Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is competitive research possible in an open environment?

I have been invited to collaborate in research that involves developing e-learning projects for midwives. I am very excited about the projects because of their opportunities for international collaboration and because they will be building on the work I am already doing with free, online professional development.

Using a wiki to develop a research proposal
I was instantly enthused about developing the research projects in a wiki such as Wikieducator because that would give us access to advice and support from a wider community of educators and researchers. It would tell the research story which would benefit other people involved in developing similar projects. I also saw it as an opportunity to role model the use of wikis for midwives, which would ultimately end up in publications, which is what academics are always aiming for these days.

Competition versus sharing
But the problem with developing research proposals for funding applications in an open environment is that there is the potential for 'competitors' to 'steal' your ideas and work. A lot hinges on the procurement of research funding for an academic. Other than the obvious - money enables the research to go ahead - obtaining research funding adds to an academic's credibility which ultimately affects career pathways and promotion. So with all that at stake, one doesn't want to put a research proposal at risk - collaboration is one thing, being pipped to the post is another.

The future for research
Collaborative research is being recognised as the way to go, so hopefully the next step is into an open environment. But while the funding of universities and education institutions as well as individual academic career pathways are based on competitive models, I am not sure how feasible that will be.

In the meantime, I feel it is vital for me to contiue to advocate for open collaboration and whilst these particular projects cannot be developed on Wikieducator, it will be good to think about what can be developed in this way.

Open midwifery research
Any ideas about collaborative midwifery projects that could be developed using social networking tools such as a wiki? For example, would you be interested in becoming involved in developing clinical scenarios in a wiki that could be used for the teaching and professional development of midwives? Do you know of any research funding bodies that would be particularly welcoming of open research applications?

Image: 'testing tube' wader

No comments: