Thursday 31 May 2012

Scholar Gypsies Take Heart: The Ronin Institute Might Be the Place For You

I feature John Hawks's weblog on the Subversive Archaeologist's blogroll. Usually I can look to it for more grist. But this morning I came across a recent entry that pointed me to an article in the Boston Globe, 'The Ronin Institute for wayward academics.' 
     I almost dropped my [authorized, logo imprinted] official SA regalia coffee mug. For there, in front of me, was, if not the answer to my dreams, at least a possibility of the road forward. The article discusses the fate of too many PhDs, not just the ones who're cold-shouldered by the establishment. New ones. Ones that have been teaching part time for years, if not forever. I know some of them. Hi, Jonathan. Hi, Kathy. Those who've never held an academic position but who wish they could do research, just the same.
     Dr. Jon Wilkinson, a theoretical evolutionary biologist in Montclair, NJ, has launched the Ronin Institute to foster a new paradigm of the academy. His hope is to provide an institutional affiliation for those of us without one, and a new academic niche, that of the 'fractional scholar.' This is the proverbial ray of hope for the likes of me, because without that coveted institutional affiliation there's little to no chance that research funds would ever come their way, much less the wherewithal to attend meetings and hang out with the grown-ups.
     Wilkinson needs support of all kinds for this endeavour, and is busily looking for patrons and funding. But the real engine of his enterprise, it seems to me, will be the calibre of the scholars chosen and their ability to prove that the old structure could do with a re-jig--that it's not just tenured university professors who have the requisite expertise and time to do research. Those of us with full-time day jobs would, I'd bet give small bits of their anatomy for the chance to work evenings and weekends on something they love, rather than watching American Idol or weeding the garden [or drinking inexpensive California chardonnay while sitting around complaining about the work everybody else is doing]. So, I say 'Pave the garden over and throw the TV away!'  'Let's raise Jon Wilkinson on our shoulders, and run around in circles in a pre-emptive victory lap!'
     Where do I sign up? Here's where:
     And, yes, the institute's name is taken from Japanese history.
The term originated in the Nara and Heian periods, when it referred to a serf who had fled or deserted his master's land. It then came to be used for a samurai who had lost his master. (Hence, the term "wave man" illustrating one who is socially adrift.) -Wikipedia [of course!]

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  1. I love it. Go for it. But be aware that I am the founding Editor of the Journal of Negative Results. We have only one editorial policy. "If a paper is accepted for publication, it is automatically disqualified." I fear your new academic affiliation might disqualify you from membership of the very organisation you have become a member of. This is much more powerful than Groucho's disqualification. By the way, do you want to be on the editorial board of JoNR?

  2. If I were to be on the board, you might actually have to publish something. You know, don't you, that the last piece I accepted was On the Origin of Species. Since then it's been all downhill.

  3. Interesting idea indeed. I get the feeling America is really restrictive when it comes to papers and conferences, going on what I have heard from post-grad students from the colonies. At least in the UK things aren't as restrictive and anyone who can write to a good enough standard, be it amateur archaeologist, contract staff or enthusiast, has a shot at getting published. As for getting a decent job and actually getting funded to write or research... well I'll let you know if I ever break into that exclusive club!

  4. @Stuart. I'm not so certain that your perception of American scholarship isn't a by-product of the white lab-coat syndrome. It seems to me that if you have a site (which you couldn't get without funding) you can say just about anything. And if you have a good academic address you're away as well. I'm beginning to get the impression that referees are either star-stricken or at a minimum susceptible to the glamour effect (when they're not simply out of their league or incapable of following an argument and recognizing a fallacious one). Thanks for dropping by. Cheers.


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