The most recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education features an article on independent scholarship. It profiles nine independent scholars, four of whom are Research Scholars here at the Ronin Institute (Patricia Appelbaum, Kristina Killgrove, Jay Ulfelder, and me).
If you have a subscription to the Chronicle, you can read the article here. Unfortunately, the article is behind the Chronicle’s paywall, which especially sucks since this will be of greatest interest to people who are maybe not in a position to pay for the subscription. For you, here are a few of the highlights:
First, here’s the succinct description of one of the main challenges faced by independent scholars:
Like traditional professors, [independent scholars] perform research, secure grants, and publish books and papers. In some cases, their work is having an impact on their disciplines, challenging established views and advancing knowledge in the field.
But independent scholars say their contributions are frequently discounted by tenured professors, who, as gatekeepers of scholarly conversations and the distribution of intellectual ideas, tend to exclude those who lack university credentials.
The work life of an independent scholar—with its freedom from the performance requirements of the tenure track—can be attractive to those with young children and those who can’t or don’t want to relocate for a faculty job. Yet theirs can be a spartan existence, lacking intellectual colleagues or recognition, a calling that most can afford to pursue only by working extra part-time jobs or relying on a partner’s income. The financial needs of independent scholars can also get in the way of academic freedom by limiting the kinds of questions they are able to ask and the projects they are willing to pursue.
The bulk of the article then focuses on the nine examples of independent scholars, who represent some of the diversity of motivations for people working outside of academia, as well as the diversity of models that people are pursuing to make independent scholarship work.
Near the end is a quote from our website, which sums up one of the primary goals of the Ronin Institute:
“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,” its Web site says. “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.”
Of course, the goal is not only to leverage this resource, but to allow would-be scholars (and would-be part-time scholars) to live more well rounded, fulfilling lives.
So grab your swords, all you Ronin!
This post is a perspective of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Ronin Institute.