Tag Archives: culture change

The Big Brain Begins to Think

By Research Scholars Emily Monosson, Arika Virapongse  and Judy Daniels 

At the Ronin Institute, we’ve been working on a Big Brain project that intends to collect and share experiences and insights by scholars operating outside of traditional academic institutions. Our Big Brain project got off to a great start in early March 2021 with two MeetUp sessions.

For the first session, we used a Google Jamboard to brain-storm on different questions–it was a white-board post-it note combination where anyone could add a note to the board. We began with four questions based loosely around: Turning Points; Roadblocks; and Lessons/Solutions as an independent scholar. The last board was centered around Helpful thoughts and tips. For the second session, we spent time organizing the boards by grouping post-it notes together and making sense of them.

The boards are fascinating. Take a look. 

Turning points_Big Brain
Road Blocks_Big Brain Ronin
Lessons and Solutions_Big Brain_Ronin
Helpful thoughts_Big Brain Ronin

From this first MeetUp for the Big Brain, we realized that the questions we posed inadvertently suggested that independent scholars have problems that need solving, and that is why we are all here at the Ronin Institute. However, we learned that some of us are here as a sort of second or third phase of our career, for example, after leaving a full career in academia and elsewhere but still wanting to carry on with scholarship within a community.

One thing that became clear is that Ronin Research Scholars are a diverse group who value community. So, another task going forward from this session will be how to better facilitate community building, networking, and cohesion. In other words, how scholars might find others with the community with similar interests. Importantly, the MeetUp stimulated some great conversation that continued well after the event.

To continue with the Big Brain initiative, we’re planning to have monthly Big Brain sessions that will each focus on a theme that emerged from the boards and conversations. These themes will range from how to find logistical support to time-life management and grant writing.

This is all exciting! Stay tuned for more updates from the Big Brain.

A Simple Plan to Change the Way We Do Higher Education

By Ronin Research Scholar John Paulas

It is time to convert campuses to flourishing spaces for the communities where they are.

Higher education leaders are becoming increasingly aware of a truth that the last year’s catastrophes and social awakenings have accentuated. Colleges and universities have been running an operating deficit that has grown into a huge debt, a deficit of care. The culture of higher education is simply not driven by care for the people of its campus community, let alone the people of the community who live their lives outside its gates. 

As with all problematic systems, the culture, policies, and institutional structures are to blame for this situation, not individuals. However, the ailing culture manifests itself through the conscious and unconscious thoughts, words, and actions or inaction of any individual within the culture.

The ecological study of the “edge effect” has seen that increased biodiversity and interaction happens at the margins of habitats. Think of the border of the field and forest or a riverbank. Let’s make our campuses the real community junction that they can be rather than the pricey gated communities they have become.

A work culture that doesn’t work

Academic labor occurs as if in a monastery. Novices are trained in the culture of the traditional university. They are told from the beginning that only the few “good ones” will “make it” as tenured professors. The others must look elsewhere. Upon taking final vows, they experience firsthand the harsh reality that no place exists for them in any monastery. This discouraging “professional” culture affects all members of the academic community, placing value only on the monolithic outcome of the tenured faculty job, ignoring the individual hopes, intentions, and work of its people, and never seriously looking to the community beyond the monastery walls.

The fact that we can talk about “town–gown” relations, the language presupposing a natural tension, shows the non-organic relationship between communities and the campuses within them. For the knowledge production community to flourish in the future, all boundaries between campus and community must be erased. 

Incredible service done by employees who care is not only a nonstarter in hiring and promotion, but also a de facto impediment to both. This culture of the university must be repaired, and all relationships must be healed through the creation and maintenance of a healthy community. To produce a flourishing culture, care for humans and the practice of humaneness must be prioritized, while care for protecting abstraction, ideals, disciplines, attitudes, outlooks, etc., must be put aside. Attempts at “public outreach” are doomed from the start because of the deprioritizing of humane practice within the culture of higher education, and because the community beyond the campus could benefit from inroads but does not need a helping hand.

Continue reading A Simple Plan to Change the Way We Do Higher Education

Ronin Public Seminar: Open Science, Culture Change, and You

This seminar is part of the Ronin Institute Public Seminar Series, featuring our Research Scholars. We welcome members of the public, but please register ahead of time to get the meeting link.

Presenter: Bruce Caron, Ronin Institute Research Scholar

Date:  Jan 29, 2021
Time: 1:00-2:00 PM  US Eastern Time / 18:00-19:00 UTC (in your local time)
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Hosted by: John Paulas, Ronin Institute Research Scholar

Summary:
For open science to transform the academy, technology is not sufficient. Culture changes in hundreds (thousands) of academy organizations will need to be contemplated, discussed, argued, and implemented. But how do you, as a working scientist, become an open science culture change agent? Where do you start? What do you need to know? You already know that culture can work against your interests, and against the interests of scientific work (perverse incentives, etc.). How can you make culture work to nourish the new, transparent, open, generous, abundant, and kind outcomes that are the promise of open science.? Take a look at the Open Science Handbook.  It’s a reference work you can use to become an open science change agent in your department, laboratory, college, learned society, or research agency. The next step is to work together to build “play books” that capture the actual culture change experiments from organizations around the globe.  I’m looking for culture change agents who want to create collective intelligence around the work of culture change for open science!

Fun fact from Bruce: 
My database for this book has 3500 items with 24 million words.

Here is the recording of the seminar:


Questions about the seminar? Contact seminars@ronininstitute.org. See the list of past seminars, as well as some recordings on the Ronin Institute YouTube.