We’ve all done it. At the end of those funding proposals, we proclaim making our research more accessible through publications and conferences, which is fine and necessary for most academic disciplines. I myself have been guilty of this practice. A practice that has been drummed into my head after attending several grant writing workshops over the years. In retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t saying much at all. How is this anything different from what funding organizations are already assuming we would/should do if awarded? With that being said, is it really enough? Accessible is a nice word and an exceptional one for funding applications, but what does it really mean?
For medical anthropologists, especially those conducting research in the United States, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) represent two significant largest funding sources. According to NSF’s Award and Administration Guide, it is expected that grantees will share ‘primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting materials created or gathered in the course of work under NSF grants’. The language around exactly when and how this information should be shared is broad as the organization suggests ‘within a reasonable amount of time’. After browsing NIH’s website, I was discovered their public access policy, which requires grantees to submit their peer reviewed publications based on research funded by the organization to their digital archive, PubMed Central. It is apparent that the funding organizations are engaging conversations about sharing and accessibility, but these discussions are limited within medical anthropology.
While I am certainly not advocating against citing publications and conferences as a accessibility platform within funding applications, I do think that these areas deserve more attention and creativity and not just for funding opportunities. As a CHI fellow, I have come to the realization that digital humanities possess the capacity to discuss and directly address concerns around accessibility and collaboration. For example, while at the 2011 American Anthropological Association meeting, I witnessed special interest groups being formed. Potential publications and collaborations were discussed. As part of a working group meeting for the first time at the AAA’s, one of our main tasks was to gather ideas for generating further discussion and attention around our topic and potential platforms to house a growing bibliography. I briefly suggested a digital repository and it turned out a number of group members thought that it was a good idea. Conferences are a fertile ground to engage in conversations about new forms scholarly communication and collaboration at different stages. Sometimes, it’s worth it to speak up.