The Ronin Institute Vision
The Ronin Institute is reinventing academia, but without the academy.
The Ronin Institute is creating a new model for scholarly research that recognizes that the world outside of traditional academia is filled with smart, educated, passionate people who have a lot to offer to the world of scholarship. We aim to transform the way that scholarly research is coordinated and funded. Ultimately, we want anyone who is interested in pursuing high-quality scholarly research to be able to do so. Moreover, we want these people to be able to pursue their research in a way that is consistent with all of their life’s priorities.
Read more about our specific programs here.
Our Philosophy, Goals, and Values
This seminar, presented in honor of the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Institute, provides an in-depth overview of our principles and values.
Broadening the pool
There has been a lot of talk recently about the “crisis” in higher education, where we, as a society, produce many more PhDs than there are academic jobs to employ them. Of course, in some fields, like biology and engineering, industry provides many jobs for those with advanced degrees. However, there are tens of thousands of people in the United States alone who have advanced degrees, yet do not have jobs that are making use of their knowledge and passion. We are creating structures that will leverage this vast, underutilized resource, putting underemployed scholars to work doing what they are most passionate about.
A more humane approach to scholarship
The career of the traditional academic researcher has become increasingly time-consuming and all-encompassing. Academics work long hours and face demands that can be difficult to meet for many. For some, health or family considerations make the academic lifestyle untenable. Some scholars take time off to have children, and have difficulty moving back into the traditional academic career path. Of course, for many people, the long academic work week is not just challenging, but undesirable.
There are many legitimate reasons why people might choose not to pursue the standard academic career path. However, many of these people still want the opportunity to do high quality scholarly research. For some, the ideal would be to pursue their research in a part-time capacity, in order to leave time for another part-time job, for family, or just for other interests. We are creating mechanisms to support such part-time scholars, allowing people to pursue their research in ways that work for them, as part of a complete, well rounded life.
The most important discoveries in any field emerge from a combination of knowledge, passion, and creativity. Transformative, paradigm-shifting insights occur when scholars approach their subject from a new perspective. Often, that new perspective derives from the individual scholar’s life experience. Unfortunately, the demands of the traditional academic career severely constrain the set of life experiences that can be brought to bear. We are creating avenues for people with a broader set of experiences to contribute to academia.
Getting scholars back to work
Many people start off on track for an academic career, but wind up taking an extended hiatus — for health reasons, to have a family, or simply due to burn-out. In the current structure of academia, taking a break usually winds up meaning leaving academia forever. Restarting a productive research career requires coming back up to speed on the state of the field, establishing new contacts and collaborations, and reestablishing a track record of productivity. We aim to support lapsed scholars wanting to restart their research careers by providing a community of like-minded researchers, as well as funds to support travel to conferences and small pilot projects to help them get back on their feet.
Connecting independent scholars
One of the challenges to pursuing scholarship outside of the traditional academic context is working in isolation. Scholars need a community of people with whom they can share ideas. One of the advantages of the university setting is that these people are typically right down the hall. We are using online tools to connect independent scholars, allowing them to share and critique each other’s ideas, find and develop collaborations, and share their experiences.
A more efficient model of scholarship
The model of independent scholarship that we are developing will be more efficient than the old model, as well. Unlike the traditional academic researcher, the independent scholar has low overhead costs, and is able to devote almost all of their time to research. Consider the independent, part-time scholar, who is funded to pursue research for twenty hours each week. All twenty hours of his or her funded time is spent on research. Compare that with the traditional academic, who is paid full time, works long hours, but is only able to spend a small fraction of his or her time on research. Compared with the traditional alternative, the independent scholar costs less money, and spends more time on scholarship.