Posted tagged ‘networking’

The academic network

September 28, 2015

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 One of these (founded in 2008) is the website academia.edu, which allows academics to upload their published or unpublished work and get readers, citations and comments.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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The academic politician

August 12, 2011

A good few years ago I was standing with a drink and a canapé or two at a university reception. A colleague from another department came and chatted with me, and he invited me to scan the assembled company. ‘All of these people’, he suggested, ‘are either scholars or networkers.’ He then proceeded to point at individuals known to both of us and identified each as either ‘scholar’ or ‘networker’. I pointed to one individual and suggested, ‘scholar and networker’.

‘No’, said my friend, ‘you’re not playing the game. He cannot be both. It’s either one or the other.’

I have always wondered about this. Do your scholarly credentials absolutely rule out networking skills? Does your ability to work a room stand in contradiction to your intellectual ambitions? I still wonder. If ever I write my memoirs, I shall need to know the answer before drafting the last chapter.

A world in isolation, or a world networked?

July 31, 2011

While waiting in Newark airport for my flight back to Europe, I got into conversation with two academics from Europe (one from Germany, the other from England) who had both attended a conference in New York. It was part of a regular series of conferences in their subject area, and they usually take place in the United States. Until about five years ago roughly a third of those attending would be from outside America.

This year, they told me, the non-US attendance was less than 10 per cent, and they themselves were unlikely to come again. This, they explained, was not because the conference had no value, but because it was becoming unaffordable, because they were under pressure not to increase their carbon footprint, and because informal access to people was now so easy online that a physical presence at a conference was seen by some of those holding travel budgets to be superfluous.

Is this a trend we should want to encourage? Is the era of scholarly networking in each other’s presence now at an end? Does it matter, in the new online world?

For myself, I am an enthusiast for the advantages of the internet, but I shall be very disappointed if the concept of the international academic encounter is now a thing of the past. I think something would be lost.