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Academic Writing and the Profession

July 16, 2012

Thanks to Nicole for this write up of the meeting on 2nd July.

The last Cardigan Continuum meeting was well attended and we had a few new faces to record. We set out to discuss an article on open access publishing for professional society publications and two blog posts about blogging and the deprofessionalisation of the information professions. The discussion started by looking at how much the professionals present around the table are actually reading. Turns out, not that much and for various reasons such as

  • Articles are often not that relevant to workplaces
  • Access is difficult unless you have an academic connection
  • Reading even less if journal is only available in paper format

The question ‘whether articles in journals are influencing practice’ was most heavily debated and opinion ranged from ‘niche topics not applicable’ to ‘there is always something relevant to my work as an archivist’. Some of us were surprised how much they had missed since they completed their degrees and felt that the theory discussed now would have helped them to make more sense of the work environment. Others felt that theory is all well and good, but that it does not really help writing business cases. Active reading of professional literature really depended on a professional’s aspirations – whether they wanted to ‘go into research or practice’, although many maintained that both could be balanced in some organisations.

There was a sense that we should not move away from academic writing – after all peer review ensures quality of writing- and replace it with blogging as such, but we perceived a clear value in professional blogs and especially the direct feedback and conversation that can materialise in the comments.

We then turned to the issue of why not many people are writing more for professional journals because ‘if we wanted better articles in JSA (Journal of the Society of Archivists), we need to write them.’ This was felt to be true (shame on all or most of us!) but people cited entry barriers such as an old clique of people who always get published, fear of harsh scrutiny or criticism and feeling a little intimidated by the whole process. It was also questioned how useful or transparent the peer review process actually was.

All this led to one of the recurring questions of the moment: How can professionals get more involved in their professional bodies and how can they make things better? High entry barriers were cited again as reasons for not getting more active in the Archives and Records Association. Some felt that, even when they did something, there was often a conspicuous silence – no feedback received or no idea how many people have read it anyway. We were not all negative though and came up with a few suggestions:

  • JSA and ARC (the newsletter of the Archives and Records Association) could carry more reflective pieces on projects – especially issues, challenges and lessons learnt
  • ARC could abandon issues for each section and focus on longer, more in-depth pieces
  • Maybe look towards what CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) are doing and talk to profession as whole about what is going on and what are the latest trends
  • A comment function for JSA articles online could be useful to generate some discussion
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