It’s safe to say that this is a year that will not easily be forgotten. Let me count the ways: COVID-19 (!!), waking up to the reality of racism, political exhaustion by the one who shall not be named, and about a decade of economic breakdown all happening in one year. But there is a shining light here! The Ronin Institute. 🙂
This is a summary of what WE have collectively accomplished this year.
At the end of 2019, we established a new governance structure for the Ronin Institute. It was based on lots of community input, and marked the start of a whole new era for our Institute. In one of our working documents used to plan our new Governance structure, we described our status at the time as:
[The Ronin Institute] governance model consists of Jon doing most of the bureaucratic work of running the institute in conjunction with a few other Research Scholars helping out from time to time on specific tasks… (Sept 2019)
That is pretty much how it used to work: Jon Wilkins did almost 99% of everything at Ronin.
It’s certainly not like that anymore. Arika Virapongse is now around to share the weight by helping to structure and be responsive to the community. Importantly, there are 6 Working Groups (WGs: Governance, Communications, Infrastructure, Events, Membership, and Research) with committed leadership and members, an Advisory Board composed of WG leads, activity leads within the working groups, and a good number of volunteers for one-off activities (e.g., seminar hosts, planning special events).
We have 18 interest groups, ranging from Math-Physics to Book Admirers to Open Science, and each one of these has a lead. In addition to these folks, we have had 17 Research Scholar seminar speakers, and innumerable Scholars who have participated in events and on our weekly #watercooler on Slack and Coffee Chats on Remo. There are also many Ronin Research Scholars who use the Ronin Institute as an affiliation on their papers and presentations, and apply for grants to be administered by the Institute. We are proud to say that we welcome and are grateful for the contributions of everyone in our community–in any way that feels most right for them.
Here are other wins for us this year:
Our institutional values of Truth and Empathy have proven themselves to be the bedrock of every decision that we make at the Ronin Institute. We also continue to develop the principles that help to guide how we function as an institute and community and who we are. Here are the ones that we’ve figured out so far, and we look forward to sharing others with you in the coming year:
- Minimal viable everything: bureaucracy, infrastructure, work, outside expertise
- Everyone Drives a Truck
- Pay it Forward
We are a thriving community of about 375 Research Scholars representing 47 countries, and we continue to grow. We pretty evenly represent the life sciences (31%), math & computational sciences (30%), and social sciences (26%), while we have a little more catching up to do in arts & humanities (13%).
We are a far-flung communicative bunch thanks to Slack. Just take a look at our trend line for 2020!
Our first Code of Conduct was developed through thoughtful community input over several months and rounds of feedback from the whole Ronin Institute community via the Membership WG.
The action the Membership WG has taken towards inclusion, equity, and care in the Code of Conduct and in member on-boarding and development has made me happiest. Foremost in our minds has been the idea that all who need and want to join the Ronin Institute are welcomed into the community and have an environment in which to thrive. — John Paulas, Membership WG lead
We’ve developed so many events this year to help our community interact and share, including unconferences, speed networking, and public seminars. We’ve also stood up some regular community spaces for interacting, like our #watercooler chat on Slack and Coffee Chat on Remo that both meet every Tuesday (via the Events WG).
We have laid the groundwork for more scholars to participate in the Ronin Institute through communication opportunities, from contributing to the newsletter and the blog, Community Journalism, and welcoming our first Community Journalist this year. We also have exciting plans for our landing page, updating it with videos of scholars, so we can let the world know who we are, what we do, and why Ronin! — Emily Monosson, Communication WG lead
Our institutional communications have been busy this year producing 5 newsletters, weekly Updates since March 2020, blog posts almost every month, developing guidelines for Ronin Institute communications, and a coordinated effort at leveraging our social media (via the Communication WG).
As a virtual institute, we’ve been staying on top of our infrastructure by continuing to fine-tune our use of tools. Importantly, we’ve created better processes for solving tech issues, updating our website, trying new tools, and planning our next improvements (via the Infrastructure WG).
We’re happy that we’ve managed to keep the Ronin website, our conferencing tools (Zoom), and communication platforms (Slack) operational through COVID-19. We’re also having fun experimenting with new virtual platforms like Remo, Gather, Omniscope, and Discord. We’re making more baby steps towards distributing tasks across more Research Scholars — we would love to get more folks involved, so please reach out. — Alex Lancaster & Vesta Korniakova, Infrastructure WG leads
We continue to make progress on our Research support for Research Scholars. We’re developing structures to help support peer-to-peer review of proposals, and next year we hope to have our Research Ethics Guidelines hammered out (via the Research WG).
We’ve been collaboratively working hard on development of an Institutional Research Board (IRB) that will help many of our members overcome at least one obstacle in their research. — Michelle Susberry Hill, Research WG lead
Most importantly, Ronin Institute Research Scholars have had numerous publications, speaking events, interviews, spotlights, and more. Scholars have published more than 40 peer reviewed publications this year, and those are just the ones that we know about (via all of you!)
So that is it for 2020. Despite the challenges in the world as we have known it, it has been pretty exciting times for the Ronin Institute. We’ve really hit our stride. Next year, we hope to have lots more to show for all our hard work in laying the foundation for the Institute to grow in all the right ways. Our goal is to reinvent academia so that is equitable, accessible, and inclusive. I’d say that we are well on our way!
– Arika Virapongse, Research Scholar & Community Director of the Ronin Institute
This post is a perspective of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Ronin Institute.