Share and share alike

By Juliana Adelman

pizza_sharing_slice-723637 I’ve been meaning to post on the subject of sharing research results for some time.  It’s been on my mind as I try to finish up publications from my PhD.  I’ll state my prejudices from the outset: I think Irish historians are bad at sharing.  Everyone involved in Irish history academic circles probably knows the story about how Irish Historical Studies (supposedly) had to change its policy of allowing postgrads to self-report on their PhD topics.  Apparently, students took it upon themselves to grab land in a way not seen since the settlement of the American west.  The website is still up, I can’t tell if this story is true.  However, it is indicative of a general attitude towards research work as your own private territory.  This often continues long after the PhD is finished and the result is, I think, damaging to history in general and a big waste of effort.  Of course people give conference and seminar papers and they also look to publish.  For those students who plan a book of their research, many are concerned about someone else ‘stealing’ their work or publishing on the same sources before they do.  If this is you, then I say have some more confidence in your originality!  But the fact is that not every PhD is going to end up in a publication and even for those that do, there is often material which is left out.  If you DO publish, there are some interested parties who your research will not reach.  So the following list suggests some ways to circulate your research.  In the interest of sharing, I’ve taken some excellent ideas from Joe Cain‘s recent article in Viewpoint, a newsletter of the British Society for the History of Science.  I hope to be able to make his article available here soon.  I think it’s a great reference for all PhDs, recent or otherwise.

1. Internet.  Want people to read and refer to your PhD?  Make it easy for them, post the whole thing as a PDF online.  History departments ought to encourage students to do this and make webspace available to them.  I must admit, I haven’t done this out of pure inertia…I’d have to make a PDF of the whole thing, it would be really big…  I think I’ll go correct that now.

2. Archives and libraries.  This was one of Cain’s suggestions.  How many of you have sent disks/emails of your work to the librarians who helped you with your research?  Maybe they’d be interested in material which bears on their collections.  You might also consider sending them offprints of articles.  This will help future researchers at the same repositories and aid in developing archival catalogues.

3. Local history societies and geneologists.  Another of Cain’s ideas, although probably something that most Irish historians ARE pretty good about.  We have lots of local history journals and they may be a particularly good place for biographical pieces which don’t fit easily in an academic article.  Also consider offering to give a talk!

4. Make your own historical walking tour or other Heritage Week event.  Too late for this year, but I don’t see why anyone can’t just register an event of their own creation.  This certainly does not preclude you using the same material in a publication and it adds some dynamism to your CV.  You might even like it!

5. Choreograph an interpretive dance.  Seriously.  This has been done as a competition by science PhDs in the US.  Check it out on Youtube.

6. Pitch a radio programme.  There’s Talking History on Newstalk and plenty of possibilities on RTE.

7. Write a newspaper article.  You might even get paid!  Although not very much.

8. Concoct an exhibit.  Once again, Cain’s idea.  If your research has a visual element this could be a good experience and also very satisfying.  This might be particularly apt at an institution whose archive you have made extensive use of.

I know I’m overlooking lots of others so send in some ideas!

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2 Responses to “Share and share alike”

  1. puesoccurrences Says:

    I’ve got another to add: try television. There are some great documentaries being made out there by RTE and TG4 particularly, and there’s always a market for pitching interesting ideas to TV companies. This might be a bit of a problem in the current climate, but always worth thinking about.

    To add to your opening gambit, I’ve never understood people putting a time limit on access to their PhD in libraries. What did they do the PhD for in the first place if someone can’t read it? How many people do they think are rushing in to have a look (I think we can pretty much guarantee there isn’t a queue)? Is the purpose of academic research not in some way bound up with the sharing of material.

    I think a lot of what you mention also relates to technology – rather than embrace new technologies, there is a tendency to be quite tentative about its potential dangers. But the best example of the positive effects of sharing has to be something like JSTOR – imagine how many more people will read the work of Irish historians and draw on it in a comparative context now that Irish journals are openly available online, and imagine how that can only benefit the international profile of those authors at the same time, when, for example, someone in Norway sees that they are looking at something quite similar and decides to propose a joint panel at some international conference?

    Kevin

  2. Pue’s 100th Post « Pue’s Occurrences Says:

    [...] particular thanks to those of you who commented on our articles), from Juliana’s assertion that Irish historians are ‘bad at sharing’, to Lisa’s review of Diarmaid Ferriter’s appearance at Electric Picnic that asked, now that [...]

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