In recent days, and as a result of ongoing conversation, both on and offline, in the light of my experience at the Networked Learning Conference, I have been thinking a lot about the implications of openness for academic credibility and learning. The ideas I am about to express are the result of a conversation that I have been having with a friend, so I cannot claim them as my own, but neither can I attribute them, as they arise from a private conversation.
Academic credibility seems to stem from a recognised research record in academia. I am not an academic and I am a new researcher so I am aware that I could easily be shot down for what I write in this post. However, being an independent consultant also gives me a degree of freedom to speak that maybe people who are trying to maintain their credibility and self-esteem within an HE institution and maybe climb the career ladder do not have.
As far as I understand it, an HE institution relies on its researchers to provide its credibility as an academic institution of note and from people I have spoken to, some if not all academics are required to publish a certain number of papers a year in esteemed journals. A recent article I read (can’t remember where) pointed out that the pressure on new researchers is much greater than on established/recognised researchers who can rest on their laurels a bit and have lesser demands made of them by their institutions as to how many papers they produce.
In this age of open online publication – what does this mean for academics? When Sui Fai John Mak, Roy Williams and I were selecting a conference to submit our two papers to, we specifically chose the Networked Learning Conference because our papers would be published online. For us this was/is important as we felt that this decision adhered to the principles of openness that we had learned about on the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course.
Despite having written in the Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC paper about the difficulties of understanding the meaning of openness, it seems to me to be a principle worth signing up to. But what might be the difficulties for academics if their paper does not go through a peer reviewed journal?
In discussion with my friend/colleague I realise that a peer-reviewed journal does offer some protection for the integrity of an academic’s ideas and for accuracy of citing the author’s writing. So for example, it is difficult to accurately cite writing in blog posts and often blog posts are not considered to have the same worth as an article included in a peer-reviewed journal. The link may go down, or the writing may be inaccurately cited or attributed.
And then there is the question of what happens when the online writing/article is translated into another language without the author’s knowledge – interpreted inaccurately by the translator – and cited from there. The potential for dilution and distortion of the original post is huge.
So what do those who are keen to follow the openness route do? Do they just shrug and accept that their ideas and in many cases considerable work will be open to corruption and distortion – or do they need to consider the protection that the academic establishment can ensure for their ideas, through the long, slow, tedious and narrow confines of peer reviewed journals ( my interpretation of the submission to journal process, which I have to admit is based on very limited experience, and which, being independent of an HE institution, I don’t need to worry about!).
Which is more important: – that we ensure that our ideas/thinking/research reaches as many people as possible as freely as possible, or safe-guarding the integrity of our research? Quite a dilemma, for which I do not have an answer.