PeerJ Pre-print on moving away from the dominant metaphor of the scientific enterprise as “pipeline” leading to professorial positions in universities, towards a metaphor of diverse “ecosystem”. The paper has now been published in F1000 Research and has already garnered one peer review:
Lancaster AK, Thessen AE and Virapongse A. A new paradigm for the scientific enterprise: nurturing the ecosystem [version 1; referees: 1 approved]. F1000Research 2018, 7:803
One the major points of the paper is that we need to move away from the currently closed system that emphasizes artificial scarcity (e.g. in journal spots), towards a system that emphasizes abundance, and we feel that publishing in journals that use post–publication and transparent peer review (like F1000 Research) helps us “walk-the-walk” as we build those new ecosystems.
Table 1 from the paper reinforces this point: illustrating the contrasting language between…
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Reposted from my Ronin Institute blog post
As scholars, we are constantly negotiating our relationships to our field(s) of study and to our job titles. In the sciences, a PhD can remain a “physicist” whether in a professorial job in a university, national lab, or industry
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The Cultivating Ensembles in STEM Education and Research (CESTEMER) was held at the Goodman Theater in downtown Chicago on September 15-17, 2017. Initiated by Raquell Holmes and improvscience in 2012, it brings together a diverse mixture of scientists, artists, humanists and performers to discuss and discover new ways of doing science in groups. I was fortunate to attend and gave short talk outlining how the Ronin Institute is aiming to foster new ways of thinking of the scientific enterprise as an “ecosystem” of peers. I have a post up on the Ronin Institute blog about my talk and my experience of the conference. Here’s an excerpt:
In this ecosystem, scientists collectively empower themselves to build scientific careers in whatever mode or style works for them in the context of the rest of their lives (whether this is in a university setting or elsewhere). I contrasted this ecosystem idea…
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Yours truly on the Ronin Institute blog
A recent editorial in Nature “Young scientists thrive in life after academia” on the future of careers for today’s scientists is on one hand, both optimistic, but on the other, deeply unsatisfying. The editorial is clearly well-intentioned, providing what it sees as a hope for a generation of new scientists facing the worse funding climate and academic job market in decades. I agree with the editors that it is encouraging that people with PhDs and long periods of training are finding gainful employment.
However the editorial has what might be called a cultural blindspot: the default assumption that doing research science is largely an activity that one undertakes only within a specific set of jobs performed in specific institutions and once you’re out of those institutions, there’s both no way to continue, nor any way back. Of those who moved out of academic positions:
Many had managed to stay in touch with science, and worked in a related function such as administration, outreach or publishing.
This seems to me to be disempowering: the best one can hope for is “to stay in touch with science”. Is this really the most we can do for those who have spent many years acquiring skill and knowledge of a subject? Is doing science really like a step function: all or nothing? To be fair, the editorial doesn’t say this, but that’s how I read the subtext.
Read more on the Ronin Institute blog post….
David Barsanti is a Santa Fe-based musician, drummer, DJ and GIS analyst and has lived in the City Different since the early 1990s. When not playing in various bands around town, he is actively DJing around Santa Fe and northern New Mexico under the moniker Spinifex. He and I created the Twisted Groove radio show that aired in the midnight slot on community station KSFR back in 2000. Although I left Santa Fe for the Bay Area, David has continued the show, going from strength to strength, and in the process, gaining a more sleep-friendly 10pm timeslot. Following up on the 16th anniversary of the show, I recently chatted to David about the Twisted Groove, the Santa Fe music scene and how music and radio has changed in the intervening years.
Tell us about how you got to Santa Fe
I first came to Santa Fe after getting a sociology degree with an anthropology focus from Keene State College where I’m originally from. After college I was still working in New England in archeology, but really looking for a change in environment. I was also really struggling to find work in archeology during the winter – you couldn’t find just work everywhere – it’s definitely hard to excavate then! So in November 1991, my girlfriend at the time had contacts here and we planned to come here together but that didn’t work out but I needed winter work so I was driven to find work here in SF. I was hired to do field work in the winter, and I stayed. Now by day I work as a GIS analyst for the City of Santa Fe.
What got you into music?
I have always been into music, it was a big part of the family growing up. My oldest brother grew up in the Woodstock era so I always heard a lot of music from that time. And although my parent’s weren’t musicians themselves there was always music around the house, my Dad had worked for Sylvania, an early TV manufacturer that was eventually acquired by General Telephone and Electronics. So we always had TVs and radio stereo of the best quality around the house, which was another way I really got into sound and music.
On the day of the 2016 Australian Federal election, let’s rewind to last year. On September 14, 2015, Malcolm Turnbull ascended to the party Liberal Party leadership, and Australia breathed a collective sigh of relief as the brief, but strange and destructive, reign of Tony Abbott came to an abrupt end. There was a sense, especially amongst Australian progressives, that we might see a return to a more moderate Liberal Party. And if you cursorily examine Turnbull’s acceptance speech, it sounds thoroughly sensible and moderate, touching on now-familiar bromides of “creativity” and “innovation”:
“This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. It’ll be focused on ensuring that in the years ahead as the world becomes more and more competitive and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology, the volatility in change is our friend if we are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian. We will ensure that all Australians understand that their government recognises the opportunities of the future and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it.”
Who can be against any of that? Sounds good, right? Being agile, creative, innovative! Yeaah! But having lived in the United States through the first dot-com boom, the Global Financial Crisis, and now the current tech-boom that creates only a relatively small number of jobs (and wealth for only a few of those in those jobs) and the rise of the predatory “sharing economy” of AirBnB and Uber, many of these phrases ring hollow to me. Phrases that use words like agility, creativity and innovation are very handy because they sound great as sound-bites, but are more often used as a fig leaf to disguise the true agenda. Cognitive linguist George Lakoff in Don’t Think of an Elephant and Moral Politics has written extensively about how US right-wing think-tanks like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have been successfully using words and metaphors to “frame” otherwise unpalatable policies for decades. These think-tanks have, in turn, been diligently exporting these framings around the world through exchanges with Australian equivalents like the Institute for Public Affairs. Creativity and innovation used in the context of the LNP are code for a corporatist neoliberal set of policies that is focused on one thing and one thing only: enriching those already wealthy with even more wealth.
Many progressive Australians didn’t really see this true agenda clearly and wanted to believe that this would be a kinder, gentler Coalition government. I, too, shared this hope (although there were some commentators at the time who were not buying it). And, while the rhetoric on social issues like gay marriage has clearly shifted in a more moderate direction, in the areas that affect the most people: economics, benefits, job security and investments to build a better future, the Turnbull government has doubled-down on the economic rationalism. (The Labor Party under Shorten, by mostly sticking to economic rationalism-lite, has failed to offer a truly compelling alternatives).
So before today’s election I offer this handy decoded version of Turnbull’s acceptance speech to reveal what he really means:
“This will be a thoroughly NeoLiberal Government. It will be a thoroughly NeoLiberal government committed to
freedom, the individual and the converting any remaining institutions devoted to the public good over to market-based solutions even in areas where they demonstrably do not work like healthcare, labor markets, carbon emissions regulation and financial regulation. It’ll be focused on ensuring that in the years ahead as the world becomes more and more competitive because we’ve engineered it to be so through deregulation and capital market expansions and flexible labor market policies and there is greater misery opportunities for ordinary people, we are able to the lucky and the wealthy can take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile and jumps when transnational corporate interests want us to jump as specified in “trade” agreements like the TPP, that is innovative in creating wealth for a smaller number of people with fewer stable jobs through more complicated financial services and instruments, that is creative in moving money around but is not creative in challenging corporate interests and we will defund the those in the sciences or arts organizations that do so. We can’t be defensive, we can’t future-proof ourselves by collectively deciding where we allocate our resources democratically. We have to recognise that the disruption that we see driven by technology neoliberal policies that deliberately transfer wealth up the hierarchy by invoking an outdated notion of technological determinism to disguise those policies, and that the volatility in change is our friend if we are for those of us who are agile and smart enough to take advantage of it, and we will heap scorn and derision and demonize those who question these policies. There has never been a more exciting time to be alive than today if you’re in the 1% and there has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian in that 1%. We will ensure that all Australians understand that their government recognises the opportunities of the future for its wealthy friends in the corporate class and is putting in place the policies and the plans to enable them to take advantage of it, by privatizing Medicare, deregulating the public university system and introduce US-style student loans and removing people or groups in positions of authority in institutions such as the CSIRO or the ABC that question these policies.
In the Turnbull/Liberal National Party “vision” there is no sense of the common good, of building a democratic future together, of supporting and strengthening civil society, of investing in basic science (outside of narrowly defined biomedical science, funded through cuts to Medicare), or growing sustainable (i.e. non-venture-capital based) small and medium sized businesses that create long term value for Australians. Just every agile man and women for him or herself in the global marketplace.