Sunday 6 January 2013

This Is What's Known As Enlightened Self-Interest...

Hi, again.
     As some of you may know I'm what's known as an independent researcher [=unemployed, =broke, =intellectually starved, =begger on foot wishing for a horse]. That's why my eye was caught last year when I read about the activities of one Dr. Jon F. Wilkins. He was reaching out to the media on behalf of his ingenious idea to establish independent scholarship as a viable and indeed valuable branch of the academy [albeit a never-watered and unfertilized twig until now]. After some arm-twisting and under-the-table inducements I was accepted as one of the inaugural class of research scholars affiliated with the Ronin Institute of Independent Scholarship. Among his other achievements, Dr. Wilkins has worked to obtain not-for-profit status for the nascent organization. That work recently paid off, and now Jon is launching a fund-raising endeavor. I must admire his commitment, and his vision for the likes of me.
     I'm keenly aware that I've stuck out my hat to you before now, so please don't consider the following to be a direct effort to milk you again, kind reader. Rather, as Jon points out in this statement, the aim is to reach small and large philanthropists so as to one day secure a lasting, indeed self-renewing means of support to promote the kind of meaningful research that non-academic scholars are more than capable of producing. Take note that the following is in the first person. So, don't forget what region of virtual reality you're perched, and that way you can't be confused by the self-references that don't fully jibe with the present context!
     Ladies and gennlemen... may I introduce Jon Wilkins.

Happy New Year,

I wanted to take just a moment to introduce you to my new venture, the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship.

I founded the Ronin Institute in 2012 in order to create a new model for doing scholarly research outside of the traditional academic system. While the traditonal system has a number of strengths, it also comes with serious limitations. These limitations include artifical barriers to interdisciplinary research and collaboration arising from departmental boundaries, large bureaucratic and teaching loads placed on faculty, and the financial demands involved in supporting the infrastructure of the university.

The fact is, in many fields, the independent scholar with access to library resources can pursue research at the highest levels, often at a fraction of the cost of a university researcher. Furthermore, in the United States alone, there are tens of thousands of underemployed PhDs, representing a vast, untapped resource. We are identifying the most highly motivated independent scholars and working to ensure that they are able to make productive use of their expertise.

At the moment, there are about twenty five Ronin Institute Research Scholars, representing fields from Physics to Biology to History to Philosophy. A number of us are engaged in full-time research. Others are pursuing a model of "fractional scholarship," engaging part time in academic research while working at another career, fulfilling family obligations, etc. Our goal is to create new career paths and funding opportunities to support a diversity of ways of engaging in scholarship.

This fall, we recieved approval of our 501c3 nonprofit status from the IRS, meaning that we are now ready to move forward with raising funds to support individual projects, help send independent scholars to conferences, and providing small pilot grants to help to restart research programs for people who have taken time off (e.g., to have kids).

I am hoping that you might be able to help us out, if not now, then at some point in the future. This could mean a financial donation, of course, and if you're inclined to donate, you can do so online ( ), or visit the Ronin Institute Donation page ( ). We are strongly dedicated to following donor intent. If you would like to discuss directing your donation towards a specific project or program, feel free to contact us at

Alternatively, maybe you know someone who is a highly motivated independent scholar, and you would like to point them in our direction. Or maybe you are looking for a collaborator on an upcoming project, in which case you might have a look through the list of our Research Scholars ( ), some of whom are actively seeking out collaborations, and all of whom are open to collaborating on the right project.

To find out more about the Ronin Institute more generally, you can check us out on the web, on Facebook and on Google+:

If you're more of a listener, you can check out this radio interview that I did with WBUR in Boston over the summer ( )

You can also contact me with any questions you might have at

Wishing all the best for you in 2013,
Jon Wilkins

     Okay. You can return your attention to me, now. I realize that phrases like "make productive use of [Gargett's] expertise" might not be the first thing that whistles through your head with regard to my oeuvre when you're reading this blog. However, Jon Wilkins knows that I harbour deep within me the desire to make a greater contribution to this mixed-up discipline that we collectively refer to as archaeology. As you'll discover in the months and years to come, I have something to offer every age and species, every sub-discipline and field of anthropology, every corner of the past world. It's all there, just waiting for an unsuspecting audience to stumble upon my ravings.
     I'm glad you're along for the ride, even if you can't afford me!

SA announces new posts on the Subversive Archaeologist's facebook page (mirrored on Rob Gargett's news feed), on Robert H. Gargett's page, Rob Gargett's twitter account, and his Google+ page. A few of you have already signed up to receive email when I post. Others have subscribed to the blog's RSS feeds. You can also become a 'member' of the blog through Google Friend Connect. Thank you for your continued patronage. You're the reason I do this.

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