How the Sausage is Made: Transparency in Scholarly Research Online

Does the public care about how scholarship is produced in your discipline and should they? In my own field, for example, the public has a voracious appetite for history but very rarely does this public pick up a history journal or academic monograph rather than military history or a presidential biography. This session would cover the forms available for scholars to present their ongoing research online and the stakes in doing so. My own feeling is that the UP monograph will remain key to promotion in research institutions, so perhaps developing engaging and scholarly forms to present ‘how the sausage is made’ can present another route to better engage with the public or our students.

One obvious form is the scholarly blog. Dan Cohen has come up with The Blessay:  “a manifestation of the convergence of journalism and scholarship in mid-length forms online.” Tim Carmody has pointed to an audience: para-academic, post-collegiate white-collar workers and artists, with occasional breakthroughs either all the way to a ‘high academic’ or to a ‘mass culture’ audience.” I like best Chad Black’s post, “Eighty Square Blocks of Data”. I think this example blends scholarly musings and presentation of material in a way that could draw in a diverse audience.

Are there other forms? Are we limited to the text and uploaded media that we can put on a blog or are there ways of plugging in our audiences to databases or digital repositories such as or ? How does one cultivate an audience? How do we think strategically about putting our thoughts and materials out there in a way that won’t haunt us when we shop a manuscript and the publisher realizes much of the content is already online and freely available? How do we start to make the sausage publicly and in a way that engages new audiences? Should we be trying to get people to watch us make sausuage, or is the process inherently undesirable to be viewed? Finally, I think this session could build on last year’s “What can we learn from journalism” session where we discussed producing short-form arguments with new media.

About Alex Galarza

I am a third-year Latin Americanist at the history department of Michigan State researching soccer clubs in Buenos Aires from 1950-1976. I am the co-founder of and My DH interests include scholarly collaboration, digital dissertations, and scholarly blogging. I am a Real Madrid fan and play Ultimate Frisbee.

4 thoughts on “How the Sausage is Made: Transparency in Scholarly Research Online

  1. I’d be really interested to know what tools scholars use to give depth to even the shortest blog posts. DocumentCloud, for example, is really interesting to me.

  2. I’d suggest that if we want to cultivate an audience then we can’t go about worrying if UPs will decide we’ve already put too much information online. The mechanisms of the university and the public are fairly separate, and I think if we want to let people in to see how the sausage is made that we need to plan to forego monograph publication to a large extent.

    If that sounds scary, it’s worth remembering that it’s us, the scholars, who decide what forms of review we’ll accept as binding. And it need not always remain the university press published monograph.

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