Photo by Joseph Barrientos

Everyone loves a good story

When the TriangleSCI Advisory Board met last year to plan the theme for SCI 2017, the idea of “scholarly storytelling” quickly emerged as a favorite. In academia we’ve developed practices over centuries for how scholarship should be communicated, mainly with peer scholars in mind, and full of signifiers that only knowing readers will understand. We even sometimes look disparagingly upon attempts to write for and engage with a more “popular” audience, forgetting that scholarly communication doesn’t mean only communicating with other scholars. Humans are “storytelling animals”, and narrative forms have the potential to engage broader and more diverse audiences, and to help activate scholarship in different ways.

So for this year’s Scholarly Communication Institute, we invited teams to think about the potential for using storytelling techniques in their scholarly practices, and to put together projects that attempt to answer questions like these:

  • When much of the public gets information (and misinformation) from sources that already use narrative forms, and base their understanding of the world on the stories they learn in this way, how can scholars break through to help facts and nuanced perspectives to take hold?
  • Can we expand our understanding of “scholarly communication” to include narrative methods that may be better able to reach more diverse audiences, and to engage them as stakeholders and not just recipients of information?
  • How might academics use storytelling to build bridges with constituencies that normally don’t feel connected to universities, and who may even feel antipathy to them?
  • How could new technologies be used to engage broader publics in deeper ways?
  • How can scholars use the storytelling techniques of fiction writers, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, visual artists, musicians, and game designers to effectively and accurately convey scholarly information?
  • What can be done to prevent this from being perceived as simply diluting the authoritativeness of complex research?
  • How do we know when we’ve crossed the boundary from information to persuasion? When is crossing that boundary a bad thing, and when is it a useful thing?
  • Can we diversify the ecosystem of scholarly communication without disrupting constructive symbiosis?

Many teams submitted proposals, and six were invited to attend the Institute in November, at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You can read about their projects here, and follow along and join the conversation using the #TriangleSCI hashtag. In November the SCI 2017 cohort will be creating their own stories, and we’ll share them here as they emerge.

[Photo by Joseph Barrientos used under Unsplash free license]

Photo by Joseph Barrientos

Scholarly Storytelling – submit your proposal to join SCI 2017 in November

The Scholarly Communication Institute is ready for its fourth year in North Carolina’s Research Triangle, and invites you to join us!

Participants in previous years have raved about the experience:

This year, SCI will be held November 5 to 9, 2017, at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill, NC.

This year’s theme is: “Scholarly Storytelling: Compelling Research for an Engaged Public” which we describe on the theme page in this way:

Storytelling is fundamental to the human experience. Yet many of the methods academics use to communicate their research are based on patterns established within the academy, primarily to convey new information to an already engaged set of scholars. They usually don’t make use of storytelling techniques that can engage broader audiences in more fundamental ways, and that can potentially communicate more information in a comprehensive and succinct way.

When much of the public gets information (and misinformation) from sources that already use narrative forms, and base their understanding of the world on the stories they learn in this way, how can scholars break through to help facts and nuanced perspectives to take hold?

Can we expand our understanding of “scholarly communication” to include narrative methods that may be better able to reach more diverse audiences, and to engage them as stakeholders and not just recipients of information? How might academics use storytelling to build bridges with constituencies that normally don’t feel connected to universities, and who may even feel antipathy to them? How could new technologies be used to engage broader publics in deeper ways? How can scholars use the storytelling techniques of fiction writers, journalists, filmmakers, photographers, visual artists, musicians, and game designers to effectively and accurately convey scholarly information? What can be done to prevent this from being perceived as simply diluting the authoritativeness of complex research? How do we know when we’ve crossed the boundary from information to persuasion? When is crossing that boundary a bad thing, and when is it a useful thing? Can we diversify the ecosystem of scholarly communication without disrupting constructive symbiosis?

Please see the theme page for more information, including some ideas of who you might bring together to form a team – we’re looking for a broad and diverse set of perspectives, and teams that will address both specific and general problems and opportunities. This is a great opportunity to launch a new project, have some concentrated time to develop an existing project with a broader set of collaborators, or just to begin to explore and experiment with ideas that are difficult to pursue in your usual work context.

Kyle Bean illustration - Lines of CommunicationTo participate, form a team of 4 to 6 people, and submit a proposal along the lines of what’s described in our RFP (submission deadline is April 10, 2017). If your proposal is selected, the Institute will cover costs for your team to attend.

To learn more about what it was like in past years, see the Storify threads from SCI 2014, SCI 2015, and SCI 2016, which contain tweets and photos from participants, and the web pages for previous years at SCI, which have links to information about the teams that participated in those years, their projects, and other notes.

There’s also a lot more information in our FAQ. If you have any questions, contact us at scholcomm-institute@duke.edu

We hope you’ll consider putting together a team and submitting a proposal – hope to hear from you by April 10.

Thanks as always to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for continuing to provide funding for the Triangle SCI and making all of this possible!

[ Feature photo by Joseph Barrientos, used under CC 0 license. Embedded photo by Kyle Bean used under CC BY-NC-ND license. ]