In April 2012, Harvard University claimed they could no longer afford academic journal subscriptions and urged academics to 'move prestige to open access' (Harvard University Faculty Advisory Council 2012). In July 2012, the European Commission announced that it expected all future EU-funded research to be published in open access format beginning in 2014 (European Commission 2012). Though open access itself is not new (see Yiotis 2005 for a review of the movement's early development), widespread institutional and government endorsement is a relatively recent phenomenon (Finch 2012). A recurring debate that flourished in the realm of social media, including blogs and Twitter, centred on the effects of making research articles open access for researchers worldwide and its impact on academic publishers – part of the so-called 'Academic Spring' (Epstein 2012; Fister 2012; Jha 2012). This movement served as an inspiration for the Digital Research Video Project, based on the assumption that non-specialists are less likely to actively pursue reading academic papers, even if they are freely available. The perennial challenge is making research not only open access, but accessible.
There is a broad movement towards increasing research accessibility across disciplines in the sciences and humanities, and this includes a growing body of literature on the topic of digital engagement in media studies, digital humanities, sociology, and visual anthropology. This article does not seek to provide an exhaustive overview of the open access movement and digital communication in archaeology (see Bonacchi 2012; Kansa et al. 2011; Lake 2012 for collections of papers) but rather to describe and situate the Digital Research Video Project within the context of this movement and consider some of the issues present in communicating archaeology to a 'new media' audience.
There are two general problems in research dissemination beyond the academic sphere – and indeed beyond even disciplinary boundaries – internal and external. For example, academic writers even with the best of intentions may find themselves bogged down by jargon and cryptic writing styles, even if the article is open access (Johnson 2010; 2011; Moscovitch 2012). Mass media has long been instrumental in disseminating the results of groundbreaking new archaeological research and its applications in broad terms (Brittain and Clack 2007; Kulik 2007), but researchers are often disappointed and frustrated with the way their work is described (Harley et al. 2010, 128-9). Misconceptions in popular culture are fuelled by TV shows and movies, and academics complain of research being misrepresented, oversimplified or 'dumbed down' (Ascherson 2004).
One solution is personal or group blogging. Increasingly, academics are taking to the internet and discussing their work not just with colleagues, but also with an informed and interested public (and organisations) through blogging and the use of other forms of social media (see http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/02/04/the-value-of-academic-blogging/; Davies and Merchant 2007; Kansa and Deblauwe 2011). These blogs may have motives that differ from organised efforts at engagement by institutions or professional organisations and potentially lead to higher levels of engagement than 'broadcasting' of academic research (cf. Bonacchi 2012). The website 'Landward Archaeology Blogs Project' lists over 250 blogs, and a successful 'blog carnival' on the site 'Middle Savagery' that centred on the benefits and risks of blogging archaeology included over 25 participants. Archaeologists have also been active on Twitter, though contact outside the discipline remains a concern (Richardson 2012). Another challenge remains the extent of integration of digital and social media into research projects (Morgan and Eve 2012).
One of the main benefits of this project is that it gives early career researchers control over how their research is portrayed and gives them a chance to learn how to tell stories about what they do using a multimedia approach without compromising on content. It has also provided wider exposure for their research through the use of social media, though how far this extends is reserved for discussion later.
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File last updated: Tue Sep 3 2013