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Dusty, dank and dead …. or vibrant and alive? October 23, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Musings, research.
Tags: , , , ,

In a quick comment on OurExtendedStudies wiki, Catriona congratulated me on completing my dissertation and asked about ‘publishing’ which set me thinking.

I guess there are two kinds of publishing:

  1. formal, in academic journals and
  2. informal, making your research available to the world at large through the media which have become available through the WWW.
library shelves

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by Ron Wiecki: http://flickr.com/photos/rwphoto/3300437997/

Then there’s also (well OK, three kinds!) the bit inbetween. I don’t know about your course, but we’re required to have our dissertations bound, so they can be shelved in the University stacks. Never to see the light of day again? Oh, and it costs somewhere between £10 & £20 to have this done … for which we have to stump up the cost. Now remind me, what were our tuition fees for?

In addition my tutor wants another two copies, for which I also have to pay. So that’s about £50 to put my thoughts into print so they can spend their days languishing on bookshelves gathering dust.

Why in heavens name are we clinging on to the traditional notion of recording knowledge in this way? What are the odds of someone, some day pulling my work off the stacks and reading through it? What might they learn, agree with or contest? And more importantly, how will I know? And how will what they think feed back into developing and reshaping the knowledge I formulated?

So I also published my dissertation online using a Google site which cost nothing and brings with it several advantages:

  1. it’s easily amended so if I do spot any typos I or my tutor didn’t pick up, they’re easily corrected. Or indeed if any links change, I can update them.
  2. Links can be ‘live’ so a reader can jump straight in if an outbound reference takes their fancy.
  3. If anyone does visit the work, I’ll know from the site stats.
  4. If someone disagrees with what I proposed, can offer alternative explanations or observations or can suggest extensions to the ideas, then they’re easily able to do that through the comments … and I get the chance to reply! Dialogue. Constructivist learning even?

So OK, I guess I’m prepared to accept a printed copy on a library shelf, but why aren’t Universities also providing electronic repositories to celebrate and share the knowledge their students are developing? Another form of Open Access perhaps?

… or has it already begun? SHERPA and Virginia Tech are just two of the initiatives; hope we can look forward to more.



1. ianinsheffield - October 23, 2011

It’s amazing what you find when you start looking. ALT’s Open Access Repository – http://repository.alt.ac.uk/

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