Author of 'Third World Quarterly' article on colonialism wants it stricken from the record, but it might not be going anywhere

Just because the author of a controversial article on colonialism wants it stricken from the scholarly record doesn’t mean it’s going anywhere. Critics see clickbait corrupting scholarship.

Much of Third World Quarterly's editorial board resigns, saying that controversial article failed to pass peer review

Much of the journal’s editorial board resigns, saying that a controversial article arguing in favor of colonialism failed to pass peer review but was published anyway -- and that the journal’s editor then misrepresented the process.

How to increase public access to and appreciation for academic research (essay)

Many scholars are becoming aware of a change in the tide of public support for their work, reflected in proposed budget cuts for many federal science funding agencies, and are struggling to decipher the reason for this shift. Some researchers feel that political groups are targeting their work for its inconvenient truths, while others resort to thinking, “If people only knew how important my work is.”

Either or both of those views could be true, but we in the academic community have no one to blame but ourselves for waning public enthusiasm and financial backing.

For too long, colleges and universities have held a monopoly on new knowledge, mostly with specialized language, but recently more with exclusivity. The fact is that, aside from what the news media passes on, the public can’t access scientific research in its original published form.

And even if they could, journal publications are written to be understood by experts in the field, not the average reader, no matter how curious they are. If scientific progress is made in part because of tax-dollar contributions, then society deserves access -- real access -- to the products of that investment.

I am advocating that researchers be given more opportunities to share the impacts of their research that are far-reaching and offer a low barrier to participation. Specifically, I’m recommending the development of a journal-curated mechanism that would encourage an author to simultaneously submit what I am calling a General Public Summary.

This one-page document would:

  • inform readers of the gist and societal impact of the original scientific article;
  • be written in regular English;
  • be housed on the publisher’s website (like the abstract), and;
  • be free to the public.

Just like the formal manuscript, this relatable summary should also be peer reviewed to ensure its accuracy and accessibility. Software now exists that can quickly assess the reading level of any digital document. So we should limit the complexity of the General Public Summary to, say, an eighth-grade reading level -- not because society is illiterate, but because our public school education generally doesn’t teach us words like “pandiculation” (which means, among other things, yawning).

From my experience, researchers are eager to make their work widespread and well-known, as well as more relevant to the general public, but they often lack an approachable avenue to do so. This General Public Summary would allow researchers to share their work more broadly and simultaneously contribute to an informed citizenry by giving taxpayers a sense of the return on their investment in the scientific enterprise.

Although several publishing options now allow researchers to make their work available to the public -- such as open-access journals and personal websites -- they typically require additional submission fees or significant investments of time, posing a deterrent to many scholars. And even if the public could access all scientific articles for free, as already mentioned, these articles are written with expert audiences in mind, not the general public. Thus, most of us who aren’t experts in that field can’t discern or understand the results or, more important, the societal value.

This is not a barrage on the current mode of academic publishing. Experts communicating about their expertise to other experts will often need to be highly technical to discuss the novel advances of their latest work. And publishers provide a great deal of investment in time, skills and resources into making scientific publication possible, so it is not unreasonable to ask for the entirety of that effort to be monetarily compensated. Rather, this is a call for an appropriate deliverable to encourage public engagement with science that delivers on our societal obligation.

Now, more than ever, a well-informed citizenry is paramount to the future well-being of our society. The General Public Summary can be one of many necessary steps taken to give the people what they paid for and to restore the value that the public places on scholarly research.

Drew Story is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical and environmental engineering with a designated emphasis in public policy at the University of California, Riverside.

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Elsevier makes move into institutional repositories with acquisition of Bepress

Elsevier’s acquisition of Bepress’s institutional repository platform is heralded as a smart move for the publisher, but not all of Bepress’s customers are impressed.

Math journal editors resign to start rival open-access journal

To protest the high prices charged by their publisher, Springer, the editors of the Journal of Algebraic Combinatorics will start a rival journal that will be free for all to read.

Article on trying out note-taking apps

Of the available modes of procrastination on a piece of writing, I’ve found the easiest to indulge with a good conscience is the type called pencil sharpening. This figure of speech (actual pencils need not be involved) subsumes all the concrete preparations needed to have the right tools at hand and fit to the task. Whereupon inspiration, or at least concentration, will flow. If not, the pencils might need a little more sharpening …

If there is a 21st-century form of pencil sharpening, it's probably the quest for the perfect note-taking app. Over the past year, I’ve searched for a note-taking tool that would be flexible, intuitive, easy to open and convenient to export from -- as well as accessible from whatever device I had in hand at a given moment. Quite a few are available. I’ve experimented with half a dozen or so, hoping to find one that’s perfect for jotting down a thought, citation, quotation or outline.

All of which you can do in Word or any other word-processing program, for that matter. But I’ve come to think of Word as a format best suited for preparing texts other people will see -- and a nuisance for keeping track of everything else. The ideal note-taking app would be something like a stack of digital index cards, suitable for everything from noting an unfamiliar word to recording a multipage brainstorm. All of the cards held together in one place and subject to whatever degree of organization seems useful.

Each of the apps I’ll describe here each does all or most of those things while also making the index cards available on your phone or tablet as well as your computer. The observations are personal and unsystematic, and based on running the apps on a MacBook Air and compatible devices. None of the apps were provided to me by the developers but paid for from my own pocket. (This was not a question of principle, alas. I just didn't consider the possibility until too late.)

In the past I’ve proselytized for Evernote -- a powerful app that remains the closest thing to an auxiliary backup brain outside of science fiction. I store everything from receipts and medical-lab test results to audio files and the contents of now-defunct websites. When the list of bookmarks in my browser grows unwieldy, I export them into a file, store it in Evernote, then clear everything expendable from the bookmarks tab. The user’s ability to collect entries into notebooks and to apply tags makes it possible to customize your files with great flexibility, and the Evernote search grammar is effective, albeit (in my experience) hard to remember.

So it feels like mere contrarianism to complain that Evernote can feel “off” for some purposes -- especially for writing. It is excellent for accumulating research materials but not for mulling them over in my own words. Others will have no such trouble, but it sent me in search of something else.

One tool that is easy to overlook is called, simply, the Notes app, which comes with Apple devices. The icon resembles a lined pad with a yellow bar across the top, and it looks similarly bare-bones on the inside. The writing area takes up most of the screen, with two lists on the left indicating document and folder names.

Notes offers a range of font sizes and types, but the default setting (12-point, System) cannot be changed. In other words, you have to enter your preferences again each time that you create a new document. Putting words in italics or bold is an option, as is indenting a paragraph. Notes allows the user to import text in RTF (rich text format) and export it in PDF, but not vice versa. You can always cut and paste from Notes into a word-processing document, if need be; still, it is an unwelcome discrepancy.

Similar to Notes in its simplicity is Day One, an app designed for use as a diary with an option to post. (Upon discovering it, I couldn’t help thinking of the character in The Importance of Being Earnest who refers to her diary as “simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.”) Unlike Notes, Day One offers a very limited range of fonts -- with the advantage that setting a preferred default font and size is an option. Words may be put in bold or italics, but when exported they return to plain text. Indenting isn’t an option.

Day One, again like Notes, allows a minimal level of organization for documents. The files are called “journals” (although you can name them whatever you want), and documents can be moved between them. Oddly, and none too conveniently, you can export only a journal, not a specific document from it; the format options include PDF, HTML, JSON and plain text. What I like about Day One’s exporting feature is that the contents of the exported document appear in chronological order rather than blog style (i.e., oldest at the top.) Day One indicates the word count of a document in the bottom right corner, while Notes does not.

Another app that comes with MacBook is OneNote, which is bundled with other Microsoft apps, though also available for other devices. An earlier incarnation of OneNote mimicked the appearance of a spiral notebook. Everything else about it was moot as far this user was concerned. The juvenile design has been replaced with something simple and functional, although greatly overloaded in the toolbar.

The user can create one or more notebooks, each containing as many sections as desired. Each page within a section can hold a number of text fields, each of which can be set to a chosen font type and size. In principle, that can be very useful. For example, you can paste a passage from an article found online, adjust its appearance, then add your own comments next to specific paragraphs, perhaps adjusting the type to keep the distinction clear. Highlighting and linking are options. The stand-alone app syncs with a cloud version so that you can consult a note online or with another device.

Much of this is appealing and useful, and would be even more so if not for a serious design problem: text appearance is not uniform from device to device -- and sometimes not even from session to session on the same device. Given our example of a quoted article with marginal notes next to it, the notes become much less useful if they no longer appear in the right place on the screen. Creating a PDF from OneNote is possible but not to be recommended: large chunks of text may well disappear.

The MacJournal app at first seemed to me much less promising than OneNote did, but the surprises have been more agreeable. As the name may suggest, it resembles Day One in being designed with the personal blogger in mind. It combines many features of a word-processing app (including indentation) with the ability to send an entry directly to the user’s account on Blogger, LiveJournal, Movable Type or WordPress.

But it also proves very useful as a workhorse notebook, if that’s how to put it -- someplace for outlines, rough drafts, “thinking out loud” notes and the like. In part that is because of the “focused editing” mode (also good for writing) that clears the screen of everything but the text, in green or white on a black background. MacJournal also allows you to export a document in a plethora of formats including PDF, RTF, ePub and Word.

After months of experimenting with the apps noted above, plus a couple that seemed like knockoffs, I’ve fallen into a fairly comfortable routine with Day One and MacJournal in particular. The others I use from time to time, whether for variety’s sake or to see if updates have changed anything.

Day One makes a good scratch pad: it opens rapidly on all my devices and even lets me jot something down without entering the password. It also proves quite serviceable for first drafts. (The first version of this column was written in Day One, as were most of those of the past several months.) MacJournal shares with Day One a no-frills quality that makes for minimal distraction while trying to unknot a line of thought. No amount of pencil sharpening will produce a writing instrument that will do the work for you, but it’s good to find a couple that don’t make it any harder than it has to be.

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There’s an App for That

An instructor analyzes how to discuss the "Hypatia" controversy with her grad students (essay)

Maybe I’m a bad feminist, but I was on vacation and away from social media when the controversy at Hypatia blew up. Only when I returned to the office late in May and confronted my overflowing email box did I catch up on Rebecca Tuvel’s controversial article on “transracialism” and the ensuing outcry over it: the open letter to Hypatia calling for its retraction, the mea culpa from some of the journal’s associate editors, the defense of the article by the editor, the gleeful crowings of the mainstream press about the pettiness of the intellectual elite and, finally, a second open letter, from a group of what might be described as materialist progressives, decrying the signatories to the first open letter.

I had to swallow the story whole, rather than a course at a time. As a result, I’m not even sure I can even digest it all. Some points from both sides of the argument seem relevant, others not so much. The decibel level doesn’t help anything. Still, this question of how language may harm by (ostensibly) violating identity claims has become so prominent that I feel obliged to try to reckon with it.

I don’t work in philosophy or in critical race or sexuality studies, so I found my way into the contretemps by extracting a few potential teaching moments from it, focusing on the open letter’s criticisms of Hypatia’s editorial process and its call for changes to the same. Some of those issues are specific to Tuvel’s article, but a couple are technical problems -- with conceptual ramifications -- that every scholar deals with at least occasionally. Thinking about how to walk my graduate students through them, I hoped, would help me engage this controversy without getting bogged down in it.

The Obscured Bread-Crumb Trail

First, and maybe most banal, is a matter of citation practices, an aspect of scholarly knowledge production that I just can’t seem to convince my students is both fascinating and vitally important. Some of the most spectacular attacks on Tuvel’s article center on her use of the name that celebrity transwoman Caitlyn Jenner was assigned at birth, a process known as “deadnaming.” The author of the original open letter argued that by referring to Jenner in this way, Tuvel “uses vocabulary and frameworks not recognized, accepted or adopted by the conventions of the relevant subfields.” Tuvel defended herself by noting that Jenner uses that name in her memoir but admitted that was an insider privilege she’d unthinkingly claimed for herself, thus “perpetuat[ing] harm” to Jenner personally and to the trans community over all.

Reasonable people, both cis and transgender, might disagree about whether and how such a practice does harm. (It could also be argued that celebrities, by definition, sacrifice some rights to privacy that the regular folks retain.) When in doubt, it’s certainly most polite to use a person’s preferred name when referring to them directly.

But what about the more complicated case of referring to a trans author -- and to works that cite them -- prior to their official transition? If citations are a sort of intellectual bread-crumb trail that we leave for our readers to follow, how we name authors and represent other scholars’ engagements with their work is important, lest our own readers get lost in the forest.

For example: sociologist Raewyn Connell’s website notes she is the author of 1987’s Gender and Power (Stanford University Press), which was published under the “gender-neutral name R. W. Connell.” The copyright pages lists “R. W. Connell” as the author, as do WorldCat and the publisher’s website. How should the book appear in a bibliography? Contemporary scholarship that engaged with Gender and Power’s arguments referred to the author with the male name assigned to her at birth, and the page for Gender and Power does the same. Is quoting that scholarship “deadnaming”? If so, should we make a journalistic “silent correction” when we quote? Or selectively edit quoted material so that names never appear? Should the difference between the names across time be explained in a footnote, or does that, too, deadname?

This example is particularly real for me as I have directed many undergrad and grad students to Raewyn Connell’s work on masculinity, only to hear that “our library doesn’t own her book, so can I use this one by R. W. Connell instead?” That’s an easy correction in the classroom context, but it speaks to the problem of the obscured bread-crumb trail. The open letter’s call to Hypatia to “commit to developing best practices for naming trans individuals as authors and subjects of scholarly discussions” acknowledges as much. Systematic practices in this area, consistent across disciplines, would indeed be useful.

The other teaching issue raised in the open letter is more complex. Tuvel’s critics argued vehemently that her work “fail[ed] to seek out and sufficiently engage with scholarly work by those who are most vulnerable to the intersection of racial and gender oppressions (women of color) in its discussion of ‘transracialism.’” It thus fell short of Hypatia’s stated commitment to exploring a diversity of gendered and sexed experiences.

In the public commentary on the controversy, “sufficiency” has featured prominently. On one side are scholars who believe that Tuvel’s inattention to, for example, critical race theory allowed her to make a facile, bad-faith argument. Taking concepts like embodied racism and micropolitics seriously would have complicated or perhaps invalidated her own claims, this logic goes. To get around that problem, she just avoided this body of thought altogether. Compounding that intellectual gaffe is a political one: by not engaging critical race theorists, many of whom are people of color, Tuvel re-marginalized a vulnerable population and reaffirmed her white privilege.

On the other side of a yawning chasm are those who claim that as an untenured member of a philosophy department, writing for a philosophy journal (albeit a feminist one that describes itself as “richly interdisciplinary in orientation”), Tuvel is not beholden to critical race theory. Her article responds primarily to the work of one major figure in her field, feminist philosopher Sally Haslanger, who writes about race and gender from a foundation in epistemology, with attention to philosophies of justice. It is to these branches of philosophy -- not other scholarship, and not the social locations of other scholars -- that Tuvel owes deference. Many academics who have staked out this position seem to be professional philosophers aware of and, to various extents, comfortable with their field’s traditional (some might call it airless) rhetorical and argumentative style.

Could Tuvel have opened up her article to more fully consider and engage with critical race theory’s ideas about power and identity? That is a serious teaching question -- let’s answer it first in a deeply prosaic fashion. To wit: while calls for paradigm-shifting interdisciplinary scholarship have increased over the past few decades, the word limit for a typical journal article has not. Hypatia’s word limit is 8,000. Excluding citations, Tuvel’s piece comes in just at 7,900. Engaging with such ideas would have blown her word count out of the water.

Lurking beneath the language of “sufficiency” is a more troubling question: Should Tuvel have written the article without such engagement? Signatories to the open letter clearly believe she should not have. To write without such engagement is to cause harm.

Here is where the teaching issues of academic genres and audiences come into play. Though it’s not analytic philosophy by a long shot, Tuvel’s article is quite discipline specific -- a straight-up thought experiment that proceeds precisely along philosophy’s traditional “if A, then B; if B, then C or D, but not E” lines.

There’s a reason I’m a cultural historian: the abstractness of the one philosophy class I took as an undergraduate drove me nuts. All the arguments seemed true, but none of them seemed accurate -- at least not to the messy reality that I lived in. This sense came back to me on reading Tuvel, but 30-odd years later, I understand that this is just what philosophers do. Or rather, it’s something they can do.

And for good or ill, it seems it’s the thing Rebecca Tuvel wanted to do in this article. (Although I’d wager she thinks somewhat differently now.) Both her CV and her online presence suggest Tuvel is well read in bodies of scholarship -- like critical race theory -- that could have informed and given shape to an argument about transracialism. Apparently she didn’t want to write that article. For whatever reason, Tuvel seems to have been uninterested in authoring an article that used critical race theory to complicate Sally Haslanger’s claims about the constructed nature of race and gender. If we acknowledge that lack of interest, we can move to ask the real teaching question: Is it wrong?

The Act of Saying “I”

As I mentioned above, I may be a bad feminist: most of my graduate teaching shies away from questions of feminist methodology and focuses instead on writing. Specifically, to quote Joan Didion, I teach students that “writing is the act of saying ‘I.’” Within the context of graduate teaching, this means helping students figure out what they are arguing about complex and multifaceted topics with which they tend to have, in clinical mental health terms, deeply codependent relationships. On the road to determining what they are arguing, they must also decide what they are not arguing.

There’s a feminist dimension to this teaching, obviously: bell hooks calls the process “coming to voice”; it’s a version of “empowerment.” We invite graduate students to leave behind their undergraduate lives as talented assignment completers and become instead genuine authors. We succeed in that task when they lose some of their deference to us and the other clamorous voices they have encountered in their course work. Confidence in their own author-ity allows them to say both “this is my argument” and “that could be my argument, but it is not.”

Making such claims is scary; they entail a lot of responsibility. Traditional feminist pedagogy -- indebted to the ethics of care -- provides an easy jumping-off point for discussing the responsibility an author has to sources and audience. We have theory, we have practices, we have models for how to respect those parties.

But we lack a feminist discourse that grapples with the fact that, as Didion explains, writing is -- must be -- “an aggressive, even a hostile act … an invasion, an imposition of the writer's sensibility on the reader's most private space.” To be clear, that aggression inheres not in the things one says (although one can certainly say aggressive things), but in the act of clearing space (in one’s head, on the page, in the scholarly conversation) for one’s own vision and voice. Writing in standard academic English, “the act of saying ‘I’” always already occurs over and against the voices of others. Writers dialogue with some of those voices, but to most of the others, they must say, “That could be my argument, but it is not.”

I’ve developed a few tried and true practices for shifting students out of assignment-completion mode and into the act of saying “I.” Extreme prejudice against passive-voice writing is one. A relentless classroom focus on “argument literacy” is another: understanding the university as an example of what former Modern Language Association President Gerald Graff calls “an argument culture” trains students in professionalism as well as in rhetoric. Teaching counterexamples -- writers like Didion, or Michelle Cliff, Gloria Anzaldúa and Alison Bechdel, who make their points through rhetorical means disallowed in scholarly discourse (narrative, collage, purposeful ambiguity) -- is one more. But I’ve never had a real-life case study of the costs entailed by saying, “This -- not that -- is my argument.” Tuvel’s piece presents a perfect teaching case, and it will be interesting to try it out in the classroom come fall.

A focus on these teaching issues does not resolve the existential question of “harm.” It doesn’t even shed light on the more mechanistic question of what constitutes “sufficient engagement.” At this stage of the game, those questions may not have answers -- at least not good ones. But I like to think that if anything makes me a good feminist, it’s a stubborn resistance to bad answers. For that reason, I’ll be eager to see if, once the heat of the summer dies down, other commentators on the Hypatia controversy can extract a little light from it all.

Trysh Travis an associate professor at the Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research at the University of Florida.

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Three major publishers sue college store company over textbook counterfeiting

Three major textbook publishers sue the bookstore provider Follett, alleging failure to stop selling pirated versions of their books.

The difficulties scholars have writing for a broad audience (essay)

For four years we’ve been editing a crossover series of books and essays called Object Lessons. The idea is simple: authors choose an object to write about -- say, refrigerators or fruit wax -- and then illuminate a lesson about its hidden role in historical and contemporary life.

There’s a yawning gap between academic writing and popular, hot-take journalism. Scholars fancy that they cover important, current topics, but they do so in styles and venues that reach only narrow audiences. And yet there has never been a better time for academics to reach the public directly, and in ways that are compatible with their professional contexts and goals.

This is the space we have been focusing on: common, seemingly obvious subjects riddled with nuances and forgotten histories. Insights about them contribute to public understanding, while raising scholars’ profile and reach. At The Atlantic, we’ve published essays on blankets, diving bells and giant squids. And with Bloomsbury, we’ve published books on phone booths, questionnaires, eggs and dust.

Scholars have insights, experience and research that can help the public navigate the contemporary world, but scholarly work all too often goes unseen. Sometimes it gets sequestered behind exorbitant paywalls or prohibitively steep book prices. Other times it gets lost in the pages of esoteric journals. Other times yet, it’s easy to access but hard to understand due to jargon and doublespeak. And often it doesn’t reach a substantial audience, dooming its aspirations to impact public life.

How can scholars write for wider audiences without compromising their lives as disciplinary researchers?

After publishing dozens of books and hundreds of essays, we’ve seen some patterns, and we’d like to share them beyond Object Lessons. So over the coming year, we’re running a series of workshops sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities to help scholars write for general audiences. At these workshops, we’ll equip scholars to write “crossover” essays and books: informed by research and expertise, but jargon-free and written to be read.

As we’ve talked to editors and authors about the challenges and traps facing scholars who want to write for a broader audience, and based on experiences with our series, we’ve identified 10 challenges.

  1. Scholars often cannot answer the question “So what?” about their own work. And yet a fundamental principle of scholarly work is that it matters in the world. Scholars have a difficult time connecting their work with that world, in showing people why they should care. As the outgoing editor of Sociology of Education wrote in the newsletter of the American Sociological Association, most papers submitted to the journal “simply lacked a soul -- a compelling and well-articulated reason to exist.” 

  2. Scholars don’t write well enough to reach people outside the culture of scholarly writing. To reach those broader audiences, scholars need to adjust their style to speak to smart readers other than their immediate peers. One editor we spoke to suggested “smart undergraduates” as a good benchmark. 

  3. Scholars don’t know how to pitch. They believe that the ideas and their own depth of knowledge about them are sufficient to justify publication. But the audience also matters, and the subject, and the timing and the particulars of all those things at a particular venue for publication. Pitches must be specific.
  4. Passion and generosity are missing from scholarship. One editor we talked to quipped, “Academics are told to smother passion in return for tenure.” But in the crossover and trade-magazine publishing worlds, writing must help readers, not just the writer.
  5. Scholars need not choose between reaching the public and impressing their peers. They can do both. The deciding factor in whether the public appreciates an article or book is not the subject matter; rather, it is the manner in which the subject is made to connect with readers’ interests and concerns. Likewise, ordinary people are perfectly capable of digesting difficult, technical and specialized material as long as the writer explains that material clearly and concisely. Even most scholarly authors prefer reading stuff that doesn’t require physical suffering. But habit, pride and maybe even shame make this topic a forbidden one. And so we end up with the same hard-to-read books and articles.
  6. Scholars don’t know what a “market” is, even when they write for a specific scholarly audience. The process of evaluating a work for whom it might reach and why is simply foreign to scholars -- especially humanists. Almost all book proposals include a section on the book’s supposed audience, but it typically gets filled with celebrations of a project’s “uniqueness.” Uniqueness is not necessarily a virtue. Work needs to reach people who have previously been reached by other, similar work. Academics can benefit from thinking of their work as having a market and considering how comparable titles have fared in the marketplace of ideas and books.
  7. Scholars -- even experienced ones -- don’t understand how publishing works. Knowing more about the process by which books and articles get created, edited, produced and disseminated can help authors conceptualize and complete their projects. It can also help them figure out how to get their work in audiences’ hands.
  8. Editorial oversight is profoundly missing from scholarship. Not just copyediting, but framing and structure at a high level and line editing at a low level. Many scholars have never encountered this type of editorial effort. Working with professional editors will improve the quality of writing, examples, argumentation, flow, pacing and phrasing. Often this means knowing when and how to cut extraneous material or verbiage. In scholarly publishing, as well as (online) media, a lack of editorial resources makes it difficult to rely solely on institutional support for editorial. Scholars need to be prepared to do it for themselves. But there is no common structure through which to mentor them to do so. 

  9. Academics can be jerks -- although often they express jerkiness as a cover for anxiety. This occurs particularly when dealing with editorial figures and processes outside of their idea of normal. A better understanding of what types of workflows are standard and how they can be beneficial to scholarly and public output will help defuse the senses of isolation and exceptionalism that academics can easily fall into. Learning to work with editors who will really edit is a skill frequently absent from academe.
  10. This isn’t for everyone. Not every scholar will or should be destined to reach a broader, more general audience. It is not more or less scholarly or more or less righteous to do so. Each scholar must figure out how their individual talents and disposition can best be put to use. Similarly, recognizing that colleagues and peers might have different talents and dispositions, and concomitant publishing trajectories, can help produce greater scholarly harmony. 

To address these challenges, we proposed an institute of small workshops to the National Endowment for the Humanities. As we set about planning the workshops, we initially looked at running a more traditional two-week program in the summer. But we realized that we could reach a broader group of participants if we scheduled the events throughout the year. Then we also realized that the scholarly routine offered ready-made venues and times, thanks to academic field conferences that would already draw likely participants.

We settled on four sites and times over the coming months: in November around the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts conference in Tempe, Ariz.; in December around the American Anthropological Association conference in Washington, D.C.; in January around the Modern Language Association convention in New York City; and in March around the Association for Writers and Writing Programs in Tampa, Fla.

Prospective participants can apply to attend a workshop through June 30. Our goal is to have around 10 participants attend each workshop and for each participant to leave with a project ready to be pitched or proposed to a suitable outlet or publisher.

This is admittedly a modest project, but that modesty is part of the solution to the 10 challenges described above. Reaching the general public is meaningful and rewarding, but it requires commitment and effort. And that effort comes with rewards -- for individual scholars, for the common good and for the future role of universities in public life.

Christopher Schaberg is associate professor of English and environment at Loyola University New Orleans. Ian Bogost is Ivan Allen College Distinguished Chair in Media Studies and professor of interactive computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic.

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10 Challenges for Scholars Writing for Wider Audiences

Publishers' new anti-counterfeiting measures include certification seals on books

Textbook publishers announce new measures to curb counterfeiting of physical books, including certification seals on book covers.


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