February 11, 2016
Disembodying academic (re-)production?
Prior to posting some more theoretic reflections on why Open Science and regimes of individual qualification and evaluation are by large incompatible I would like to propose to you an Open Experiment or Game on the ways in which we make use of the embodiement of scientific output.
The Game I would like to suggest here is less aiming at furthering transparency of research, but is aiming at analyzing the effects power/gender/race discourses inherent in chosen channel/journal of deliberation, contributors’ names and institutional affiliations have within the production of academic texts and data, their distribution(-s), use(-s) and re-use(-s). Not least it is my aim to foster the knowledge we have on our situatedness(-es) in academic traditions and the ways we make use of these in our very own practices and encourage some kind of active collaborative reflection on how visibility of scientific output is bound to the multiple settings of status in academia.
Many familiar with academic publishing and (e-)valuation practices within academia will agree that prestige − of the channel a piece of academic deliberation is published in − largely influences the proportion and the ways in which texts and data are taken up and (re-)used within the different academic communities and traditions (cf. Journal Impact Factor; disciplinary positive/negative journal lists e.g Handelsblatt Ranking Journal List.). My argument here goes further by assuming that uptake and (re-)uses of scientific texts are influenced to similar proportions by attribution of characterizations to contributor’s name and institutional affiliation. A next factor that in my esteem is by large influencing the ways in which we read and (re-)use already published scientific work is the prestige we infer through an a-priori implicit or explicit analysis of the (re-)sources this piece of work is building up on itself. Hence my proposition is to compare in an Open Experiment on how the (re-)uses of scientific literature and data differ with varying publication formats and standards by publishing the same texts once under a cc0 license in an academic journal and once in a disembodied form in an open wiki-type collaborative cc0 platform (actively promoted by its contributors). The disembodied version of the text should, contrary to any academic convention, be eradicated of any traces of prestige/power discourses that may be attributed to individuals’ or institutions’ names. Hence all contributors’ names and institutional affiliations should be omitted in the text. Second all references to prior published work and bibliographies, except for data/materials the argumentation directly builds up upon, should be removed from the texts. It will be interesting to see, in first place, whether texts, that do not exhibit any form of personal motivation of gathering and (re-)distributing portions of academic credit, will be taken up within academic communities at all. Second it will be of great interest to see in which ways potential (re-)uses of both variants of texts will vary over time.
Most probably a project like this one will be much more apt at attracting contributions from the Social Sciences and the Humanities, as it will be easier to blur implicit hints to origin and background of published studies than it will be for the Natural Sciences (access to labs/experimental sets) but nonetheless I would like to see the Natural Sciences engaging in such a project as well.
At this point I do not propose any platform on which we could start such a project, but I would like to invite you to actively engage in the discussion whether such an experiment is doable and would be glad to contribute in developing a platform for the dissemination of disembodied pieces of academic deliberation as well as in developing methods and tools for the documentation and analysis of such a project.
stiif is currently working @ University of Vienna's Bibliometric Department and is part of the u:cris team. Extra-occupational he is taking part in the Master Program Science-Technology-Society @ University of Vienna. He is formemost interested in the praxeologies of knowledge production.