This is the first of a two-part piece essay of me trying to figure out what I want to do. These are the things I’ve been thinking about most the last few years. Each deserves whole essays devoted to them—not just the few sentences I’ve written here—but if I don’t put a few sentences out now, they’ll never come out:
Progress in digital books has gone stale. Our tools and readers have stopped innovating and lack the fidelity of print.
Systems analysis through long-story journalism
Journalism, as commonly practiced, does a lackluster job at showing the underlying systemic problems in the issues they report on. One piece at a time will focus on a specific part of a problem, or a specific event, but does not provide enough coverage of broader contexts. I want to work on ways that draw connections between reporting on individual events and map out the gaps that need coverage.
Access to scholarship
If you are not part of an institution with resources to access expensive journals, it is extremely expensive to find access to scholarship because closed-access commercial publishers are pretty much evil.
If the goal of scholarship is to benefit society, then we need unfettered access to scholarship, especially since a large majority of this research is publically funded. Further, keeping access to scholarship locked away disproportionally hurts communities in need (especially developing countries) who could benefit most from much of the research.
New ways to communicate scholarship
Public communication of scholarship is horrid. Public understanding is low in part because scholarship is often written inaccessibly. The publishing of scholarship needs to include forms that make it more understandable for public audiences.
New research tools
There is so much it is hard to keep up with all the research that is within a single field, much less finding interrelationships across disciplines. We need new tools that help us find pertinent scholarship.
Still looking for my digital antilibrary.
Reforming the phd pipeline and overhauling tenure
Novelty requirements hurt legitimate and necessary research projects, and those who are working in areas where simultaneous discovery is inevitable. And publish or perish is making scholarship unreliable and is discriminatory.
As long as publishing within a traditional journal is fundamental to how academic credibility is deterimined, good work by those who try to communicate their scholarship through new or different methods and channels will be at best ignored and at worst punished for spending their time and resources on doing scholarship outside of traditional academia.
Fundamental reforms to review systems
Verification and negative results are fundamental to good research practices but the current system does not care. Novelty is overemphasized in what gets published, there are tremendously discriminatory practices in how research is reviewed, and many journals still artificially limit what topics are covered. Interdisciplinary research is often out of scope of any journal, and it often takes years to find a place to publish good research.
Forms of collaborative PhDs
Not a single PhD shared by a group, but an interdisciplinary program where each person’s degree was working on a particular part of a shared project?
Better digital tools for not-for-profit communications and activism/advocacy
I do not want to work on this, but most activism tools are pretty terrible and primarily built for growing email lists and collecting donations, not for effective activism. I’ve been working on parts of this and while there is still much left to do in this space, this is not the problem I want to work on.
Separating considerations for authoring, content management, and publishing tools
Collaborative writing/editing/content creation tools, decoupled/headless CMS + content API for multichannel publishing, design+UI pattern libraries.