Have academics lost the arts of rhetoric and public engagement? Is engaging the public a part of their mandate at all? These questions were implicitly raised in essayist Scott McLemee’s overview of communication professor Anna M. Young’s book Prophets, Gurus, and Pundits: Rhetorical Styles and Public Engagement, which examines different types of public intellectuals. McLemee’s tongue-in-cheek piece, which promises to be part of a series, has not provided answers one way or another, but simply raising these questions is sure to pull in strong opinions from academics across the spectrum.
One such opinion comes from Tim Hitchcock, Professor of Digital History at the University of Sussex (UK). On LSE’s Impact of Social Sciences blog, Hitchcock writes that “the role of the academic humanist has always been a public one.” He considers social media, blogs, and public writing to be part of his job, and a reflection of the passion that underpins academic research.
An article in Times Higher Education has reiterated that research published in open access journals is read and cited more often than that which is only available to subscribers. Meanwhile, open access policies in Canada have come under critique by Julia M. Wright, English professor at Dalhousie University.
Wright is concerned about the consequences of federal grants that require open access publishing as a condition for research funding, especially in light of high APCs. Wright fears that his will lead to the “transfer of considerable funds from federal research councils to the large multinational publishers who charge some very high APCs.” In addition, high APCs exclude researchers who do not have the grant money to pay these costs from publishing in open access journals. If the goal is open access, then public money should instead be spent on supporting Canadian journals with low APCs, Wright suggests.
In quirkier news, hitchBOT, the hitchhiking robot, has started his journey from Halifax to Victoria. hitchBOT, who claims to be “a free-spirited robot who wants to explore Canada and meet new friends along the way,” was conceived by communication professors David Smith (McMaster) and Frauke Zeller (Ryerson), and built with the help of a team of students from diverse academic backgrounds. The heart-winning robot, who raises the question of whether robots can trust humans, is “influenced by both the sciences and humanities.”
Stay tuned for an interview with professors Smith and Zeller in upcoming weeks, to hear what they have to say about the relationship between the sciences and humanities.