Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In defense of multi-author papers (and research)

Over the past few months I've been working with a dedicated group of people (whom I met at MobiMOOC this past April and May) on doing some collaborative research and publishing on the topics of mLearning and MOOCs (massive online open courses).  Our efforts have produced two papers (accepted) and we're working on several ideas which are on the table now [after a well deserved break!]

This has me revising the single author versus the multi-author papers. On campuses all over we seem to pay lip service to collaborative and interdisciplinary research, but in actual practice the reward mechanisms seem to reward single author contributions.  On the one hand I get it, in a multi-author paper how can one tell which is your voice and which is not; and what ideas you brought to the table versus riding on the coat-tails of others. There are valid reasons for single authored papers, a good one being you're the only one interested in some topic and it would take more time to get others onboard compared to working on it by yourself.

By and large I think that the majority of work of an academic should be collaborative. It's only through collaborative research that we can see what our colleagues in different (or different-ish) fields are doing and how our contributions can benefit them, and vice versa.  Through closed, monastic, research, our findings are in danger or being dusty and forgotten, and of use to some people. Through interdisciplinary means, and just plain-ol' multi-party research and inquiry you not only get more people working on it an increasing the quality of the output, you're also getting many more marketers (as wrong as that term may sound) that will make others aware of the research your team completed. So, all things considered, let's do our best to work with others and enhance our research; you may be surprised at the outcomes.  While you're at it, make your research licensed under creative commons  - but that's a blog post for another time :-)
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