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Crowdsourcing lessons for academics
November 18, 2012 - 9:15pm

Academics, mainly those from the domain of human sciences, do not like to be reminded too much about various economic and business-like terms. However, some business models and ideas from the world of economics will help not only greatly improve the financial situation, but will also give a new impetus to the quality of the academic work as such.

For instance, one of the first incentives for academics could be towards a more organized system when it comes to writing financial proposals for grants. With the help of a clear plan of objectives, evaluated regularly – weekly or monthly – the scholar(s) will improve to a great extent their chances of getting more funding in the near future. Moreover, it will add quality to new grants and thus create a more successful academic life. As the economic crisis diminished considerably the sources of funding for academic research, mainly in the human sciences, the donors are most likely ready to offer the their support only to those able to cope with the highest standards not only in terms of quality but also those who are able to report as competently as any financial department of a company. Even though it might be a bothersome task – and very often it is the last thing you want to do it after reading thousands of books and reading hundreds of pages of research – doing so it is a message of appreciation for the work behind the funding one receives.

Another important lesson that the academics need to consider when doing their research is the lesson offered by the crowdsourcing methods. The term, introduced relatively recently into business vocabulary, is not such a novelty; even though the core of a book or paper is an original and new angle, it could reveal new aspects of a certain issue. When crowdsourcing, the viability of research is done through a system when the ‘crowds’ (meaning various readerships) give their feedback. This is how the peer review works and this is how dictionaries and encyclopedic works were produced. An example of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia. Even though it is not recommended as an academic source, it involves a multiplicity of sources produced by various contributors. The academics themselves can contribute to increase the accuracy of the information posted there; it is very simple to set up an account and to post information or correct the errors. Some academics may consider such an approach as too futile for their high academic concerns, but being an intellectual means more than being proud of your best achievements and your new book: it means taking stances and sharing your knowledge with the world.

Crowdsourcing your knowledge means also the acknowledgement of the fact that, beyond the hard individual work that each graduate needs to do for his or her academic curriculum vitae, there are other elements that need to be added for a quality work. One of the most important is to rely on the power of the feedback and the need to learn together with others. We do not become scholars overnight, only by going to conferences or participating in different discussions. However, most of the work is done through collaborative efforts and open discussions. Your knowledge does not add any value if not shared, and through sharing, you can help others to have a better understanding. You can also correct and even change your own assumptions. Teaching and sharing knowledge, as a teacher or as a scholar, is more than presenting your conclusions, bibliography and waiting for the others to accept or reject it. It means also understanding that it is important to learn from others and give them the option to share their own opinions.

Berlin, Germany


Ana Dinescu is a regular contributor to University of Venus and a journalist for ten years for Romanian daily newspapers and is currently a communications consultant, living in Berlin.


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