From the editors’ desk: Making space in academia for action research

As a follow up to last week’s “from the desk of the editors” on the issue of action researchers making space for our work in academia, my ARJ colleague, Davydd J. Greenwood, Goldwin Smith Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University offers the following:

“If I did not believe reform of higher education were possible, I already would have quit. I could have a lovely and relaxing life outside of academia after 41 years at Cornell. When I render a judgment on some of these issues, it is on the basis of 27 years of academic administrative experience at my university, nationally, and internationally. I know that no significant reform is going to take place until the current organizational model that exists in academia is changed. It was built on General Motors and U.S. Steel in the 1950’s . Such reforms are not going to be easy and it is by no means clear to me that most action researchers have either the ambition or ability to engage their institutions on this level. It is quite clear that AR cannot do this alone and needs to form a common cause with a process of re-invigorating the social sciences and humanities with a sense of purpose beyond scoring well in the rankings and with the daring needed to study large-scale system problems that reach beyond what we know how to do as yet.
Having followed the international processes of change in higher education for the past 15 years, I can only say that action research is notable for its invisibility. A good but quite conventional piece of social research by Richard Arum and Josipa Roska, Academically Adrift, has done more in a couple of months to catalyze the arguments about the future of higher education than anything we have contributed so far.
The problems here are about the strategy and substance of trying to reinvent higher education in a very hostile environment. It is a noble task. It remains to be seen if AR can or will play any role in this beyond modest local initiatives. The poor response to the request for papers on AR in higher education tells us something about our field at the moment.”

 – Davydd