January 22, 2013

Scholarship Outside the Academy

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has an article on PhDs who choose to work as independent scholars - "Some PhDs Choose to Work Off the Grid" - in which I was quoted as a formerly independent academic:
For Kristina Killgrove, being an independent scholar was only ever a step on the way to getting an academic job, which had always been her goal. After earning a Ph.D. in anthropology in 2010, she knew she had to keep churning out scholarship to be competitive on the job market. Over three years' time, she applied for 150 jobs. 
"I just tried to keep writing and getting out more publications rather than take some other job where I wasn't publishing much," says Ms. Killgrove, who wrote four papers based on her dissertation research during the two years she worked as an independent scholar. "It shows you know what's going on in your field." 
She enjoyed life as an independent scholar. "It's pretty nice to work full time on my research, and you don't really get that in the academy," she says. 
But in the end, taking an academic position seemed like a better choice. She began a job last fall as an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida. 
"Part of what I liked about being an independent scholar was the ability to work on anything I wanted at my own pace," says Ms. Killgrove. "But while that freedom was liberating, I also wanted a paycheck."
Pull-quote from me
For those of you with Chronicle access, please click through and read the whole thing.  It's a good piece about the life choices we have to make to pursue tenure-track jobs and do our research, and it profiles several different independent scholars and the Ronin Institute, founded by evolutionary biologist Jon F. Wilkins in the past year.

I got involved with Ronin in my post-PhD, pre-academic job phase, which lasted two years and saw me become rather disillusioned with the prospect of finding a job in academia, especially one that I thought would likely involve a lot of personal and professional compromises.  I'm glad I was wrong in my pessimism; I was lucky enough to get a job that I love in an area of the country that's beautiful, and I was especially lucky to get a job that didn't involve personal or professional compromises.

But this conversation about the growing problems with higher education in the U.S. is an important one to have.  It's important to talk about who adjuncts are, and if independent scholars are different in some way.  It's important to see that not everyone's personality/family life/research fits well within our American higher ed model (particularly women).  It's important to work towards free, open knowledge so that more people can choose to be independent scholars if they want.  So for me, the conversation about adjuncts and independence is necessarily also one about open access.

For those of you without Chronicle access, let me know and I'll be happy to share the article with you.  I find it a bit ironic that an article on PhDs working outside traditional academia is behind a paywall, but I suppose open access doesn't just happen overnight.  And if you want to know more about Ronin, get in touch with Jon and/or check out this (free) Boston Globe article on the institute.  He's doing cool things and has many more ideas that I hope will come to fruition soon.

2 comments:

C. MARTIN VELEZ SALAS said...

Gracias for this post and your willingness to send the article. Bravo!!!

thesebonesofmine said...

I'd love a copy of the article if it's possible! Thank you for posting this entry, it'll be interesting to see the changes in academia in the coming decades.

And it's great to know that you got the job after a gobsmacking 150 job applications!

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