Changes to academic practice in the 21st century by @oliverquinlan #digagres

26666376366_2046b119b6_bWe are past the planning stages and onto the writing of ‘The Digitally Agile Researcher’ now. Over the coming months you will hear from some of the contributors about the ideas they are working on for the book. As author of the first chapter, it falls to me to open this series and consider what changes there have been to academic practice in the 21st century.

The first thing to acknowledge, I think, is that whatever changes there have been they are not likely to be evenly distributed. One of our reasons for putting together this book is that some institutions are pushing forward with new approaches while others are engaging with changes less so. This also goes for some individuals and groups in different institutions. Some of this change has been driven by adapting to genuine challenges and opportunities presented by technology. However, such is the power of technology to dazzle and to bring feelings of inevitable change, some of these changes may also be down to other drivers.

In this chapter of the book I want to set this scene, and raise some of the questions that will be dealt with throughout the book.

  • How do researchers know which of the rapidly developing tools to invest their time in mastering, and which to pass over?
  • How does increased transparency as a result of communications technology affect academic work?
  • Is there a tension between rapid public communications and the necessarily closely focused and tentative approaches needed for academic work? How do we navigate this?
  • What parts of the research process should be automated and turned over to technology, what parts should remain solidly human?
  • How does engagement with digital research tools affect participants in research?
  • What aspects of more traditional, pre-digital research practice are paramount to retain as we develop into a more digitally agile approach to research?
  • How does power and authority affect these changes, both institutional and the reputational power of influential individuals? There is a political dimension to technological changes in academic work that we should not ignore.

These are my starting points for work on the chapter, but in the spirit of the book I would really welcome feedback on them. Are they enough? Have I missed important aspects, or are there some that are perhaps tangential and should be discounted? Please let me know in the comments below, or via the hashtag #digagres which we are using for the book on twitter.

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