Calling all #alt-academics!

[cross-posted at the Scholars’ Lab blog]

I’m happy to announce that a census of alternate academics, the first public-facing component of my work with the Scholarly Communication Institute, is now open to contributions. If you have graduate training in the humanities and work outside of the tenure track, I’d like to warmly invite you to add your information to the growing database. Not #alt-ac? Check out the report to learn more about who we are and what we do.

As I discussed in an earlier post, the census has a dual purpose: First, it will serve the many individuals who are employed in (or considering) alternate academic roles by showing the breadth and depth of career trajectories that can follow graduate work in the humanities. The resulting database may help people to discover others with shared interests, find potential project collaborators, or open up new lines of inquiry. Second, it serves as an important first step towards the survey that SCI will conduct, which aims at better understanding career preparation and #alt-ac employment in relation to humanities graduate programs.

I’d like the database to be as broad and truly representative as possible, which means I’ll need help in extending its reach. Please forward the link widely and encourage the #alt-academics you know to contribute–the database becomes more useful as more people join in.

This census is part of a suite of new content and features at #Alt-Academy; the announcement is restated below. Please read, contribute, and circulate!

We are very happy to announce a new phase of publication at #Alt-Academy, an open-access online project at MediaCommons. #Alt-Academy was launched last summer with 24 essays by 33 authors, highlighting the role of “alternative” academic professionals in the humanities and related fields. The four projects joining #Alt-Academy today promise to open the publication to an even richer and more diverse set of voices.

Please consider contributing to:
#Alt-Academy also welcomes proposals for further new clusters and features.  For more information, see “How It Works” on our MediaCommons site.
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Coming soon: A directory of #alt-academics

Like everyone, I began January with the best of intentions. My resolution — to write (something, anything!) or take a photo each day — seemed alluringly modest. January was good. February was, too. I saw no reason why I shouldn’t be able to keep going, month after month.

But then, March happened. March, when I changed jobs, and A. and I bought our first home, bringing huge amounts of change to our lives. And suddenly, my goal slipped quietly to the comfy back burner where most resolutions live out their days. The bottom line is that I haven’t been writing much these last few weeks, in part because there’s been so much to do, and in part because I’ve been spending a good deal of time absorbing new information and ideas. It has been a receptive time more than a productive one, intellectually speaking.

So, I’ve been reading and thinking and organizing fixing bookshelves, and took a quick trip to the University of Virginia to check out the actual, physical Scholars’ Lab (my reward for enduring a full-day HR marathon). I have new projects percolating and new responsibilities crystallizing. I am notoriously impatient with transitions — I cannot live in an in-between state for long — so changing both work and home at the same time has taken up a lot of mental energy. The trip to UVa was great in many ways; for one thing, it made the transition to SCI seem a bit more complete, which should help me to stop fussing about changes and spend my energy in more productive ways.

With that, I’m diving into the work. One project — which I’m quite excited about — involves taking a census of people who think of themselves as alt-academics in order to create a directory of the many individuals that work outside of the tenure track. It’s important to me that the census include not only the wonderfully vocal and visible advocates of the alt-ac community, but also the quieter voices that are outside of the Twitter conversations and MLA panels. As I have written about in previous posts, I think (and hope!) such a directory will be hugely valuable for people who are considering, or are already on, career paths that are alt-ac in nature.

The value, I think, will come from a few things: first, I hope that as people demonstrate their willingness to self-identify in an open and public way, the uncertainty and/or stigma that others in similar positions may feel will begin to dissipate. Second, it will be great to see the diversity of career paths that the humanities community has undertaken. Third, the actual names and affiliations may help other alt-ac folks to make connections and perhaps seek out useful allies. Finally, the database will help SCI in our goal of administering a survey of alt-academics in order to determine opportunities for improved career preparation and refined methodological training in humanities programs.

In all, I hope that the directory and the survey will both help the humanities community to have better data to work with, so that we can move beyond the anecdotal and dispel myths in favor of more concrete understanding about our shared field and the opportunities it affords. Alt-academics reading this post, that means you’ll be hearing from me in the not-too-distant future. I know many people have thought a lot about these issues, so one thing I’ll be doing is seeking input about who to seek out for the census/directory that I might not otherwise know about, and also what questions I should be sure to ask on the survey. I’ll post more about that as planning for the project progresses, but in the mean time, please do feel free to get in touch if you have ideas to share or questions to raise. (Also, I’ll be posting from time to time on the Scholars’ Lab site, so watch for updates there, too.)

Time for a new chapter!

I am thrilled to announce that for the next eighteen months, I’ll be joining the fantastic crew at the Scholarly Communication Institute! I’m honored to join Bethany Nowviskie and her team on the current phase of SCI’s work: namely, assessing and rethinking methodological training in the humanities; helping to work on the framework of the stellar Praxis Program at the Scholars’ Lab; and contributing to the continued development of new-model scholarly publications. (For a fuller description, including more detail on the organizations we’ll be working with, see this Scholars’ Lab post.)

This new step marks an exciting transition for me. Over the past year, I’ve worked closely with Josh Greenberg to develop the Sloan Foundation’s budding Digital Information Technology program. In doing so, I’ve gotten to meet extraordinary people working on innovative projects related changes in scholarly communication in the digital age. In my new position with SCI, I’ll be focusing on a number of the same questions, but from a perspective grounded in the humanities. I’m also looking forward to working more deeply on #alt-ac issues, which I deeply care about (as these two posts reveal).

It will be an intense 18 months that I’m sure will be over too quickly. I can’t wait to dive in!