[Link] Helen Kara: The Power To Do Things Differently

As an independent researcher I have the power to do things differently…

There are increasing numbers of people doing research and scholarship differently. As a result, there are new societies and organisations springing up…

I’m proud to see that IGDORE is seen as part of a growing movement of academics doing research differently from and possibly in some ways (at least I hope) better than the mainstream.

IGDORE researchers and community members - how do you do things differently from mainstream academia? Have you benefited from doing independent research or being part of alternate academia?


In answer to my own question: I’ve spent time thinking about what research I can do with the aim of directly benefiting society (partly inspired by my involvement in Effective Altruism) rather than the aim of fulfilling academic incentive requirements. As a result, I’ve come up with several interdisciplinary and neglected topics that I think would are both promising and feasible to work on independently.

Admittedly, I haven’t yet had time to develop any of these projects in detail, but having space to conduct sustained reflection on research ideas has allowed me to iterate through many ideas to reach a few that I think are really good - whereas if I had been on the publication treadmill of traditional academia, I probably would have stopped earlier after landing on an idea that seemed suitable for grants and publications, rather considering its societal benefits directly.

Another benefit is location flexibility. My partner is also an academic and is trying to get a permanent University position - being an independent researcher doesn’t tie me to a particular location and makes resolving the ‘two-body problem’ faced by academic couples much easier!

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I have the feeling that we are in the germinal phase of an emerging megashift in research/academia. To me, independent means outside of the traditional 4 year brick and mortar university - not independent as in alone. The sense I’ve gotten is of an (American at least) academia that is more or less a reflection of its broader culture: highly competitive, short-sighted, and elitist. In my view then, ‘alt-academia’ must be cooperative, long-sighted, and without pretense.

So I tried to do something differently, by creating a platform not so unlike IGDORE and Ronin in aim, with perhaps much more of a focus on online education, including a capability to host grants from the US gov etc. Reflecting on this now, under the specter of coronavirus, I suppose I would issue a partial retraction of my efforts. There are probably now more people working on online collaboration tools than at any other time in human history (even perhaps accounting for the future). In light of this change which occurred virtually overnight, I don’t think ‘online’ really solves the problem: how to make research cheap enough that you can actually sustainably do it outside academia?. I think online tools are of course part of this solution, but not nearly as important as I thought they were.

So even though I currently work in the belly of the beast, it has only really served as a source of motivation to achieve escape velocity. Regrettably, this has not yet occured :frowning: , but I have viewed my interactions with members of this community, and others working towards ‘alt-academia’ as the most beneficial I have had. And so I cannot report any funded projects or research I have done ‘independently’…but hopefully the seeds are there! @Gavin I concur that for me the space to freely think has far and away been the most valuable.

So what to do about funding/sustainability? I’m not sure…but right now I’m reading about the history of the Rochdale cooperative - scheming to various degrees about the feasibility of re-developing communities, holochains, and all the rest :slight_smile:


Hi Grant, was good to meet you at the Unconference recently. I like your ideas about creating new structures that emphasize cooperation, long sightedness versus the highly competitive culture especially prevalent in Anglo-American academic culture. We developed some similar ideas / policy in a paper a year or so back (also touching briefly on coops), maybe it’s useful: https://f1000research.com/articles/7-803

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Hey Alex, yes it was great to meet you at the Unconference! I started a new thread with a link to the paper you have shared. I’d like to pursue/investigate ways to implement solutions for some of these core challenges.


thanks everyone. i am trying to get mmted.org offer an undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as well as fellowships, much like this:

basically, the entire trans4m movement is fascinating, do check out the entire website. :slight_smile:

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