Kitsune #5

The Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship
Issue #5 December 2016
Greetings!Here’s the latest issue of Kitsune, straight from our offices to your inbox! As always, you can find previous issues on the Ronin Institute website. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, just send us an e-mail at, and we’ll add you.
Scientiam Consecemus!

In this Issue

Year-End Donation Time | The Future of Careers in Scholarship

Ronin on Social Media | Post-Election Message | Publications | About

Year-End Donation Time

The end of 2016 is fast approaching, so this is a good time to remind you that the Ronin Institute is a publicly supported 501(c)3, your donations are tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law. So donate now to get that deduction for this year’s return. You can donate online by visiting our website, or you can go straight to our JustGive page. Or, you can give by check made out to the Ronin Institute and mailed to Ronin Institute, 127 Haddon Pl, Montclair, NJ 07043.

If you are interested in specifically directing your donation to our Conference Scholarships program, you can select the Conference Scholarships option under “Program”. If you make your donation by check, indicate “Conference Scholarships” on the memo line. Remember that the members of the board are offering a matching donation $1000 if we can reach $3000 in donations to this program by the end of the year.

Unconference: The Future of Careers in Scholarship

On November 5, the Ronin Institute hosted its first unconference at The Democracy Center in Cambridge, MA. The theme of the event was “The Future of Careers in Scholarship”. The day kicked off with short talks by three invited speakers, but the bulk of the meeting followed an “unconference” format, where small-group discussions were organized around topics proposed by the attendees.

Sonia Hall spoke about some of the current patterns in academic job opportunities, including statistics collected by the folks at the Future of Research. Jessica Ehinger described patterns and lessons she has learned from her work with recent PhDs who are looking to pursue alternative career paths. Raquell Holmes drew on her experience using improv to work with scientific groups to talk about how we can build the types of communities we want to be a part of.

In the first round of group discussions, participants were encouraged to think about the challenges of pursuing scholarly careers in today’s environment. Most of the discussions focused specifically on the challenges facing people working outside of the traditional academic system. While the various discussion groups were organized around different specific questions, the conversations converged, with each group identifying the same core set of needs. First, and most obviously, scholars need a degree of financial support to allow them the time to pursue their work. Second, scholars need access to intellectual resources: this includes things like access to library resources, but equally important is participation in an intellectual community, something that is easy to take for granted in a traditional academic career.

In the second round of discussions, participants focused on brainstorming solutions, or at least strategies, to address some of the challenges identified in the first session. These discussions led to a number of different interesting suggestions of ways to enhance the connections among our community. We are already looking at how we can implement some of those ideas.

The discussions were enthusiastic and vigorous, and we were thrilled with how the entire event played out. In fact, many of the participants were not ready to go home at the end of the day, and many of them were able to stick around afterwards for dinner and then drinks.

We are assembling a more detailed report from the unconference, and that will be posted to the website, so keep an eye out for that.

We were thrilled to have support from a number of generous sponsors, allowing us to keep the event affordable for participants. We wanted, once again, to thank them for helping us to make this event a reality.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a leader in the promotion and understanding of entrepreneurship. They have asked us to help to get the word out about an open position: they are currently seeking a Research and Policy Director to lead an interdisciplinary research program focused on understanding the conditions that best support entrepreneurs and the policies that can foster those condition. It is a great opportunity for a broad thinker, who could come from any of a number of fields. To find out more, visit the announcement site.

The Society of Professional Consultants is a Boston-area organization that helps individuals to establish themselves as independent consultants and helps established consultants to maintain successful careers.

Ronin Institute Research Scholars Gordon Webster and Alex Lancaster are the principals of Amber Biology, working at the intersection of biology and computer science. Their new book is Python for the Life Sciences.

Ronin Institute Research Scholar Anne Thessen is the principal of The Data Detektiv, which specializes in custom data analysis and interference in the biological and geophysical domains.

Research Scholar and Board Member Steven Orzack is the founder of the Fresh Pond Research Institute, which served as one of the inspirational models for the Ronin Institute.

Check in with the Ronin Institute Blog and Events page for information about future events. If you or your organization is interested in pursuing the possibility of putting together a joint event, reach out to us at

Ronin on Social Media

If you’re not already following it, you should know that the Ronin Institute now has its own twitter account: @RoninInstitute, so check it out! You can also keep up with the Ronin Institute Facebook, LinkedIn, ResearchGate, &, and, yes, Google Plus.

Our Post-Election Message

What follows is a letter that was sent out to all of the Ronin Institute Research Scholars in the wake of the US Presidential election on November 8. It is an attempt to reiterate the values upon which the Institute was founded and the expectations we should have for ourselves and each other.

Greetings Ronin!

On Tuesday, Donald Trump became the president-elect of the United States. We won’t understand all of the consequences of that for some time. However, it seems unlikely to mean anything good for scholarship. There is good reason to worry that there will be negative impacts on funding, and it is possible that certain types of research could come under more directed attack. For some of you, there may be more personal and immediate dangers – things lower down on the Maslow hierarchy than publication expenses.

The Ronin Institute is a 501(c)3, meaning that we are specifically prohibited from lobbying for or against any candidate or piece of legislation, so we can’t, as an institution, take explicitly political positions. At the same time, we do have a certain set of values, values that are clearly at odds with much of the rhetoric and actions of the Trump campaign and its supporters. Given the way in which the violation of those values – and of many, many societal norms – has been mainstreamed and normalized in the media over the past several months, I think it is worth reiterating our commitment to our two cardinal values here.

The first value is truth. This is the core value of all scholarship. It means being careful and thorough in your research, and it means being clear and honest in your communication. It also means being open to the possibility of being wrong, and it means working every day to be less wrong. As we move further into what seems to be a post-truth period in politics, it is more important than ever for us to commit ourselves to uncovering truths and sharing them with the world.

The second value is empathy. That means treating each other with kindness and generosity, recognizing that other people may have goals and face challenges that are different from your own. And that entails a genuine commitment to diversity. No matter how much bigotry and harassment may become (further) normalized and (further) institutionalized in the coming months and years, they remain unacceptable here. And no, before you ask, valuing tolerance does not mean that we have to be tolerant of intolerance. If you think this sounds excessively naive or soft-headed or stereotypically liberal, this may not be the right community for you.

I’m not saying you have to be perfect in execution every time with these things. But you do have to be striving towards them in good faith.

Finally, I want to remind everyone that the Ronin Institute is a community, created specifically so that we can help each other to pursue our individual and collective goals. Normally, we think of this in the scholarly domain – exchanging intellectual ideas, or brainstorming solutions to problems like library access – but I want to encourage everyone to think also in the human domain. This election has brought an ugly part of our society out into the open, and for a lot of people, the country feels less safe than it did a few days ago. Unfortunately, given the incidents that have already occurred around the country, that feeling is probably accurate. The fact is that many people, particularly minority groups – both visible and invisible – are in a much more precarious position now.

I know that many of you don’t know each other, but here’s the thing: I have had at least some interaction with each of you, and we have a fantastic group of folks here. I don’t know what kinds of support people are going to need in the coming weeks, months, and years, but I do know that we have a lot of people who will do what they can to provide that support. So, if there is something that you or others in your community need, please ask. If there is something you can provide, please offer. This, by the way, would be a great use of that Slack account you’ve been ignoring!

Now let’s get to work!

Scientiam consecemus!

Jon Wilkins
Ronin Institute


Here’s a sampling of some of the recent work by the independent scholars of the Ronin Institute:

Articles & Chapters

Bayoumi R, De Fanti S, Sazzini M, Giuliani C, Quagliariello A, Bortolini E, Boattini A, Al-Habori M, Al-Zubairi AS, Rose JI, & Romeo G (2016) Positive selection of lactase persistence among people of Southern Arabia American Journal of Physical Anthropology 161:676-684.

Bittar TB, Berger SA, Birsa LM, Walters TL, Thompson ME, Spencer RGM, Mann EL, Stubbins A, Frischer ME, & Brandes JA (2016) Seasonal dynamics of dissolved, particulate and microbial components of a tidal saltmarsh-dominated estuary under contrasting levels of freshwater discharge. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 182:72-85.

Dent CL, Humby T, Lewis K, Plagge A, Fischer-Colbrie R, Wilkins JF, Wilkinson LS, & Isles AR (2016) Impulsive choices in mice lacking imprinted Nesp55. Genes, Brain and Behavior 15:693-701.

Desai S (2016) Do pulsar radio fluxes violate the inverse-square law. Astrophysics and Space Science 361:1-9.

Desai S & Liu DW (2016) A search for evidence of solar rotation in Super-Kamiokande solar neutrino dataset Astroparticle Physics 82:86-92.

Fischer DT, Still CJ, Ebert CM, Baguskas SA, & Park Williams A (2016) Fog drip maintains dry season ecological functionin a California coastal pine forest. Ecosphere 7:e01364.

Gandy L, Gumm J, Fertig B, Kennish MJ, Chavan S, Thessen A, Marchionni L, Xia X, Shankrit S, & Fertig EJ (2016) Synthesizer: Expediting synthesis studies from context-free data with natural language processing. bioRxiv 053629.

Kennedy TJ & Sundberg C (2017) International Perspectives and Recommendations on Equity and Gender: Development Studies in Science Education. Science Education: A Global Perspective (pp.295-311) Springer International Publishing.

Landeen EL, Muirhead CA, Wright L, Meiklejohn CD, & Presgraves DC (2016) Sex Chromosome-wide Transcriptional Suppression and COmpensatory Cis-Regulatory Evolution Mediate Gene Expression in the Drosophila Male Germline. PLoS Biology 14:e1002499.

Patterson D, Mozzherin D, Shorthouse D, & Thessen A (2016) Challenges with using names to link digital biodiversity information. Biodiversity Data Journal 4:e8080.

Sapp SGH, Rascoe LN, Wilkins PP, Handali S, Gray EB, Eberhard M, Woodhall DM, Montgomery SP, Bailey KL, Lankau EW, & Yabsley MJ (2016) Baylisascaris procyonis Roundworm Seroprevalence among Wildlife Rehabilitators, United States and Canada, 2012-2015. Emerging Infectious Diseases 22:2128-2131.

Youn H, Sutton L, Smith E, Moore C, Wilkins JF, Maddieson I, Croft W, & Bhattacharya T (2016) On the universal structure of human lexical semantics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:1766-1771.

Opinion and Reviews

Lancaster A (2016) Given frustrations with academic structures, how can we build a more human-centered open science? Impact of Social Sciences Blog 2016 Jul 26.

About the Ronin Institute

The Ronin Institute is dedicated to building an alternative model of academic scholarship outside of the traditional university system. To learn more, visit us at or send us email.

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