SAS Blogs | Supporting world-class research in the humanities

Open Access: free ‘from having to sell’


Martin EveThe economics of scholarly publishing are incredibly tangled. Even Harvard University cannot afford all the material that its researchers need to conduct their work. In this piece, Dr Martin Eve picks apart the histories and economics that have led to the open access movement, arguing that we need to move away from a purely market-driven sales approach for access to research.

How did we get into the mess that is scholarly communication today? Our forebears spent a long time building the principles of freedom of inquiry into the university. One of the most crucial of these measures was that academics should not have to produce research that would sell. In fact, the choice was deliberately made to separate the selection of research topic from market populism because it is clear that the investigation of esoteric areas, selected by experts, can yield better results than financial incentives posing as democracy. The freedom from having to sell.

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Time to ‘Rediscover Dylan’


In this guest post Dr Elaine Canning, Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities, Swansea University offers a special insight into ‘Rediscovering Dylan’: a programme of events curated specially for Being Human 2014 which celebrate the life and works of Swansea’s most famous son, Dylan Thomas.

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Dylan Fever

‘To begin at the beginning …’   What better place to start as we hit ‘Dylan fever’ this week, in which the world recognises and celebrates the centenary of the birth of the iconic poet Dylan Thomas through performance, dance, film, poetry recitals, exhibitions, book launches, conferences and lectures? Following our international ‘Dylan Unchained’ centenary conference at Swansea University, our very own academics will be leaving UK shores to take Dylan to academic and public audiences in Texas and New York, while the wonderfully innovative ‘Dylathon’, a non-stop 36 hour reading of Dylan Thomas’ works conceputalised by  Olivier Award-winning Michael Bogdanov, takes place at Swansea’s Grand Theatre. Continue reading →

#PotW: What’s Happening in Black British History? A Conversation workshop – 30 Oct


WHBBH-Pic-PosterThirty years after the publication of Peter Fryer’s Staying Power, immigration is still a hotly contested topic, while slavery continues to dominate popular perceptions of Black British History. New research is revealing different stories, but how is this being presented in Britain’s classrooms and museums?  We need a conversation between those actively involved in researching and communicating the history of peoples of African origin and descent in Britain about what it means to us today.

We invite you to join us at the first in what will be a series of workshops held once a term by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. The aim is to foster a creative dialogue between researchers, educationalists (mainstream and supplementary), archivists and curators, and policy makers. It will seek to identify and promote innovative new research into the history of people of African origin or descent in the UK. Researchers and archivists will provide an introduction to the ever-growing body of resources available.  We will also discuss the latest developments in the dissemination of Black British history in a wide variety of settings including the media, the classroom and lecture hall, and museums and galleries, thus providing an opportunity to share good practice. The workshops will consider a range of issues around Black British history including the way in which scholars have defined the field, debates around how and why it should be taught, especially in the light of the new national curriculum, and the tensions between celebrating the achievements of people of African descent in the UK and applying a critical perspective to the past.

For our first workshop, the panels will be organised around the following themes: new directions in research; archives and records; and new methods of communicating Black British History.

Venue: The Chancellor’s Hall (Senate House, first floor), Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H

Date and time: 30 October 2014 10:30 – 19:30

Register here

Social Scholar: An introduction to writing blog posts (29 October 2014)


How do you write a blog post? Is it the same as writing a very short article or a press release? Next Wednesday (29 October), Matt Phillpott (School of Advanced Study) will talk at the Social Scholar lunchtime seminar on the topic of writing blog posts in an academic and higher education environment. 


By Matt Phillpott

If you search online you will very quickly find numerous articles offering advice about how to write a good, successful blog post.  Many of these will be lists – 20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts or 19 Headline Writing Tips for Blog Posts – or suggest that if you follow these ‘rules’ then you will quickly make money out of your post: Writing a Good Blog – For Dummies; How to Write a Blog Post: A Simple Formula etc.

 a blog can take any form that you want it to take. It can have any voice you wish to give it. It can be thousands of words or a few hundred; it could be an image with a title, or a video. There is no right or wrong way to write a blog post.

As a general rule in academia we are not interested in making money from blog posts. That is not their primary purpose or even their secondary purpose. It’s simply not relevant. We are interested in attracting an audience – of course – but the advice pieces often do not help us to solve the balance problem that we often come across whenever we try and summarise complex material into a short gathering of paragraphs. How do we ensure that our point has been made and understood without losing the very audience we seek in the process?

I have been involved with blogs since 2010 (which doesn’t sound long, but then blogs have only really developed beyond their initial focus as personal online dairies since c. 2009) and I have spent time thinking about how to write posts and reading the advice scattered throughout the internet. Most of it isn’t very helpful for academics. The advice is directed towards business – towards pushing up sales – not toward scholarly impact and public engagement.

The advice talks about ‘rules’ but I’ve looked at successful and unsuccessful blogs from academic institutions, groups, and individuals, and the ‘rules’ often don’t apply. In short, a blog can take any form that you want it to take. It can have any voice you wish to give it. It can be thousands of words or a few hundred; it could be an image with a title, or a video. There is no right or wrong way to write a blog post.

And yet! The advice that does exist can be used by academics and research facilitation staff as a guide and as a means to more successfully put a point across. There are ways to write that aid skim reading (for almost all blog posts are skim read more than they are read in detail), there are ways to point out quickly what the topic is about, and there are ways to ensure that the blog post works for you just as much as it works for the intended audience.

I will therefore be offering suggestions at this month’s Social Scholar on how you might wish to write and structure a blog post. I won’t be suggesting ‘rules’, but I will be offering advice on structuring, length, and tone and much else besides.

Full details can be found on the SAS events system. The Social Scholar is a FREE event held by the School of Advanced Study every month. Please also follow us on Twitter @SASNews hashtag #socialscholar.


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