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Modern scholarly communication in education: An Example

I’ve written a bit about scholarly communication in education, and our need to modernize our modes and systems (see e.g. THIS and THIS and THIS and THIS…).

This post offers an example of modern scholarly communication. At the heart of this “story” is Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin. She is the very epitome of Scholar 2.0. She blogs, tweets, and uses other forms of media to disseminate her knowledge widely and “in real time.”

This “story” begins with a Brookings Institution report of a study about school vouchers authored by Matt Chingos and Paul Peterson. The report was published by Brookings on August 23, 2012. On September 13, 2012, Goldrick-Rab offered a thorough review/critique of the study as a report issued by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). A discussion/debate ensued… on Twitter. My efforts to capture that discussion/debate via Storify follows. After that, I offer a few thoughts, not about the study per se, but about modern scholarly communication.

 

If I remember correctly, this was not the first time Goldrick-Rab and Chingos discussed this study on Twitter. But, this was the most recent back-and-forth. Here’s what I think is noteworthy:

  • The “speed” of “publication”: Brookings published the report of the study on its own timeline; they didn’t have to wait for editors or for a volume of any particular journal to be published. This also means that there was no “peer review” as most academics understand that process, and that’s less than idea. However, Goldrick-Rab’s NEPC report was issued only 3 weeks after the Brookings report; it served the purposes of peer review. If this had been done through traditional journals, it would have taken (an estimated) 6 to 18 months to get everything published.
  • The public nature of publication and peer review: We’ve seen these sorts of methodological “back-and-forths”  in traditional print journals. Usually, they are articles in separate journals or issues of a journal. Sometimes, they are published in the same issue of a journal. Aside from the problem of speed of publication mentioned above, another problem with that form of publication is that the journals are usually behind paywalls and accessible only to those with access through a university or library.  Brookings and NEPC publish their reports on their sites and also use mainstream media for public relations about their reports. Members of the public who do not know about Brookings and/or NEPC are likely to discover the reports through mainstream media. These are very public reports.
  • Twitter as a platform for public conversation: there’s no question that there are limitations to Twitter as a platform for discussion, debate, etc. But, there are tremendous affordances to Twitter as well, including the fact that it’s public. And, for those who don’t follow along on Twitter, the public nature of the conversation allows for “recording” and “archiving” of the conversation via tools like Storify (as I’ve done above).

A few months ago, I wrote an open letter to AERA in which I implored that organization to consider modernizing their modes of scholarly communication. Their response? Crickets.

I hope what I’ve written here offers an example of how (and why) scholarly communication in education can (and should) change.

[UPDATE: for those following along at home, since this post, Chingos & Peterson responded to Goldrick-Rab’s critique, and posted it to Education Next. Then, Goldrick-Rab composed a thorough response to their response to her response. Sheesh. It’s all posted to the NEPC page here.]

 

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