If You Don’t Like REF, What Are You Gonna Do About It?

I have to admit that I’m still not totally sure that I know what digital scholarship is all about, or its relationship to celebrity blogging, so I thought I’d try to consider it in terms of what it means for ‘outreach’.

[Antescript – there are a lot of “I”s in this post… sorry about that…]

When I started out as an academic at the OU ten or so years ago, I fell into the whole schools outreach thing, delivering hands-on robotics related activities all over the place (including a trip to Japan with a group of Blue Peter competition winners, a blagged film preview, the occasional public engagement grant and so on…). This naturally led into the idea of ‘in-reach’, helping programme the first few RoboFesta-UK meetings for robotics educators and interested parties in schools, HE, and industry, running the Creative Robotics Research Network for a couple of years, and convening a couple of workshops at SGAI (one on public engagement around intelligent robotics, the other on ethical issues in intelligent robotics research).

These moves towards trying to engage peers rather than populace (for want of a much better phrase) was informed in part by one of the most rewarding programmes of activity I have ever been involved with – the NESTA Crucible. Part of the reading I did around the Crucible weekends was a Demos report on ‘upstream’ engagement (See-through Science). This report, and the related discussions we had around it, plotted the evolution of science outreach and communication activities from ideas relating to the public understanding of science, to public engagement with science, and thence ‘upstream’ engagement with policy formation. (I also learned a truism of public consultation exercises – that they are organised in order to find the best way of telling folk what you’ve already decided upon…;-)

So what has this to do with digital scholarship? Well, if the digital scholar is to trad academic, what is digital outreach as to trad outreach? Can we plot a similar evolution in the communication activities of digital academics, from telling folk what’s good for them though our blogging activities, through trying to engage them in conversation (or at least, trying to get them to spread our crude attempts at video making as viral warez), to engaging with policy makers on twitter and via gov departmental blogs?

I have no idea…

Because really this whole post is a badly contrived attempt to plug the WriteToReply republication of the Research Excellence Framework consultation document.

If the thought of reading the whole thing puts you off, we’ve published a Quick Start Guide you can find the area of the consultation that particularly appeals to you, and just comment on that: Research Excellence Framework consultation: Quick Start Guide

As with every other WriteToReply republication, each paragraph has a unique URI that you can link to from a commentary on your own website; you can also comment directly on individual paragraphs, as well as subscribe to comment feeds on a per section or per commenter basis (see here for more details, including information on how you can use the republication to formulate your own official response to the consultation).

So go on, what are you waiting for…?!

PS Hmmm, stumbling across Martin’s What would ALT-REF look like? just now, I wonder: should we set up a “Fake REF” wiki, a bit like the Fake Digital Britain Report we hosted earlier this year?!;-)

PPS it seems as if University of Leicester Library is already pre-empting part of the outcome: Job Ad: Bibliometrician (bibliometrics feature quite strongly in the consultation).

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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