Research practices in transition

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Antonella Esposito
17 March 2011

 Investigating the relationship between emerging digital scholarship and open scholarship in higher education settings.

This cloud is set up as an experiment of 'open research approach', within my MRes dissertation work on 'digital researchers' in higher education. This small scale study will complete the second year of the Online MRes in Educational and Social Research by the Institute of Education, University of London.

The planned 'open approach' is part of my research design and received formal approval from the IoE Ethics Board. I will use a blog as a 'research journal' and this cloud as an 'open notebook', in which I intend to share information, discussions and unrefined material I will adopt and create during this journey.

I much owe to Cloudworks champions as regards what I know about 'openness' in higher education: I am aware that ed tech is a privileged lab from which to look at openness. My interview project will ask researchers of other subject areas about their practices and views on the topic. Hopefully this space could also become an opportunity for a continuining debriefing.

However, I am also aware that assuming an open approach can be risky for an 'apprentice researcher' as I am: trivial mistakes, too much or too less disclosure, naive statements, etc, everything will be highlighted.

Ok, I am already hearing your voices: 'That's the openness, baby, and you can do nothing'. So, enjoy it and please help me to work 'in the open'.

Extra content

ABSTRACT

Research practices in transition is an under-researched area in higher education in Italy. This study investigates changing research practices in this area, with a particular focus on digital and open scholarship. A key aim of this study is to highlight overlaps, contradictions and mutual influences of traditional and new research practices as currently mediated by personal and infrastructural technologies. The study draws on data collected by interviewing Faculty members and focusing on emergent research behaviours and needs of new values, rules, training and support from their own institutional context. The study aims to: 1) identify emergent practices from digital scholarship’s champions in an higher education setting, considering different subject areas; 2) explore whether, in which ways and to what extent such emerging practices in digital environment constitute a ‘break’ against the tradition, and how open approaches in researching and teaching are implied.

The study embeds an open research approach and mainly focuses on an interview project, in which about 12 senior and young researchers selected from different Departments are being asked for their own views. Convenience and snowball sampling strategies are applied to select informants from four different subject areas (Humanities, Social sciences, Physics, Medicine). The study is intended to be carried out at the University of Milan.

The Activity Theory Framework is here considered as an analytical lens particularly suitable to explain the goal-oriented, socially and culturally grounded work practices of scholars using digital tools and artifacts. AT is utilized to frame and intepret data as arisen from individual interviews and related subject areas’ case studies. Moreover, implications for emerging modes of knowledge production and distribution and related problems of legitimation are discussed using conceptualization of Mode 1 and Mode 2 of knowledge production and distribution by Gibbson e al. (1994) and theory of Legitimation Device by Karl Maton (2005).

Key words: higher education, research practices, digital scholarship, open scholarship, knowledge production and distribution

Antonella Esposito
17:01 on 17 March 2011 (Edited 18:54 on 17 March 2011)

Abstract (final version, 10 October 2011)

This dissertation reports an interview project focusing on research practices being transformed by current digital landscape. This theme constitutes an under-researched area in higher education in Italy. This small-scale and exploratory study aims to highlight overlaps, contradictions and mutual influences of traditional and new research practices as currently mediated by personal and infrastructural technologies. In particular, it intends to probe whether and to what extent actual digital scholarship's practices are affecting cultures of sharing in different research fields, prompting emergent approaches such as open publishing, open data, open education and open boundary between academia and society. The study is carried out at the University of Milan and relies on scholars' voices to draw emergent research behaviours and needs of new values, rules, training and support. That said, the study aims to: 1) identify current and emergent digital scholarly practices being undertaken by researchers working in an higher education setting, in different subject areas; 2) explore whether, in which ways and to what extent such research practices in digital environment constitute a “break” against the tradition, and how open approaches in researching and teaching are implied.

The study embeds an open research approach and consists in a series of interviews to 14 senior, young and doctoral researchers selected from different Departments. Convenience and snowball sampling strategies are applied to select informants from four different broad subject areas (Humanities, Social Sciences, Physics, Medicine). Interviews data are analyzed through comparison with previous empirical studies and by examining any implications for emerging modes of knowledge production and distribution, differences in ICTs appropriation in diverse subject areas and related problems of legitimation and motivation in part of individual researchers.

 

Key words: higher education, research practices, digital scholarship, open scholarship, knowledge production and distribution

Antonella Esposito
18:02 on 10 October 2011

Embedded Content

Attempting to identify theoretical concepts: three key readings

Attempting to identify theoretical concepts: three key readings

added by Antonella Esposito

Six Studies on Changing Research Practices. Summaries and selected quotes.

Six Studies on Changing Research Practices. Summaries and selected quotes.

added by Antonella Esposito

Digitalscholar(ship). Traces of change in research practices and digital environments

Digitalscholar(ship). Traces of change in research practices and digital environments

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Antonella Esposito
7:38pm 28 April 2011 (Edited 1:17pm 3 May 2011)


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“In hard sciences we researchers faced the emotional impact of ICTs many years ago, in the 90s. Now many practical, technical and communication needs are fulfilled and we are not particularly impressed, or even, feel somewhat indifferent to new media and social media”. These statements keep on coming to mind, as a reminder of how perception of technology can vary according to subject area and temporal stage. They also resonate as a warning of not to assign a simplistic positive value (as innovation prompt) to the adoption of ultimate technologies by researchers. Soon or later, in ICT research you always have to deal with your own relation with innovation and debunk it as an underlying myth. In fact, to a degree who's researching the topic of changing research practices – especially from the viewpoint of educational technology – is being expoused to the fascination of new open, participatory media and of an idea of 'digital researcher'. Such an idea indeed in some academic contexts seems to match a 'call for action' by a small group of innovators more than an emerging need and behaviour from an early majority. At least, out of the realms of educational technology and new media studies and in diverse national contexts, a researcher should be cautious in attempting to grasp attitudes and practices involving ICTs for inquiry purposes. Otherwise, historical perspectives within disciplines would be missing and the investigation could be at risk of technological determinism. For instance it is easy to make a mistake asserting the difference between humanities and digital humanities, as underlying a neat contrast between 'tradition' and 'innovation' tout court (Rieger, 2010). A lack of distance with respect to an ideological take on digital and open scholarship can shift the focus from understanding the very nature of research work in different subdisciplines and discovering real differences in subdisciplines' practices. It is far more useful to identify possible 'niches of co-evolution' in which ICTs (old and new media) are likely to play a role as change agents of research practices, starting from gaps and needs of real settings and individual investigators.

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