Stay Tuned for Worldviews 2013
Ann Rauhala, a former journalist now teaching at Ryerson University, says the worlds of academe and journalism are not quite the two solitudes they seem.
CLIMATE scientists must sometimes feel that they’re taking part in some horrific, humourless worldwide game of Chinese Whispers.
After spending months, in some cases years, diligently carrying out research, checking, re-checking and quantifying observations and data, they submit their discovery to a science journal.
Journal editors then send that work out to other scientists who pick holes in it, or praise it, before sending it back with the academic equivalents of those smiley faces or red crosses that school teachers loved to draw on your school books.
Issues with the research are then rectified (if they can be) and finally the work is published. Except of course, that’s not the end of the story.
In an era of globalization, we need to improve global reporting, argues University World News Editor Karen MacGregor. Will this require more collaboration between higher education and higher education media?
There are interesting comparisons that can be drawn between higher education and the media. Both deal in information and ideas, and both are cutting-edge: universities in research and analysis, the media in reporting on unfolding events. And both resist changing themselves. This, along with the imperatives of business, could be why the higher education media found itself in the contradictory position of being at the forefront of globalization, through vast communication networks, while being slow to respond to the globalization of higher education itself.
The Worldviews Conference in Toronto last month focused on higher education and the media. Organized by the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and other groups, the event considered how information about higher education is communicated—we don’t often think about how higher education is portrayed to the public and to policymakers, or for that matter even how the academic community learns about what is going on in the ever more complex world of higher education.
There are two parts to this story and both are important. The media are themselves undergoing a revolution due to the role of the Internet and the resulting impact on traditional outlets such as newspapers and television. In general, there are fewer reporters focusing on higher education at a time when interest in this topic is growing worldwide.There are many variations by country; in many developing countries, the mainstream press is full of stories about higher education. I counted a half dozen higher education stories in a recent issue of The Hindu, a major Indian national newspaper with a print circulation of several million. This level of coverage is typical of many developing countries. In contrast, the New York Times might print one higher education story a week, if that. This contrast probably reflects the great public interest in higher education in India.
Social media is inherently a system of peer evaluation and is changing the way scholars disseminate their research, raising questions about the way we evaluate academic authority
Harzing’s Publish or Perish is the prevailing mantra in universities, with academic authority derived from a solid publication record in peer-reviewed journals. It is a tried and tested approach to evaluate scholars, which has changed little despite the advent of networked, digital communication technologies commonly referred to as social media. Arguably, social media is inherently a system of peer evaluation, where participation and engagement are recognised and rewarded through dynamic social interactions.
In a recent presentation at the Toronto WorldViews conference on higher education and the media, I explored the implications of social media for evaluating academic authority. Leading scholars such as Mitchell Stephens and Jane Singer have raised questions about how we assign academic authority, in essays published in Journalism Studies in 2008. They considered how the participatory and networked capabilities of new media could be applied to the scholarly world. They did not suggest abandoning the traditional academic peer-review process, and neither am I. Rather, we need to consider the implications of these networked, open and distributed technologies, and associated social practices, on teaching, research and service.
For three years in the mid-1990s, I had the privilege of sending a weekly memo to thousands of readers of the Vancouver Sun on whatever topic most concerned me. Although only a small fraction of them replied (often, it must be admitted, in language that made clear their profound disagreement with my position, syntax, or gender), it was such a deeply satisfying exercise that I occasionally still seek to re-live the experience.
Last September, in a fit of pique I confessed via the comment page of the Globe and Mail that like most Canadians, I don’t have a PhD in criminology, statistics, or environmental studies, and I’m not remotely qualified to judge the validity of scientific research relating to the efficacy of mandatory minimum sentences, or the effect of mining development on the health and sustainability of natural resources.