Monday, March 23, 2015

Institutional Affiliation or Itinerant Scholar?

Rebecca, the other, posted a question on Twitter on #adjunctchat, and later on wrote a little more in length on her blog about this question: What is the value in affiliation? More specifically:
In our new world of adjunctification and alt-metrics, does an affiliation matter? Am I better to declare myself as an itinerant scholar than a scholar associated with a particular university? What is the value of the affiliation, especially when the institution isn’t providing any resources to support the project?
Just to start off, I like the idea of the Itinerant or Nomadic Scholar. I suppose that this notion of nomadism has sort of stuck with me from my work with cMOOCs, and I see nomadic scholars as an extension of this idea. So, the question is what is the value of affiliation?  I think it depends. If you are doing certain types of research, even if the University doesn't support you as a researcher-scholar due to the nature of your adjunct employment, there may be doors that you can open simply by dropping a name. Now, that name doesn't have to go in your final scholarship, but claiming some affiliation at the onset of a research project can help in getting things started.

I would argue that when a scholar reports their institutional affiliation in published research, in those instances, it is the University that benefits from this reporting. The university can count on the name brand recognition it receives when scholarship is penned under the auspices of that university.  When tenured faculty publish (or even if your institution doesn't have tenure, but has some other method of permanence), then it makes sense to publish under the name of that university. The university has hired you to teach, research and publish, and to provide service.  This, I would say, is expected from the terms of your employment.  For adjuncts however, who are only hired to teach specific courses, they aren't hired with research or service in mind.  In cases like these I think that it's not fair for a university to claim some glory from the work of nomadic researchers that they didn't support.  One may argue that they are "supporting" research by hiring that scholar to teach, however I don't see it this way.  I think that if universities want a shot at the limelight they need to support research of adjuncts.

In my case, I am an adjunct at the university where I am employed full time.  My day-job is flexible enough, and appreciative of research, that if I needed some time "on the job" to finish off a paper submission that is due tomorrow, I could do it on the clock without any hassle. It helps that I keep on-top of my regular duties, too - but working on research outside of the scope of my duties isn't frowned upon.  In this instance I do get support from work, measured in time "off" from work, to support my research, so I am more than happy to put the University's name as my affiliation (as much as I like the Nomadic Scholar title).

If I were an adjunct, and taught at a few schools, I would most likely claim the Itinerant Scholar status, and if any research support was given to me from a specific institution, I would put that in an acknowledgements section.  The reason for this is as follows: being employed by more than one institution of higher education is problematic.  If you put one institution down, instead of another, you might be seen as playing favorites, and in future semesters you might be asked to choose your place of employment - us or them.  This is an unfair position to put an adjunct, so the acknowledgements section of published work is a mid-way point.  You acknowledge any help or support received by the institution without making them the marquee. This way you can sidestep issues of people asking why University A was mentioned as the affiliation and not University B but still give a tip of the hat to the appropriate entities.

At the end of the day I think that the current adjunct system is not a good way forward, and higher education needs to address this adjunct issue.  Your thoughts on this?
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