Yesterday I was asked to review a paper for a colloquium. The paper was describing (fairly outdated) ways that researchers can collate and archive web artefacts (blog posts and so on). The paper itself is neither here nor there, but the subject matter had some interesting repercussions on my still-new-to-research brain. When I read the paper, my first thought was ‘But this is what I do every day, only more efficiently’, and my second thought was ‘Am I missing a boat here?’. It had previously not occurred to me that practices that I simply thought were part of an efficient workflow, others were writing up as research. It took a bit of unpacking on Twitter (thanks @djplaner and @s_palm) to fully get my head around. Turns out most of what I do is potential research – Twitter networking, reflective blogging, training design, iPadding, Diigo/Instapaper/RSS/Mendeley research workflow etc etc. These were all things I just considered ‘getting on with it’, and ‘research’ was something in-depth, planned and conceptual that happened seperately. Not so, apparently.
It raises two questions for me. The first is – this might be how the research game goes, but is it really legitimate? Has it evolved this way simply because the pressure to publish is so great? Can anything now be considered research if you’re clever about writing it up?
The second is – how do I reconcile this idea as a researcher? Time on papers on things I consider run of the mill is time spent away from my intended research trajectory. Yet in the current research environment, papers talk and only blogging about things means that a lot of people who could potentially benefit from research on good practice may never read it, because blogs aren’t on their radar. Although, there’s probably a research niche on the fact that often the most valuable information isn’t contained in journal articles, too…
Would love your thoughts on this. Is the system right? Is it broken? Do I need to jump on the train?