How do I practice #PositiveAcademia?

Sixth of nine posts based on my webinar for Georgia State University's CIBER - Interview by Tamer Cavusgil

In the second year of the pandemic, I launched the #PositiveAcademia movement. This does not mean I am oblivious to the many dysfunctionalities in modern-day academia. You cannot work in academia for 30+ years without being exposed to its "dark side".

In the short term, however, identifying, celebrating, and amplifying the positive aspects of academia might be a better way to start creating the change we would like to see. I try to achieve this by small, but intentional actions. The key to its success is not big strategic plans but consistent and tireless day-to-day activities.

One of the intentional acts I have embarked on is writing public recommendations on LinkedIn for colleagues, mentees, co-authors, and others I admire. This idea came to me in the 2021 Christmas break, in the depths of the second pandemic winter. I was looking for ways to cheer my colleagues up on a regular basis. So, I started writing down what I appreciated about them, and the words flowed easily.

So far, I have shared nearly 70 recommendations on LinkedIn and am planning to write many more. I have even written a recommendation for the editor that rejected our paper in the 4th round as well as the one who subsequently accepted it for another journal. Little gestures like this can really make a big difference to academics in your network. Even if we all write just one recommendation for someone else, we can collectively make academia a much kinder place.

Every Friday I also share #Positive academia resources on LinkedIn that may assist others in engaging in #PositiveAcademia too. In January 2023 created three different streams: resources supporting #PositiveAcademia, LinkedIn recommendations, and initiating discussions on LinkedIn around core #PositiveAcademia themes.

Positive Academia: sustainability

An important aspect of any new initiative is its sustainability. I talked about this in my work in Supporting Early Career Researchers. Unless you ensure sustainability, any initiative runs the risk of crumbling when key individuals leave.

That's why I was delighted when Christa Sathish suggest taking the #PositiveAcademia initiative further and create a Positive Academia Network. This network is very much related to the #PositiveAcademia initiative, but expands on it by defining a programme of research and practice. It has its own webpage maintained by Christa Sathish. It puts the whole movement on a much more sustainable footing.

Sustainability is also a big part of the Humetrics initiative which - though focused on evaluation of scholarship - is very similar to Positive Academia in its basic values. For more detail on the key values of Humetrics - equity, openness, collegiality, soundness, and community - see Chapter 7 of my book Measuring and improving research impact. A key part of sustainability is digital preservation. Humetrics puts this very cogently.

Being part of a community means thinking beyond the now, proactively considering the preservation of all elements of the scholarly record (from blog posts to conference papers to tweets and vines), thinking forward to the publics and communities that might find value or interest in our work ten, fifty, or one hundred years from today.

That is why we will follow a three-pronged approach in this area. Anne-Wil will continue to post on PositiveAcademia and ProactiveAcademia on LinkedIn and on her blog and Christa will maintain a PositiveAcademia section on her own website. We also created a LinkedIn Group which will be a repository of materials on the topic. You are very welcome to follow it.

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