The academic network

No doubt the internet creates challenges for academic integrity, but it also provides interesting tools for scholarship. One of these (founded in 2008) is the website academia.edu, which allows academics to upload their published or unpublished work and get readers, citations and comments. It is intended partly as a tool for academic interaction and the exchange of ideas – a worldwide network of colleagues and contacts one might previously have found only in one’s immediate circle of collaborators.

The publishing house Sage has also created an academic networking site, Methodspace (mainly, I suspect, as a prospecting tool to find promising authors).

More mainstream social networking sites also contain pages that link particular groups of academics.

It has often been suggested that, for many academics, the primary community to which they belong is not their institution but their discipline. As a lawyer, for example, I am often more connected with law academics in other universities than, say, biochemists in my own. As it becomes easier and easier to network with these colleagues across the world, will this further loosen institutional cohesion? This is one of the challenges facing universities today, one that makes it important to present faculty with opportunities to link across disciplines and promote a sense of institutional relevance.

A global academic community is one of the real benefits of today’s technology, and should be celebrated. But a university that is able to bind together its members in an overall purpose is also still important, particularly as cross-disciplinary insights become more and more relevant to global problems. Universities need to be able to work with both dimensions.

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5 Comments on “The academic network”

  1. Vincent Says:

    Hmm, well you have to wonder if the Irish judiciary, and the historic connections of the Kings Inns at Dublin to the colonial legal systems in Australia, New Zealand and Canada are more connected to the judicial thought experiment run there than they are to the Irish system.
    So in your case, is there not a danger if the historic silos of academic thought are removed we lose not only the next Kant but the notion of strands of learning.

  2. anna notaro Says:

    “Universities need to be able to work with both dimensions.”
    I could not agree more with this, I personally use Academia.edu to upload my articles, but there are of course other curation and sharing platforms such as: Delicious, SlideShare, Pinterest, Scoop.it, Pearltrees, Bundlr, Paper.li and Storify, they all allow academics to easily gather and present information and, importantly, to make the information public and share it with others online. The sense of belonging to a ‘global academic community’ can be very rewarding. Unfortunately rewards are not always so easy to come by at a single university level. In a market-oriented educational environment academics often move from one institution to another for the purpose of career progression and institutional affiliation is a thing of the past, a bit like those footballers who used to spend their whole career in the same team….who in his/her right mind would want to do that?

  3. cormac Says:

    I think it’s actually true that, for many academics, the primary community is not their institution but their discipline. For example, if asked to describe what I do for a living, I usually say I am a scientist – not least because not all of my science is done at WIT, nor may I stay there indefinitely.
    Yesterday morning, I was informed that our latest work on Einstein’s theories made the cover of the European Physical Journal (H), the major journal in our field
    http://epjh.epj.org/
    I immediately shared the good news with colleagues abroad, but no-one in my own college (outside my research group) would appreciate this stroke of luck the way a colleague in the same discipline would.
    In fact, I have never seen an article from an Irish group other than my own in this journal – academia is truly fragmented that way!

  4. James Fryar Says:

    Back when the laser was invented by Maiman, no one could possibly have predicted that it would be used in everything from communications to metrology to medicine. And the truth is very little research in any field is purely confined to that field. de Sitter spaces may be applicable to General Relativity (to borrow from Cormac) but the mathematical approaches may be applicable to other areas involving differential geometry.

    Academic networks are of vital importance in our multidisciplinary world. How else do people in one field learn of discoveries in another that may be relevant, may point them in a new direction, or may help them look at things with an alternative viewpoint?

  5. Kathryn Says:

    This is an unrelated topic but wish to raise it. We are seeing more often cases of academics accusing other academics of lack of integrity or of plagiarism to dishonour them or to derail their careers. We need to remind ourselves of the need to present the evidence first particularly in plagiarism cases.


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