The Duck of Minerva

An ExPat Academic Thanksgiving

25 November 2013

duck-thanksgivingIt is time for an academic Thanksgiving (at least it is for me, flew home early because it was Reading Week in the UK), that time of year when we give thanks for when our ancestral academic Deans fed us when we were hungry. Something like that…cornucopia with grants, laptops, and travel funds.  Who knows how it all started. 

Still, it is that time of year we all reflect on what we are thankful for.  So what am I thankful for, as an academic?

For one, I am thankful for Laura Sjoberg’s contributions to the Duck of Minerva.  She has not been posting regularly for some time but her contributions behind the scenes were invaluable. The look and style of the blog are part of her creation. She moved the blog over to its current software and her voice will be missed.

I am thankful for the Scottish countryside. As one of those types who does not believe anything worthwhile happens outside of the major cities, it sometimes is inspiring to get out and explore what Scotland has to offer.  Nothing helps inspire a writer more than riding around the country in trains, best office in the world.










I am thankful grading is quick.  It is painful, tired, and tedious, but at least it can be done quickly.  The worst part of our jobs is not necessarily a huge burden. I am also thankful my academic friends post the worst of the answers their students provide on Facebook, endless hours of entertainment…(Bitstrip below courtesy of Peter Trumbore)


I am thankful for all the coauthors I work with.  I would not be so productive without their help and assistance.  Co-authorship is the norm in the field now.  Collaboration that allows us to achieve greater heights by working together to combine skills and talents.  So often the mentality is that single author contributions are weighted more heavily in our field.  While it is obvious that single authored work can be tougher, there is no reason these forms of scholarship should be valued above others.  Working in teams helps the author achieve advances sometimes impossible otherwise.  Diversity of viewpoints of is sometimes critical, the different eyes, brains, and vision of each coauthor can help us open pathways closed to others. 

I am thankful that academic books are not dead.  I enjoy writing books at this stage in my career  The focus and path is evident.  Its much simpler to scope out a large project and undertake it in the context of a book. The purpose and contribution are clear.  After spending another few weeks cutting down an accepted peer reviewed article to the required 10,000 words, I am reminded of the freedom books provide.  Problem is they will not endure much longer, the economic viability of the process is in question.  We might be moving more towards the ebook-pivot model.  This should be accepted, but we should also take advantage of the book path that is still open to us.  Some look down on books as a lessor contribution, acculturated in a system that values peer reviewed publications. The statements that one can make through a book project should still be weighed more heavily than an article because the scope and impact on average can be greater than that of an article. This should be a fairly obvious point but unfortunately it is not. 

Finally, I am thankful for Scottish whisky. Speyside, Islay, everything except for blends. Its a wonderful, refined world…