The quick death of slow scholarship?

An interesting piece from Innes Keighren on the process of writing and publishing a book, especially in the context of research assessment. I’m broadly sympathetic to this, and certainly to the idea of book writing. But I also wonder if one of the ways to ‘resist’ the dominance of research assessment exercises is to treat them as one of multiple constraints/factors/frames around our publishing, rather than the only one. For many other things – promotion, personal career and life satisfaction, a feeling of contribution to the discipline and debates, of having something to say that demands a particular form as a book, etc. – other factors are in play. The particular chronologies of the REF are there, undoubtedly, but other professional temporalities are too. One of the best pieces of advice I had was to think of the REF deadlines as a line drawn in your career, where things to the left of the line were in one REF; and to the right in another. Within that constraint, freedom can be found for other ways of working.

Landscape Surgery

"Travels into Print". First manuscript draft (February, 2013).

Travels into Print. First manuscript draft (February, 2013).

Since joining Landscape Surgery in 2010, I have had a seemingly every-present item of business on which to offer updates during our fortnightly “newsrounds”: the progress made (or, more often, not made) in the production of a co-authored research monograph, Travels into Print: Exploration, Writing, and Publishing with John Murray, 1773–1859. With its origins lying in an 2008 AHRC-funded project, the book has (in one form of another) occupied me and my co-authors (the historical geographer Charles W. J. Withers and book historian Bill Bell) for much of the last six years—a literal and figurative example of what Eric Sheppard has called “slow geography”. Having completed the book’s index last month, Travels into Print is (at least as far as its writing is concerned) now finished. All that remains are the relatively fun tasks—approving the cover design, soliciting…

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