Kitsune #1

The Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship
Issue #1 November / December 2014

You hold in your virtual hand the very first issue of Kitsune, the Ronin Institute Newsletter, which will allow me to share the latest research from our community of independent scholars as they reinvent academia.

The name Kitsune comes from the multi-tailed foxes from Japanese folklore, who serve as messengers for the Shinto spirit Inari. My hope is that they will also be willing to serve as messengers for the Ronin Institute.

Kitsune will be published six times a year, and it will highlight many of our programs, projects, and scholars. In this first issue, I want to start with our roots: the overarching vision for the Institute – why we need it, our mission, and how you can help out. I’ll let you know about the progress we’ve made in getting the Institute up and running and give you a brief overview of the growing body of research that is already being published under the Ronin Institute name.

With that, let’s get to know the Ronin Institute.

Scientiam Consecemus!

Jon F. Wilkins

President and Research Scholar

In this Issue

The Ronin Institute Vision | How to Help | Recent Progress | Publications | About

The Ronin Institute Vision

At the Ronin Institute, we are assembling a twenty-first century community of Research Scholars who are addressing the important and interesting questions that are now being neglected by universities, and who are doing it at a fraction of what it would cost in the old system. We hope that you will support us, or maybe even join us, as we endeavor to return scholarship to its fundamental core: taking smart, talented people who have profound expertise and passion, and helping them to push at the boundaries of human knowledge.

Since World War II, the predominant model of basic research has been one where the federal government provides the funding and universities carry out the work, to the point where being an active researcher became virtually synonymous with holding a faculty position at a university. But that system is fundamentally broken. Universities carry exoribant costs associated with extravagant facilities and bloated administrations, and the ongoing corporatization of universities is distorting decisions about which fields and questions receive resources and attention.

When a university researcher receives funding for a project, that funding comes with a substantial amount of “indirect” support, which is intended to pay for incidental costs, like electricity, facilities maintenance, and accounting. This overhead also supports things like luxury rec centers and ever-increasing administrative payrolls. Universities invest in expensive state-of-the-art facilities in order to attract grant money, but this increases their need for overhead money in the future.

The dependence on grant money — not just to support research, but to maintain the physical and administrative infrastructure — distorts decisions about hiring and promotion. The system does not necessarily reward the most important research. Rather, it too often promotes approaches that are most likely to be able to feed the university’s need for overhead. These problems have been compounded in recent years due to a general shift toward a more corporatized model. It is no longer simply that universities have large fixed costs that must be paid every year. Today, maximizing the flow of cash through the university is treated as a goal in itself.

The net result is that universities are no longer committed to asking the most interesting and challenging questions, except to the extent that those questions are also expensive. The system is still well suited to research questions that require expensive facilities, equipment, and reagents. However, there are many questions that will be answered not through expensive experiments, but through careful study and consideration by creative people with the sort of deep knowledge that only comes from years of immersion in a subject.

While the twenty-first century has seen accelerating growth in the problems associated with universities, it has also seen the development of tools needed to build a new path forward. In the past, being physically located at a university was critical for doing top-quality research, because it allowed you access to resources (like journals and books) and a community of like-minded experts. Today, that is no longer true. Information and colleagues are now accessible electronically. Virtual scholarly communities can be constructed for a fraction of the cost of the brick-and-mortar university system. While university research has also taken advantage of these new information and communication resources, it is hamstrung by its need to continue to financially support the old, twentieth-century infrastucture.

The transformation of academia underway at the Ronin Institute will return the focus to the core of scholarship: the quest to discover and share knowledge.

How to Help

If the vision of the Ronin Institute resonates with you, maybe you’re wondering what you can do. We are dependent on public support, and if you’re in a position to make a monetary donation, now or in the future, I hope you’ll consider us. Since we are a 501(c)3 nonprofit, donations are tax deductible. If you shop regularly at Amazon, you can help by using our Amazon Smile account. If you start your session using this link, Amazon will donate 0.5% of whatever you spend to the Ronin Institute.

Just as valuable is helping us to get the word out about this new vision for scholarship and about the great work already being done by our Research Scholars. If you know someone who might be interested, please feel free to pass this newsletter along to them, and encourage them to contact us, so that we can add them to our mailing list.

If you’re a researcher yourself, I would encourage you to take a look through our team of Research Scholars. Many of them are open to or actively seeking collaborations. Many would be eager to collaborate on grant proposals (and you’ll find them less expensive than your colleagues who are shackled to high-overhead univeristies). If you see someone whose expertise and interests complement your own, reach out to them. You never know what magic might hapen.

Keep our Research Scholars in mind for other opportunities as well, whether you’re looking for someone to referee a manuscript, serve on an editorial board, or write a commentary. Each of our Research Scholars has deep knowledge of and passion for their field, and many of them have fewer bureaucratic obligations than the typical academic.

Maybe you’re looking for someone to speak in a seminar series. Maybe you’re looking for an expert to consult on a project that your company is undertaking. Or maybe you need an expert opinion for a newspaper article you’re writing. These independent scholars represent an extraordinary resource. By making use of their knowledge and passion, not only will you be helping to support an alternative model of academic scholarship, but you just may find some hidden gems.

Recent Progress

The Ronin Institute was incorporated in February of 2012, and received its tax-exempt 501(c)3 status in the fall of that year. In the time since, we have made tremendous progress toward building an organization that can effectively support and connect independent scholars. A lot of this progress has been under-the-hood building and tinkering. We have focused on trying to understand where to focus our efforts to have the greatest impact, and we have put in place what we think is the “minimal viable bureaucracy” required to effectively acquire and manage funding to support our scholars’ research.

Our basic administrative apparatus is now in place, and Research Scholars have begun submitting grant proposals through the Institute. We are now moving on to the next phase, where we are exploring ways to build collaboration networks and opportunities to create innovative educational content.

Our current roster includes over sixty Research Scholars, who span the gamut of academic fields, from physics to biology to psychology to philosophy. They also represent the full diversity of approaches to scholarship that the Ronin Institute hopes to support and encourage. Some aim to work full time as independent scholars, while some are interested in what we call “fractional scholarship.” Some have day jobs that pay the bills and support their scholarship habit. Some even have regular university jobs, but are dedicated to creating an alternative path. All of these folks are fantastic, and I’ve loved getting to know them and their research.


The number of publication already out there featuring the Ronin Institute affiliation is a testament to the quality of our independent scholars. Here is a list of some recent Ronin Institute publications:

Articles & Chapters

Altenberg, L. (2013). Implications of the Reduction Principle for Cosmological Natural Selection. arXiv preprint arXiv:1302.1293.

Altenberg, L. (2014). Mathematics awaits: commentary on “Genetic programming and emergence” by Wolfgang Banzhaf. Genetic Programming and Evolvable Machines, 15(1), 87-89.

Belcheva, A., Irrazabal, T., Robertson, S. J., Streutker, C., Maughan, H., Rubino, S., … & Martin, A. (2014). Gut microbial metabolism drives transformation of Msh2-deficient colon epithelial cells. Cell, 158(2), 288-299.

Callier, V., & Nijhout, H. F. (2014). Plasticity of insect body size in response to oxygen: integrating molecular and physiological mechanisms. Current Opinion in Insect Science.

Flach, E., & Schnell, S. (2013). Varying chemical equilibrium gives kinetic parameters. bioRxiv

Konya, T., Koster, B., Maughan, H., Field, C. J., Chari, R. S., Sears, M. R., … & Azad, M. B. (2013). The Microflora Hypothesis Of Allergic Disease: Infant Gut Microbiota Profiles According To Early-Life Environmental Exposures. Am J Respir Crit Care Med, 187, A2529.

Kramp, J. M. (2013). Call of the Wild: The Negative Tendency in the Nature Religions of American Youth. Journal of religion and health, 1-15.

Lim, Y. W., Evangelista, J. S., Schmieder, R., Bailey, B., Haynes, M., Furlan, M., … & Conrad, D. (2014). Clinical insights from metagenomic analysis of sputum samples from patients with cystic fibrosis. Journal of clinical microbiology, 52(2), 425-437.

Lim, Y. W., Schmieder, R., Haynes, M., Furlan, M., Matthews, T. D., Whiteson, K., … & Rohwer, F. (2013). Mechanistic model of Rothia mucilaginosa adaptation toward persistence in the CF lung, based on a genome reconstructed from metagenomic data. PloS one, 8(5), e64285.

Quinn, Robert A., et al. Biogeochemical Forces Shape the Composition and Physiology of Polymicrobial Communities in the Cystic Fibrosis Lung. mBio 5.2 (2014): e00956-13.

Whiteson, K. L., Bailey, B., Bergkessel, M., Conrad, D., Delhaes, L., Felts, B., … & Rainey, P. B. (2014). The Upper Respiratory Tract as a Microbial Source for Pulmonary Infections in Cystic Fibrosis. Parallels from Island Biogeography. American journal of respiratory and critical care medicine, 189(11), 1309-1315.

Whiteson, K. L., Meinardi, S., Lim, Y. W., Schmieder, R., Maughan, H., Quinn, R., … & Rohwer, F. (2014). Breath gas metabolites and bacterial metagenomes from cystic fibrosis airways indicate active pH neutral 2, 3-butanedione fermentation. The ISME journal, 8(6), 1247-1258.

Wilkins, J. F. (2014). Costs and consequences of the conflict over infant sleep. Evolution, medicine, and public health, 2014(1), 63-64.

Wilkins, J. F. (2014). Genomic imprinting of grb10: coadaptation or conflict?. PLoS biology, 12(2), e1001800.


Callier, V., & Vanderford, N. L. (2014). Ailing academia needs culture change. Science (New York, NY), 345(6199), 885-885.

Callier, V., & Vanderford, N. L. (2014). Mission possible: putting trainees at the center of academia’s mission. Nature biotechnology, 32(6), 593-594.

Balch, C., Arias-Pulido, H., et al. (2014). Science and technology consortia in U.S. biomedical research: A paradigm shift in response to unsustainable academic growth. BioEssays (Early View).

Book Reviews

Kramp, J. M. (2013). At Home in the World: A Study in Psychoanalysis, Religion, and Art. By Donald Capps. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2013. Pp. vi+ 188. $23.00. Religious Studies Review, 39(3), 151-152.

Kramp, J. M. (2014). Counseling the Hard Cases: True Stories Illustrating the Sufficiency of God’s Resources in Scripture. Edited by Stuart Scott and Heath Lambert. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2012. Pp. vii+ 318. $21.79. Religious Studies Review, 40(1), 19-19.

Kramp, J. M. (2014). Dementia: Living in the Memories of God. By John Swinton. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012. Pp. vii+ 298. $25.00. Religious Studies Review, 40(1), 19-20.

Kramp, J. M. (2013). George W. Bush and the Redemptive Dream: A Psychological Portrait. By Dan P. McAdams. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. x+ 274. $29.95. Religious Studies Review, 39(1), 22-22.

Kramp, J. M. (2013). Nature’s Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism. By Robert S. Corrington. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. Pp. ix+ 215. $53.05. Religious Studies Review, 39(3), 152-152.

Kramp, J. M. (2014). Spiritual Care at the End of Life: The Chaplain as a “Hopeful Presence”. By Steve Nolan. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. Pp. 160. $29.95. Religious Studies Review, 40(1), 19-19.

Kramp, J. M. (2013). Tiny Terror: Why Truman Capote (Almost) Wrote Answered Prayers. By William Todd Schultz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. vii+ 175. $17.95. Religious Studies Review, 39(2), 73-74.

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.

We depend on public support. If you are in a position to do so, please consider making a donation. The Ronin Institute is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, so your donation will be tax deductible to the full extent allowed by law.

If you know someone who might be interested in the Ronin Institute, please feel free to forward this newsletter on to them. If you want to stop receiving this newsletter, click here, and we’ll take care of it.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Contact Kitsune and Let us know.