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5) Collaboration and Community Engagement

Published onJan 14, 2023
5) Collaboration and Community Engagement

Knowledge Mobilization and Translation

+ Anderson, Colin R., and Stéphane M. McLachlan. 2016. “Transformative Research as Knowledge Mobilization: Transmedia, Bridges, and Layers.” Action Research 14 (3): 295–317.

Anderson and Colin attempt to create a transformative research paradigm that champions knowledge mobilization over the institutional knowledge transfer model in which the scientific community occupies the elite central stage and transmits knowledge from the top down. Primarily, this is done by disrupting power relations and including typically marginalized agents, such as farmers and other community-based researchers, within the scientific conversation. The authors conduct a case study on the Participatory Action Research (PAR) program in the Canadian Prairies in order to highlight the processes involved. They suggest that shifting to knowledge mobilization is a messy but necessary step in order to achieve an inclusive, useful, and reflective scholarship and practice. The authors employ three major strategies in order to bring the academic and non-academic actors involved in the project closer together. The first is layering, which involves determining the right language, and the level of detail and complexity in a way that would be accessible to all parties involved instead of adhering to alienating jargon. The second communications strategy—building bridges—works to overcome the boundaries that separate knowledge mobilizers in terms of their “epistemological, discursive, and disciplinary divides” (8). This can be as simple as meeting in an informal, friendly setting where all parties are encouraged to voice their opinions in a respectful environment. The final knowledge mobilization strategy, transmedia, allows actors to present their ideas through different media formats in order to communicate them more effectively and to a wider audience. Although this study succeeds at bringing academic and community-based researchers into communication with each other, the institutional hierarchy that still operates according to a knowledge transfer model (versus a knowledge mobilization model) often undermines these efforts.

¤ Arbuckle, Alyssa. 2020. “How Can We Broaden and Diversify Humanities Knowledge Translation?” Pop! Public. Open. Participatory 1.

Humanities research is extremely relevant for the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century. Despite the growing corpus of humanities research, Arbuckle argues, there are few explicit translation mechanisms from academic work to broader communities. Building off such a premise, Arbuckle looks at where knowledge translation is occurring in other fields and what lessons might be learned for the wider and more efficient circulation of humanities work.

+ Cooper, Amanda, and Ben Levin. 2010. “Some Canadian Contributions to Understanding Knowledge Mobilisation.” Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice 6 (3): 351–69.

Cooper and Levin describe the challenges associated with knowledge mobilization and suggest various methods to overcome them. They define knowledge mobilization as an emerging field that is dedicated to strengthening the links between research, policy, and practice across various disciplines and sectors. The authors assert that gaps between research, policy, and practice are the result of two major factors: the absence of research impact evidence, and the fact that knowledge mobilization is often interdisciplinary, and therefore lacks a formalized system. Cooper and Levin point out that the Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) have supported the majority of contributions to knowledge mobilization. They assert that collaborative practices are vital to knowledge mobilization since overall improvement depends on different groups working together. The authors also present the Research Supporting Practice in Education (RSPE) program, which is dedicated to empirical studies in various educational settings. They conclude by providing a list of quick, attainable practices that can improve knowledge mobilization in various environments.

Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. 2017. Approaches to Assessing Impacts in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Building upon the 2014 report The Impacts of Humanities and Social Science Research: Working Paper, the Federation’s report discusses the goals, benefits, and potential pitfalls of assessing research impact for the humanities and social sciences and provides recommendations for approaches to take when assessing such impacts. Noting that there is increasing demand for impact assessments from university administrators and researchers, the report presents a set of case studies illustrating impact assessment in a variety of Canadian research contexts and discusses the research-to-impact pathway as a useful model. In its recommendations, it notes that, although the benefits to assessing impact of humanities and social sciences research are substantial, “impact” should be defined broadly and indicators applied judiciously to reflect the diversity of humanities and social sciences research and disciplinary definitions of impact. Impacts should be assessed collectively, due to the incremental and hermeneutic nature of the work and the timeframe in which impacts develop. Researchers should lead discussions about the impact of their work, but institutional supports must be put in place to reduce the administrative burden on researchers.

Graham, Ian D., Jo Logan, Margaret B. Harrison, Sharon E. Straus, Jacqueline Tetroe, Wenda Caswell, and Nicole Robinson. 2006. “Lost in Knowledge Translation: Time for a Map?” The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 26: 13–24.

In the context of health sciences research and practice, Graham et al. analyze various definitions of knowledge translation and similar concepts in order to address the “knowledge-to-action” (KTA) gap between when research is published and when those findings are applied in practice, in policy, or in other ways. They note that a lack of clear definitions of relevant terminology leads to confusion, since various terms are often used interchangeably. They observe that knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, research utilization, and research implementation are all used in different contexts to refer to the application of research (in this case, health research) to practice, although each term has its own particular meaning. Research dissemination and research diffusion, however, refer less specifically to the creation and application of knowledge to practice. They provide a conceptual framework for the knowledge-to-action process and identify several phases within a “knowledge funnel” in which knowledge is created and an action cycle in which it is applied, noting that these processes are iterative and often inform each other. The authors conclude that greater consensus is needed about knowledge-to-action terminology, which requires a shared understanding of knowledge-to-action itself and its community of stakeholders.

+ Kondratova, Irina, and Ilia Goldfarb. 2004. “Virtual Communities of Practice: Design for Collaboration and Knowledge Creation.” In Proceedings of the European Conference on Products and Processes Modelling.

Kondratova and Goldfarb discuss knowledge dissemination and collaboration in online communities. They conduct a study on design functionality by looking at portal types that include institutional, governmental and organizational, professional, and social portals. The study includes 80 criteria grouped under content, discussion forum functionality, features, tools and learning modules, search functionality, membership, and topic experts. Based on this study, the authors develop a new template, as they believe further similar investigations are needed.

+ Lavis, John N. 2006. “Research, Public Policymaking, and Knowledge-Translation Processes: Canadian Efforts to Build Bridges.” The Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 26 (1): 37–45.

Lavis addresses the processes involved in public policymaking when carrying out institutional arrangements and the need for timely knowledge translation in these cases. The author conducts research in the health sciences and observes that public policymakers are sometimes asked to make fairly quick decisions with the lack of relevant high-quality research at hand. He argues that knowledge translation can make meaningful connections between research and public policymaking in a number of ways: through systematic reviews that address the questions asked by public policymakers; through “push” efforts by researchers of interested parties that present research about a certain issue to the policymakers; through the “user pull” method by these same groups that can help policymakers identify the relevant research in relation to a topic with which they are working; and through the “friendly front ends” method that stands for systematic reviews that have a graded-entry format. Lavis strongly advocates bridging the gap between research and policymaking by improving knowledge translation processes.

¤ Letierce, Julie, Alexandre Passant, John Breslin, and Stefan Decker. 2010. “Understanding How Twitter Is Used to Spread Scientific Messages.” Proceedings of the WebSci10: Extending the Frontiers of Society On-Line April 26–27. Raleigh, NC.

Letierce, Passant, Breslin, and Decker aim to understand how Twitter is used for spreading academic knowledge, especially at conferences. To do so, they harvest and study tweets from three different conferences, as well as conduct interviews with colleagues who are active on social media. The findings tend in the direction of academic-only engagement with academic messaging. The authors’ use of Twitter as an indicator of emerging trends and popular topics of conversation could be relevant for those who study discipline formation or specific communities of practice.

Mitton, Craig, Carol E. Adair, Emily McKenzie, Scott B. Patten, and Brenda Waye Perry. 2007. “Knowledge Transfer and Exchange: Review and Synthesis of the Literature.” The Milbank Quarterly 85 (4): 729–68.

Mitton, Adair, McKenzie, Patten, and Perry conducted a survey on the increasing volume of literature in the field of healthcare and Knowledge Transmission and Exchange (KTE), exploring research related to “conducting/implementing KTE and evaluating KTE between researchers and policy and decision makers” (732). They remark that the field’s recent growth has likely been caused by an increased demand for accountability through evidence-based decision making. The authors worked with a medical research librarian to query eight databases for articles related to knowledge generation, translation, transfer, uptake, exchange, brokering, and mobilization. This resulted in 4,250 abstracts which they ranked based on relevance to the survey. This rendered 169 full articles, which they sorted by subject. They found that, although those in the field hold a strong belief in the merits of Knowledge Transmission and Exchange, only 10 papers reported the findings of a formal rigorous study. Most of the evidence offered in the literature was anecdotal. The authors conclude that if Knowledge Transmission and Exchange cannot be shown to have clear and consistent positive outcomes through evidenced-based study, its use in evidence-based policy decision making should be discontinued.

+ Phipps, David. 2012. “A Report Detailing the Development of a University-Based Knowledge Mobilization Unit That Enhances Research Outreach and Engagement.” Scholarly and Research Communication 2 (2).

Phipps shares his perspective on knowledge mobilization as a practitioner who has been delivering various knowledge mobilization services in a university-based setting for over five years. He defines knowledge mobilization as “a suite of services, actions, and activities that work together to support research outreach and engagement” (2), one that connects researchers and decision makers. Phipps describes six services developed by the knowledge mobilization unit that fall under four general methods: producer push, user pull, knowledge exchange, and co-production. He argues that a successful knowledge mobilization strategy may be achieved when researchers and decision makers communicate effectively and are supported by trained brokers who can utilize the appropriate knowledge mobilization services in order to meet decision makers’ needs. Phipps provides general recommendations that may help in a knowledge mobilization action plan, including finding appropriate leaders, collecting data that may serve as basis for evaluation over time, finding grants for seed funding, and hiring the right knowledge brokers.

Community Engagement

† Avila, Maria. 2010. “Community Organizing Practices in Academia: A Model of Stories and Partnerships.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 14 (2): 37–63.

Avila shares the details of her model of civic engagement at Occidental College in Northeast Los Angeles—a model focused on practical long-term reciprocal partnerships between communities and academics, rather than on abstracted discourse about the issues involved in maintaining these partnerships. Avila’s model includes assessing the interest of college members (e.g., faculty, community partners, and students), building a leadership team, creating dynamic strategies and programs, and engaging in critical reflection. She concludes by speculating whether other institutions eager to build academic community partnerships in order to bring about positive cultural and social change could adopt her model.

+ Barnes, Jessica V., Emily L. Altimare, Patricia A. Farrell, Robert E. Brown, C. Richard Burnett III, LaDonna Gamble, and James Davis. 2009. “Creating and Sustaining Authentic Partnerships with Community in a Systemic Model.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 13 (4): 15–29.

Barnes et al. present an approach to community partnerships developed by and practiced at Michigan State University. These approaches focus on community voices and are developmental, dynamic, and systematic in nature. The authors provide a brief history of university outreach and engagement since the 1980s, as well as a visual diagram of key terms in the University’s approach to outreach. This strategy aims to become embedded in stress-asset-based solutions, and to build community capacity for collaborative networks. The authors provide a list of challenges in current university partnerships and assess engagement efforts. Future research will examine how scholars, communities, and conveners define partnership success.

+ Butin, D., and S. Seider, eds. 2012. The Engaged Campus: Certificates, Minors, and Majors as the New Community Engagement. 2012 edition. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Butin and Seider edit this collection of essays that argue for the vital role of higher education in both citizenship and the creation of rich civic and community life. A central concept to this collection is conceiving the goal of education as an aspirational idea for democracy, as well as personal, social, and political responsibility for a more just and equitable world. Reflection is a major concept and practice in the type of service learning discussed in the essays. The book focuses on service learning programs, experiential learning, and the role of interdisciplinary, active, and engaged research. The editors and authors seek to dismantle the boundaries between action and knowledge and create a model for publically engaged campuses through certificates, majors, and minors in community partnerships.

+ Butin, Dan W. 2012a. “When Engagement Is Not Enough: Building the Next Generation of the Engaged Campus.” In The Engaged Campus, edited by Dan W. Butin and Scott Seider, 1–11. Community Engagement in Higher Education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan US.

Butin discusses the practical applications of majors, minors, and certificate programs within institutions and their potential to reform the relationship between community and institution. It is clear, Butin argues, that the theoretical arguments of the last quarter century have questioned every assumption, enactment, and orientation of community and engagement. He argues that the community engagement movement in its present state still lacks the rigorous scholarship necessary for its incorporation into higher education. The next direction of community engagement in higher education, according to Butin, must engage in efforts at border crossings and must embrace critical academic spaces. This includes moving away from what he sees as an ineffectual model of “hallway activists” in which theory and practice are disjointed.

+ Butin, Dan W. 2012b. “Rethinking the ‘Apprenticeship of Liberty’: The Case for Academic Programs in Community Engagement in Higher Education.” Journal of College and Character 13 (1).

Butin articulates a model for an “engaged” campus that he envisions can be practiced through academic programs focused on community engagement. Certificate programs, minors, and majors provide a complementary vision for the deep institutionalization of civic and community engagement that can help revitalize what he terms an apprenticeship of liberty for students, faculty, and staff. Butin identifies a major problem in the institutional “engagement ceiling,” which is the low institutionalization of sustained investment for civic engagement in education (1). He concludes his study by suggesting that the egalitarian, horizontal, and equally legitimate model of knowledge construction is missing in higher education because academic knowledge and its development, critique, and expansion are understood as the purview of highly specialized researchers. Community engagement, according to Butin, needs to be done in academic spaces that foster and strengthen the very qualities that academics are looking for in community partnerships.

¤ Chan, Leslie, Budd Hall, Florence Piron, Rajesh Tandon, and Lorna William. 2020b. “Open Science Beyond Open Access: For and With Communities. A Step Towards the Decolonization of Knowledge.” The Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s IdeaLab.

Chan, Hall, Piron, Tandon, and Williams argue that it is time to move beyond foundational understandings of open access and open science. They suggest that academic institutions and researchers should open themselves up further to increase relevance within the broader conception of civil society. The authors gloss some of the historical reasons for the relative openness and closedness of scholarly activity to broader society, including the fact that knowledge workers sought refuge in the university as a space to think critically without fear of censorship or worse from the ruling powers of their time. Chan et al. are quick to point out, however, that such self-protection developed into an exclusionary practice, or a way to gatekeep who is and is not considered expert. This has many present-day ramifications, including for Indigenous and marginalized peoples whose knowledges are often not valued in scientific contexts. Overall, the authors suggest that as open scholarship initiatives, policies, and theories evolve they should be expanded to include a more decolonial approach to knowledge creation and sharing.

¤ Cuthill, Michael. 2012. “A ‘Civic Mission’ for the University: Engaged Scholarship and Community-Based Participatory Research.” In Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Lorraine McIlrath, Ann Lyons, and Ronaldo Munck, 81–99. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cuthill explores the construct of engaged scholarship as emblematic of the civic mission of the university. For Cuthill, universities have an ethical obligation to contribute to the common good, and he sees this as being particularly feasible through community-based participatory research. Cuthill also argues that there is economic benefit to engaged scholarship, thereby connecting community engagement with the sustainability of universities as organizations.

+ Hall, Peter V., and Ian MacPherson. 2011. Community-University Research Partnerships: Devising a Model for Ethical Engagement. Victoria: University of Victoria.

Hall edits this collection of essays on various community and university relationships within Canada. The book includes topics on Canadian social economy research partnerships from 2005–2011, new proposals for evaluating the research partnership process, respect and learning from communities, and the British Columbia-Alberta research alliance’s effects on social economy. The appendices of the collection include region-specific information, such as the BC and Alberta Node and the Atlantic Node. This book focuses on the outcomes of previous grant offers and university-community partnerships, and the role of funding in university related partnerships.

+ Holland, Barbara, and Judith A. Ramaley. 2008. “Creating a Supportive Environment for Community-University Engagement: Conceptual Frameworks.” In HERDSA 2008 Conference Proceedings. Rotorua, New Zealand: HERDSA.

Holland and Ramaley argue that the changing nature of knowledge production, global issues, and the role of education affect intellectual strategies, relationships, societal roles, and expectations of how universities prepare students for the workplace. Educational institutions must increasingly embrace multidisciplinary and collaborative frameworks in order to address the evolving community landscape. The study concludes with the authors’ recommendation that universities stop using communities as laboratories for research and learning, and rather collaborate with and acknowledge the essential expertise and wisdom that resides in communities. This shift will transform current understandings and prompt academics to understand themselves as learners, and to respect community leaders as experts in their own right.

+ Pasque, Penny, Bruce Mallory, Ryan Smerek, Brighid Dwyer, and Nick Bowman. 2005. “Higher Education Collaboratives for Community Engagement and Improvement.” Education Scholarship 4.

Pasque, Smerek, Dwyer, Bowman, and Mallory compile the proceedings from the Wingspread Conference on Higher Education Collaboratives for Community Engagement and Improvement held from October 27–29, 2004 in Racine, Wisconsin. The conference was convened to examine the current and evolving role of higher education institutions, especially those operating within coalitions, consortia, and state systems, in order to catalyze change on issues that affect communities and society. This event was also designed as a forum for groups with common interests and consists of a series of working groups with developed partnerships. The issues covered in the proceedings include how faculty can overcome the few incentives and little preparation given for them to engage in community improvement and how the universities can recognize working with communities as career-enhancing. These discussions focus on university-community relations and their sustainability in the long term.

Salazar-Porzio, Margaret. 2015. “The Ecology of Arts and Humanities Education: Bridging the Worlds of Universities and Museums.” Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 14 (3): 274–92.

Margaret Salazar-Porzio discusses the vital importance of museums to the United States of America. She reflects on her own experiences as curator at the National Museum of American History (NMAH)—and those of students and professionals in the field—to emphasize the importance of museums in fostering civic education. This paper may be of interest to policymakers considering museum partnerships or creating arts funding plans, and to those working to foster civic learning. She concludes by saying that, because of their ability to teach civic skills, museums are essential to a democratic society.

Schuetze, Hans G. 2012. “Universities and Their Communities—Engagement and Service as Primary Mission.” In Higher Education and Civic Engagement: Comparative Perspectives, edited by Lorraine McIlrath, Ann Lyons, and Ronaldo Munck, 61–77. New York: Palgrave McMillan.

Schuetze discusses factors affecting universities and community engagement, sometimes considered a “third mission” alongside research and teaching (61). He discusses the historical role of community engagement, noting that while it was part of the founding missions of United States land-grant institutions, for example, it was emphasized less in European institutions. Schuetze points out that policymakers’ interest in community engagement has increased as the higher education market has become increasingly global and competitive, and the notion of community has changed, too. Universities, especially large ones, now serve a global research community as well as distance and international students in addition to their local students and communities. Types of local community engagement may include knowledge transfer, continuing education, and community-based research and service learning. Schuetze concludes that including community engagement in the university’s mission and strategic planning is a first step toward enacting it, but barriers remain to enacting it. When funding is scarce, universities tend to focus on research and teaching, and since reward systems tend to value research over teaching and service, faculty often see few incentives for community engagement. Because community engagement is not easily quantifiable, it is not usually included in university rankings, and funding for this work is often through competitive short-term grants, which does not support sustained engagement.

+ Silka, Linda, and Paulette Renault-Caragianes. 2007. “Community-University Research Partnerships: Devising a Model for Ethical Engagement.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 11 (2): 171–83.

Silka and Renault-Caragianes discuss the problems that have previously faced community-university partnerships. These partnerships often involve powerful university scholars with relatively disempowered community members. Funding agencies are now calling for researchers to set up partnerships in order to investigate health disparities in poor urban communities. The challenge currently facing this type of partnership is to move beyond existing guidelines that were not designed to provide ethical guidance, and to work with the community in establishing mutual respect. The research agenda, methods, usefulness, and purpose all need to be determined through discussions with the community.

Public Scholarship

* Brennan, Sheila. 2016. “Public, First.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, 384–89. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Brennan looks at the use of the term public digital humanities and suggests that it has been misappropriated in some contexts. She argues that simply putting a digital humanities project online does not make it public, per se; rather, if digital humanists want to create public projects, they must consider the public first. Brennan points to the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media as an exemplary instance of public digital humanities / digital history. She also provides a brief summary of the ways in which a public digital humanities project should be accessible to potential audiences. Overall, Brennan suggests that the public and public engagement should be considered at the forefront of a public digital humanities and should not be assumed as a de facto element of making digital humanities work available on the web.

+ Cantor, Nancy and Lavine, Steven D. 2006. “Taking Public Scholarship Seriously.” Chronicle of Higher Education 52 (40).

Cantor and Lavine claim that today’s system of tenure and promotion comes at a high price that is costly to communities and deprives them of relationships with educational partners. The authors note a gap between the appraisal of creative scholars who are committed to the public good and those who are promoted. Portland State University is used as an example of an institution that has accepted the blurred boundaries between research, teaching, and engagement, which are all hallmarks of excellence in public scholarship. What is important for the future development of public scholarship is that faculty and evaluators do not advise junior colleagues to postpone public scholarship if that is where their interests lie. The institution, the authors argue, needs more flexible definitions of scholarship, research, and creative work.

Colbeck, Carole L., and Lisa D. Weaver. 2008. “Faculty Engagement in Public Scholarship: A Motivation Systems Theory Perspective.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 12 (2): 7–31.

Colbeck and Weaver examine faculty motivations for engaging in public scholarship. Whereas similar studies look at intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, Colbeck and Weaver integrate these factors with motivation systems theory, developed by Martin Ford, to gain a more complex understanding of why participants choose to engage in public scholarship and consider how these findings could encourage other faculty to do the same. The authors conducted a qualitative analysis of interviews with 12 faculty members from Penn State University engaged in public scholarship, looking at dimensions including professional identity, goals, and the integration of their research, teaching, and service roles. They also looked at participants’ perceptions about their own capabilities and their departments, faculties, and institutions and created “motivation maps” based on motivation systems theory. They conclude that participants’ motivations are too complex to be understood through a simple intrinsic/extrinsic motivation model and note that discipline, gender, ethnicity, and rank did not seem to affect engagement in public scholarship, but that most of the participants—who were selected because they were already doing public scholarship—identified as interdisciplinary scholars and viewed research, teaching, and service as highly integrated. The authors conclude that robust, meaningful institutional support for public scholarship can not only encourage faculty to engage in it but also help retain highly motivated and engaged faculty members.

* Ellison, Julie. 2013. “The New Public Humanists.” PMLA 128 (2): 289–98.

Ellison observes a change in public humanities, which is traditionally understood in opposition to academic humanities, toward a more in-between position. She argues that in the last few decades the notion of public humanities has transformed into publicly-engaged scholarship in humanities. Such a transformation makes it difficult to even identify those involved: a group that Ellison calls new public humanists. The author lists various examples of programs and institutes to show how the idea of public humanities is not being considered without academic collaboration. Thus, the author points out, doing, understanding, and writing public humanities projects means to work in complex roles in and between organizations. Furthermore, she concludes by stressing the importance of considering how to exercise institutional agency for sustaining new public humanities scholars, since they can become marginalized in traditional departments.

* Hsu, Wendy. 2016. “Lessons on Public Humanities from the Civic Sphere.” In Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, edited by Matthew K. Gold and Lauren F. Klein, 280–86. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hsu presents some lessons learned in the professional experience of working with civic technology in the public sector in order to think about public work in digital humanities. The author advocates for the importance of including public participation early and in-process to build projects with and not for the community, considering that not only solving but also defining the problems must be done collectively. Hsu relies on the work of the postcolonial intellectual Gayatri Spivak to state that humanistic practices of visioning, speculating, and reflecting are founded in interpretation, which can also lead to creative actions of making and design. Thus, she claims that digital humanists should listen more to the public, interpret problems collectively, and apply their digital making and design skills to organize public projects with a civic cause, prototype community-driven digital objects, or intervene in civic processes in a way that pushes them toward more social justice. Moreover, Hsu notes that academic institutions and their members are closer to the centre of decision-making power, and collaborating with the community is a way to have a dialogue across lines of power.

¤ Jay, Gregory. 2010. “The Engaged Humanities: Principles and Practices of Public Scholarship and Teaching.” Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship 3 (1): 51–63.

Jay considers the concept of engaged or community scholarship in relation to the humanities. He argues that if the humanities took up such practices, as well as integrated new media tools and techniques more fully, the discipline might gain relevance and public value in an era of funding cuts. The author explains why engaged scholarship has not been as prominent in the humanities as it has in other disciplines: namely, for Jay, the humanities are based on extrapolative, written critique, and this does not translate well to project-based community engagement in the same way that initiatives in the social or medical sciences might. Regardless, Jay sees the rise of social media, digital humanities, and multimodal communication as a promising opportunity for the humanities to increase community engagement around the texts and topics traditionally at the heart of humanistic inquiry. Throughout, Jay is careful to underline the necessity of accountability when it comes to academic / community partnerships, and the importance of avoiding a missionary style of public engagement that the university has often taken on in the past.

¤ Rogers, Katina. 2020. Putting the Humanities PhD to Work: Theory, Practice, and Models for Thriving Beyond the Classroom. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

With graduate education reform as her mission, Rogers argues that current graduate training is not fit for purpose: it primarily trains PhDs to become tenure track faculty members when there are very few tenure track faculty jobs available, and most PhDs end up working in other roles or industries altogether. In doing so, Rogers suggests, academia replicates inequalities since a very small (generally moneyed) sliver of the population is willing to take the risk of such an investment without guaranteed employment upon graduation. She recommends that diversifying academic production modes and outputs would encourage a more diverse graduate student population, and she embraces public engagement activities to this end.

Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

+ Carletti, Laura, Derek McAuley, Dominic Price, Gabriella Giannachi, and Steve Benford. 2013a. “Digital Humanities and Crowdsourcing: An Exploration.” In Museums and the Web 2013, edited by N. Proctor and R. Cherry. Portland: Museums and the Web.

Carletti, McAuley, Price, Giannachi, and Benford survey and identify emerging practices in current crowdsourcing projects in the digital humanities. Carletti et al. base their understanding of crowdsourcing on an earlier definition of crowdsourcing as an online, voluntary activity that connects individuals to an initiative via an open call (Estelles-Arolas and Gonzalez-Ladron-de-Guevara 2012). This definition was used to select the case studies for the current research. The researchers found two major trends in the 36 initiatives included in the study: crowdsourcing projects either use the crowd to (a) integrate/enrich/configure existing resources or (b) create/contribute new resources. Generally, crowdsourcing projects asked volunteers to contribute in terms of curating, revising, locating, sharing, documenting, or enriching materials. The 36 initiatives surveyed were divided into three categories in terms of project aims: public engagement, enriching resources, and building resources.

+ Causer, Tim, and Melissa Terras. 2014. “Crowdsourcing Bentham: Beyond the Traditional Boundaries of Academic History.” International Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing 8 (1): 46–64.

Causer and Terras reflect on some of the key discoveries that were made in the Transcribe Bentham crowdsourced initiative. Transcribe Bentham was launched with the intention of demonstrating that crowdsourcing can be used successfully for both scholarly work and public engagement by allowing all types of participants to access and explore cultural material. Causer and Terras note that the majority of the work on Transcribe Bentham was undertaken by a small percentage of users, or “super transcribers.” Only 15% of the users have completed any transcription and approximately 66% of those users have transcribed only a single document—leaving a very select number of individuals responsible for the core of the project’s production. The authors illustrate how some of the user transcription has contributed to our understanding of some of Jeremy Bentham’s central values: animal rights, politics, and prison conditions. Overall, Causer and Terras demonstrate how scholarly transcription undertaken by a wide, online audience can uncover essential material.

+ Causer, Tim, Justin Tonra, and Valerie Wallace. 2012. “Transcription Maximized; Expense Minimized? Crowdsourcing and Editing ‘The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham.’” Literary and Linguistic Computing 27 (2): 119–37.

Causer, Tonra, and Wallace discuss the advantages and disadvantages of user-generated manuscript transcription using the Transcribe Bentham project as a case study. The intention of the project is to engage the public with the thoughts and works of Jeremy Bentham through creating a digital, searchable repository of his manuscript writings. Causer, Tonra, and Wallace preface this article by setting out five key factors the team hoped to assess in terms of the potential benefits of crowdsourcing: cost effectiveness, exploitation, quality control, sustainability, and success. Evidence from the project showcases the great potential for open access TEI-XML transcriptions in creating a long-term, sustainable archive. Additionally, users reported that they were motivated by a sense of contributing to a greater good and/or recognition. In the experience of Transcribe Bentham, crowdsourcing transcription may not have been the cheapest, quickest, or easiest route; the authors argue, however, that projects with a longer time-scale may find this method both self-sufficient and cost-effective.

† Causer, Tim, and Valerie Wallace. 2012. “Building a Volunteer Community: Results and Findings from ‘Transcribe Bentham.’” Digital Humanities Quarterly 6 (2).

Causer and Wallace reflect on the experience of generating users and materials for the crowdsourced Transcribe Bentham project. The purpose of the Transcribe Bentham project is to create an open source repository of Jeremy Bentham’s papers that relies on volunteers transcribing the manuscripts. Causer and Wallace argue that crowdsourcing is a viable and effective strategy only if it is well facilitated and gathers a group of willing volunteers. They found that retaining users was just as integral to the success of the project as was recruiting. It was important, therefore, that they build a sense of community through outreach, social media, and reward systems. The number of active users involved in Transcribe Bentham was greatly affected by media publicity. Users reported that friendly competition motivated them to participate, but that an overall lack of time limited their contributions.

Hendery, Rachel, and Jason Gibson. 2019. “Crowdsourcing Downunder.” KULA: Knowledge Creation, Dissemination, and Preservation Studies 3 (February): 22.

Rachel Hendery and Jason Gibson discuss the strengths and weaknesses of crowdsourcing projects in the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector, taking as their case studies two Australian crowdsourcing projects: the Mapping Print, Charting Enlightenment (MPCE) project and the Howitt and Fison’s Archive (Howitt & Fison) project. They compare Howitt & Fison to the pioneering crowdsourcing project, Transcribe Bentham, and note that in both cases paid transcription labour could have produced a greater output due to the large time investment required for volunteer recruitment, training, and support. The MPCE, however, did target paid academic scholars, but it was found that alternatives, such as automation through machine learning, were more efficient. This is likely because crowdsourcing is not yet seen as legitimate academic labour. Hendry and Gibson argue that, even if most regular contributions are made by a small number of active volunteers, crowdsourcing is a viable method of non-traditional scholarship because Australian funding institutions see it as a means for public impact and engagement.

+ Holley, Rose. 2010. “Crowdsourcing: How and Why Should Libraries Do It?” D-Lib Magazine 16 (3/4): n.p.

Holley defines crowdsourcing and makes a number of practical suggestions to assist with launching a crowdsourcing project. She asserts that crowdsourcing uses social engagement techniques to help a group of people work together on a shared, usually significant initiative. The fundamental principle of a crowdsourcing project is that it entails greater effort, time, and intellectual input than is available from a single individual, thereby requiring broader social engagement. Holley’s argument is that libraries are already proficient at public engagement but need to improve how they work toward shared group goals. She suggests 10 basic practices to assist libraries in successfully implementing crowdsourcing. Many of these recommendations centre on project transparency and motivating users.

+ McKinley, Donelle. 2012. “Practical Management Strategies for Crowdsourcing in Libraries, Archives and Museums.” In Report for Victoria University of Wellington.

The purpose of McKinley’s report is to review the literature and theory on crowdsourcing, and to consider how it relates to the research initiatives of libraries, archives, and museums. McKinley begins by claiming that burgeoning digital technologies have contributed to an increase in participatory culture. Furthermore, she argues that this is evinced by the growing number of libraries, archives, and museums that use crowdsourcing. McKinley cites five different categories of crowdsourcing: collective intelligence, crowd creation, crowd voting, crowdfunding, and games. By way of conclusion, McKinley makes the following recommendations for crowdsourcing projects: (a) understand the context and convey the project’s benefits; (b) choose an approach with clearly defined objectives; (c) identify the crowd and understand their motivations; (d) support participation; (e) evaluate implementation.

† Moyle, Martin, Justin Tonra, and Valerie Wallace. 2011. “Manuscript Transcription by Crowdsourcing: Transcribe Bentham.” Liber Quarterly 20 (3/4): 347–56.

Moyle, Tonra, and Wallace outline the objectives of the Transcribe Bentham project from its initial stages. Transcribe Bentham hopes to harness the power of crowdsourcing to develop an open source repository of Jeremy Bentham’s manuscripts. Beyond digitizing and transcribing the manuscripts, the project aims to create a transcription interface, promote community volunteerism, and roll out a text encoding initiative (TEI) transcription tool, among other things. The authors work through the design concept for the transcription interface and the TEI toolbar, both of which are meant to mask the complexity of the markup. The project team hopes that this initiative will stimulate further public engagement in scholarly archives and that it will introduce Bentham’s work to new audiences.

+ Ridge, Mia. 2013b. “From Tagging to Theorizing: Deepening Engagement with Cultural Heritage through Crowdsourcing.” Curator: The Museum Journal 56 (4): 435–50.

Ridge reviews the relationship between crowdsourcing and cultural heritage material. She argues that public interaction with a museum or library’s holdings fosters participants’ sustained interest and satisfaction. Ridge surveys crowdsourcing in GLAM institutions (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums), and considers the difference between crowdsourcing and other user-generated content, like survey feedback. She outlines effective techniques for developing crowdsourcing projects, including the integration of games and conscientious design that employs appropriate scaffolding. Ridge underscores the importance of acknowledging crowdsourcing as a public engagement activity, even if the “crowd” and the project initiators never meet face-to-face.

+ Rockwell, Geoffrey. 2012b. “Crowdsourcing the Humanities: Social Research and Collaboration.” In Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities, edited by Marilyn Deegan and Willard McCarty, 135–55. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing.

Rockwell suggests that crowdsourcing and other community-involved projects offer a path for engaging publics more readily and reasserting the value of the humanities. He argues that regardless of one’s opinion on the role of collaboration in the humanities, scholars need to reconsider the prevalence and value of distributed knowledge, and of projects that purposefully facilitate social knowledge creation. To illustrate his claims, Rockwell provides examples of social knowledge creation projects he has been involved with, including the “Dictionary of Words in the Wild” and the “Day in the Life of the Digital Humanities” (now simply known as “Day of DH”). He nods to other commonly cited crowdsourcing projects like Wikipedia and Transcribe Bentham. Based on his experience, Rockwell offers advice for others undertaking crowdsourcing or social knowledge-based projects.

+ Ross, Stephen, Alex Christie, and Jentery Sayers. 2014. “Expert/Crowd-Sourcing for the Linked Modernisms Project.” Scholarly and Research Communication 5 (4).

Ross, Christie, and Sayers discuss the creation and evolution of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)-funded Linked Modernisms Project. The authors demonstrate how the project negotiates the productive study of both individual works and the larger field of cultural modernism through the use of digital, visual, and networked methods. Linked Modernisms employs a four-tier information matrix to accumulate user-generated survey data about modernist materials. The authors argue that the resulting information allows serendipitous encounters with data, and emphasizes discoverability. Linked Modernisms is focused on developing modes of scholarly publication that line up with the dynamic nature of the data and comply with the principles of open access.

* Terras, Melissa. 2017. “Crowdsourcing in the Digital Humanities.” In A New Companion to Digital Humanities, edited by Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth, 420–39. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Terras explains the role of digital crowdsourcing as a methodology for research on history, culture, heritage, and the humanities in general. She argues that scholars who work in digital humanities should support students who want to become a part of crowdsourcing and create a project in the field of humanities. Moreover, she believes that by encouraging more people to participate in projects related to the humanities we can create a better society that will be more aware of its cultural and social inheritance. Finally, Terras concludes that the development of crowdsourcing in this area can contribute to better access to information about heritage, history, and culture, and that this can, in turn, encourage a wider audience.

+ Walsh, Brandon, Claire Maiers, Gwen Nelly, Jeremy Boggs, and Praxis Program Team. 2014. “Crowdsourcing Individual Interpretations: Between Microtasking and Multitasking.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 29 (3): 379–86.

Walsh, Maiers, Nally, Boggs, et al. track the creation of Prism, an individual text markup tool developed by the Praxis Program at the University of Virginia. Prism was conceived in response to Jerome McGann’s call for textual markup tools that foreground subjectivity, as the tool illustrates how different groups of readers engage with a text. Prism is designed to assist with projects that blend two approaches to crowdsourcing: microtasking and macrotasking. A compelling quality of Prism is that it balances the constraint necessary for generating productive metadata with the flexibility necessary for facilitating social, negotiable interactions with the textual object. In that way, Prism is poised to redefine crowdsourcing in the digital humanities.

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