CFP for special issue of TCQ

Download CFP

Nearly twenty years ago, the landmark special issue on “Medical Rhetoric” was published in Technical Communication Quarterly. Since then, research in this area has flourished, with scholars publishing numerous books, articles, and special issues on the topic. The editors of that special issue, Barbara Heifferon and Stuart Brown, noted how the humanities—specifically rhetoric and technical communication—could “suggest alternative discursive practices” in healthcare workplaces (p. 247). Their goal was to reunite the disciplines of rhetoric and medicine, a split that can be dated back to Platonic times (Bell et al., 2000).

Following the lead of that TCQ special issue, editors of special issues in other journals have worked to position medical rhetoric within the broader field of the medical humanities and in relation to other healthcare fields. In 2005, the Journal of Business and Technical Communication published a special issue on “The Discourses of Medicine.” In the editor’s introduction, Ellen Barton noted the interdisciplinary breadth of the field. The discourses of medicine, she pointed out, had become a space where the humanities, the social sciences, and medicine merged. Other special issues narrowed the scope of the field by focusing on topics such as online health communication (Koerber & Stills, 2008), the relationship between writing and medicine (Haas, 2009), the importance of publics in healthcare issues (Keränen, 2014), and the centrality of communication design to health-related fields (Meloncon & Frost, 2015). These collections further refined and clarified the research scope of the field.

Recently, though, some researchers in this field have been leaving behind the title of “medical rhetoric” in order to draw a distinction between themselves and the medical humanities. They have adopted the title “Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (RHM),” which is simultaneously more specific and more expansive than medical rhetoric. In advocating for the term “RHM,” Blake, Segal, and Keränan ask scholars to engage “in programs of research that complement, but are different from, programs of research in bioethics, medical humanities, health communication, or the allied health professions” (2013, p. 2). The medical humanities, as Keränan argues, are concerned with “humane—and distinctly human—dimensions of health and medicine” (2014). To query these dimensions, medical humanities scholars traditionally use theoretical frameworks and methods from the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. Alternatively, as Blake, Segal, and Keränan argue, RHM scholars should “query medicine’s epistemology, culture, principles, practices, and discourses” with the goal of improving areas of medical practice (2013, p. 2).

In this special issue, we are looking for articles that explore the intersections and tensions between RHM and the medical humanities. At this nascent stage in the field’s development, we wonder whether separating RHM from the medical humanities might curtail opportunities for research, curriculum development, and engagement. Separating too early could have unintended ideological and practical repercussions; it could restrict research funding opportunities, and it might limit our access to political capital. Ideologically, this split risks reinforcing an outmoded but still existent two-culture division between STEM and the liberal arts, undermining the re-unification of medicine and rhetoric that Heifferon and Brown (2000) thought medical rhetoric could achieve. For practical reasons, we are concerned that such a split could also potentially cut RHM researchers off from the financial and political resources that are currently flowing into the medical humanities, which is one of the fastest growing areas in academia today, with universities like Yale, Ohio State, and Baylor adding medical humanities programs to their curriculums.

As we approach the 20-year mark from that original special issue in TCQ, we would like to turn our attention back to defining the fields of medical rhetoric, RHM, and the medical humanities. Similar to Heifferon and Brown’s (2000) goal to restore the natural connections between rhetoric and medicine, we aim to learn how two related areas—RHM and the medical humanities—can mutually inform each other. This CFP invites submissions that put these areas into conversation and engage questions like the following:
Building on Blake, Segal, and Keränan’s (2013) observation that RHM complements but is different from the medical humanities, how can RHM complement the medical humanities? How can the medical humanities complement RHM?
How can theoretical frameworks and methods used in RHM and the medical humanities intersect in ways that allow the fields to work together?
How can RHM scholars participate in and contribute to the medical humanities? Likewise, how can scholars in the medical humanities participate in RHM?
In what ways can research in the medical humanities be applied to healthcare workplaces, similar to RHM?
In what ways can RHM and medical humanities scholars make a meaningful impact on the medical field, broadly defined?
With the advent of telemedicine, the medical workplace has become distributed across time and location. How has this shift impacted RHM and the medical humanities? How can these areas contribute to understanding telemedicine?
How has RHM scholarship impacted technical communication? In what ways can the medical humanities impact technical communication? What RHM and medical humanities theoretical frameworks, methods, or findings can be imported into technical communication?

This issue is scheduled for January 2018. Please email 500-word proposals to Elizabeth Angeli (elizabeth.angeli@marquette.edu) and Richard Johnson-Sheehan (rjohnso@purdue.edu) by the deadline of January 17, 2017.  For accepted proposals, complete manuscripts will be due by July 17, 2017. In the meantime, we welcome questions via email from potential contributors.

A Journal of Our Own

Blake Scott and I are pleased to announce that we have a journal of our very own!

The University of Florida Press will be publishing the journal the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine with a launch date of early 2018.

So brush off those manuscripts and get ready to submit them. Details will be be forthcoming.

There are so many people to thank that made this all happen, but we want to take a moment to highlight a few of them here. Big thanks to Linda Bathgate who was a huge supporter of this project from the beginning and instrumental in making it happen; Judy Segal and Barbara Heifferon who held up the “medrhet” flag for so long almost single-handedly; to Lisa Keranen who was not afraid to hang out with folks outside of Comm; to Susan Well who is such a fierce advocate and makes you believe that an idea is good; and to those attendees at the first symposium (especially Amy Koerber and Celeste Condit who agreed to be featured) who took a chance on a crazy idea.

Most of all, to each of you in this community for sharing your work and ideas and passion. This is what made others believe there was critical mass for this sort of venture.

So we have arrived, and I cannot think a better community to be a part of as we move into the next chapter.

If you have questions, feel free to contact Lisa.

Third Thursdays at 3:00

Join the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine/Flux community for informal chats that are focused on a specific topic of interest to members of the community.

Download a summary (*.pdf) of this information so you can have it at the ready!

November 17

In our first chat on Nov. 17, we’ll be discussing strategies for self-care related to professional goals and personal experiences with research in the rhetoric of health and medicine.

Structure

The chats are mostly informal and are open to any student, faculty member, researcher, or professional who might be interested. There will be a facilitator that will introduce the topic and keep the conversations moving forward, but these chats are meant to give us a time and space to connect outside of the various and dispersed conferences we attend. In some cases, the facilitator may ask a person or two to be there that may have special expertise and experience in the topic. We’ll tweak the format as we go based on feedback and participation.

Time (3:00 PM – 4:00 PM)

When we say our chats start at 3:00pm, you’ll notice that we haven’t specified a time zone. That’s because the chats will stay open for 3 hours to accommodate our varied schedules! Third Thursdays are designed to run for an hour, but if you only have 30 minutes, feel free to join for the time that you do have.

We’ll begin at 3:00 pm EST, but then for those of you in the central time zone, you log on at 3:00 your time, and the same goes for those of you in the mountain time zone. (Sorry Pacific folks that we don’t have a time just for you. But we felt going 4 hours pushed us beyond our planning and organizing limits.) If you’re not available at 3pm in your own time zone, but can join for one of the other two, then figure out what time that will be for you, and join us then!

Facilitators

The role of the facilitator is to be certain that someone is there at the top of every 3:00pm hour and to keep the conversation moving. In some cases, the facilitator(s) may have specific expertise on a topic, which is why they volunteered (or were asked). In other cases, it’s just someone who wants to see the Flux community be vital and grow. So don’t hesitate to contact one of us and volunteer!! (See Questions below for contact information.)

Log in information for all Third Thursdays at 3:00

JOIN WEBEX MEETING

https://ucincinnati.webex.com/join/melonclk | 647-435-383

JOIN BY PHONE

+1-415-655-0002 US Toll

Access code: 647 435 383

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please note that this WebEx service allows audio and other information sent during the session to be recorded, which may be discoverable in a legal matter. By joining this session, you automatically consent to such recordings. If you do not consent to being recorded, discuss your concerns with the host or do not join the session.

Topics

Here’s a list of topics for the first few Third Thursdays at 3:00pm

Date Topic Facilitators
November 17 Self-care EST:Rachel Bloom-Pojar

CST:Lori Beth de Hertogh

MST: Lisa Meloncon

December 15 Framing research for different audiences EST:

CST:

MST:

January 19 Research methods EST:

CST:

MST:

February 16 Publishing EST:

CST:

MST:

March ATTW/CCCC Stay tuned for happy hour meet-up details
April 20 TBD (send us a suggestion) EST:

CST:

MST:

 

Questions, Suggestions, and How to Volunteer

Feel free to email Lisa (Meloncon@tek-ritr.com), Lori Beth (dehertlb@jmu.edu), Rachel (rachel.bloom25@gmail.com) or Sarah (sasinger@live.unc.edu) if you have any questions, suggestions for a topic, or if you want to help facilitate a conversation.

All those working in the rhetoric and health and medicine and closely related fields are welcome to attend and/or facilitate! Follow @medrhet on Twitter or join the Flux Facebook group for updates. Invite your friends or colleagues who might be interested, and keep the conversation going by tagging related tweets with #medrhet.

 

 

Making review transparent

22 July 2016 by Lisa Meloncon

In what follows I briefly describe the process that we took in reviewing proposals for the proposed volume The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine As/Is: Theories and Concepts for an Emerging Field. Since the editors (Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John Lynch, Cynthia Ryan, and me) come from across Communication Studies and English Studies (including tech comm and composition), we went into the project know that we would have to negotiate a lot to end up with a group of contributors and a structure that we all could get behind. Most of you know, it’s hard enough to get two academics to agree on something, much less five 🙂

Fortunately, we did know something about each other and had the opportunity to meet and discuss the vision of the volume as proposals were coming in. But, then a good thing happened. We received a lot of proposals, and we were in the position that the vast majority of them met the objectives of the call.

So that meant, we needed a process to review them as  fairly as possible. The process we ended up on was

  • ranking every proposal on both quality as a stand alone proposal and it’s adherence to the CFP
  • discussing  on the original scores and the establishment of tentative sections based on the proposals with the highest scores
  • re-ranking individually (that is each editor took another go at ranking) a large number of the top proposals again and then placing them into section categories
  • reviewing of all proposals again to determine if we missed a series of strong proposals around specific topics
  • placing consistently highly ranked proposals into the final section lists
  • deliberating on that list and making adjustments

At each stage of the process, every editor weighed in with a score and/or an opinion. I was the one who collated all the scores and information and redistributed it. Several parts of the process we made sure we deliberated alone so that all the perspectives could be heard and then a consensus formed. All in all we talked and sorted and ranked and talked some more for a month (takes into consideration time given for folks to do the work and then reconvene). The point here is that it wasn’t a process we took lightly nor one that was easy. The multi-stage process helped us to get a better vision of what the book could and should do, as well as gave us the opportunity to see proposals in different ways.

When it’s laid out like this, it seemed like an easy, fluid process, but I can assure there were lots of wrangling. It’s hard to take a large number of proposals that all have some merit and narrow those down to 13 selections that incorporated important multiple concepts and then also had some conversations between them. Having already discussed this project with a press, we consistently had their guidance and advice in mind as well. (For the younger scholars out there, it’s a tricky process this publishing with lots and lots of variables. All of which make the process for edited collections a little harder to do. IMO.)

We ended with authors from across the rhetoric of health and medicine to include communication, composition, writing studies, rhetoric, and technical and professional communication. We also run the gamut from graduate students to senior scholars in the field.

In the end, we landed on a volume that took our own CFP seriously and includes a series of concepts that are vital to understanding the emerging (or emerged) field of the rhetoric of health and medicine. And one that we feel can be used in our scholarship and our teaching.

If you have any questions about the process or (really anything), please feel free to get in touch with me.

#Medrhet & the Job Market

As we’re moving through the summer, the social media crew (Maria Novotny, Lori Beth De Hertogh, and Rachel Bloom-Polar) have been posting some intriguing topics on twitter and the Flux Facebook group. We’re working toward having some additional content appear here to intersect with those topics.

Last week the topic was how to negotiate the job market with a #medrhet focus. Since summer is the perfect time to be working on job market materials and doing some hard thinking about that process, this topic was the perfect one to expand.

The job market is tricky, and it’s getting tighter. While good jobs are still possible in composition/rhetoric, that area is now overproducing graduates or for those who want to immediately disagree, I’ll go as far as to say that it’s bordering on that. The numbers of graduate programs 90+ and the number of jobs, around 200 tell their own story. My number of jobs separate out the technical and professional communication jobs because my own research and close attention to the job market in that area has shown that many TPC jobs will go unfilled rather than fill them with someone who doesn’t fit. (Read another way,  rather than fill them with someone who has no work in the area and only a composition degree.) In TPC, the number of jobs with specializations preferred and the number of graduates are still at a mis-match, which means in TPC the best candidates are experiencing a buyer’s market.

There are a number of job search types, such as  a wide net search (applying for all jobs that you feel you are qualified for all across the country); a limited search (targeting just the jobs that you are ideally qualified for in specific locations or specific types of institutions); a geographically limited search (usually based on you or your partner’s inability to move from the region you currently live in); alt-ac positions (those positions that alternative to traditional academic jobs, which normally starts with a position within higher ed but traditional tenure-track faculty); or jobs in industry. In every case, you need to decide on a couple of things first

  • who you are as a candidate
  • what you want out of the job

Who you are as a candidate means you need to know what skills and expertise you have that can complement the place you’re applying. What you want out the job is a bigger question that hinges on other life factors (e.g., your partner and their job or knowing that you don’t want to do research all the time, etc.). Neither one of these things are easy to figure out, but both are essential to having a successful job search.

All jobs are not the same, and you have to prepare yourself and your materials for the type of job you want. That means you really need to know who you are as a scholar and a teacher. A big part of that is situating your identity as a #medrhet scholar and teacher into the overall landscape. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re doing from rhetoric and composition, TPC, or Comm studies with a rhetorical bent. That means you’re probably looking at jobs in those areas. For the purpose of the job market those are your primary areas (however you define yourself) and then #medrhet is a specialization (and then the area you study within it is a further away to define yourself).

For example, no one would dispute that I identify as a TPC scholar. I’m definitely a generalist in TPC because of my background and what I research, but I do have some areas where I have strengths such as my ability to teach any of the technology heavy courses (such as web design or information design or content management) and I know a lot of method/ologies. This latter point bridges TPC with who I am as a #medrhet scholar. I also intersect with my research in #medrhet that looks at the impact of technology on health communication and literacy. I usually don’t use myself as an example, but in this case, it’s apt because you should be able to see from my description how I would position myself in the job market.

See how specific that is and how I can then look at job ads to see where I may be a better fit than others. I need to match what the ads say to what type of job that I want. In the storify embedded below, Kristin Krondlik makes EXCELLENT points about figuring out how your work and interests can fit in with a  teaching school. In TPC, the majority of programs are at regional universities, and applying for those jobs is quite different from applying for an R1 research job. IF you don’t understand those differences, then reach out and ask someone. We have  a wide network of folks that work at those types of schools who would be happy to answer questions about their jobs and what it’s like to work there.

A big key to your job materials is to be sure to take time to show how your work and expertise can fit the school to which you are applying.  Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to customize a letter to every school, but you may want to consider writing custom letters to your top five or ten schools based on the other demands on your time during job market season. While your work is fabulous, job search committees want to see how it connects to their department and institution, that is, how you can make them better. Right now many universities, big and small, are emphasizing work around health and medicine. It’s important to try to understand some of this initiatives–particularly at the campus visit stage–and how you can contribute.

While the majority of job seekers will stick to typical jobs, the alt-ac scene or jobs in other locations are a bit more open to #medrhet scholars because of our diverse and truly interdisciplinary backgrounds. If this is more of your style, look at job listings within the university job portals or do a more non-anademic search and look at ads from other national organizations such as American Medical Writers, American Public Health Association, federal and state level jobs in health/medical related departments, and at organizations (such as large hospital or insurance systems) for jobs that may suit your strengths and interests.

No matter what type of job you’re looking for, work diligently on being able to

  • talk about what you do AND why it’s important in a way that any non-specialist will understand
  • highlight your skills and expertise that match the job ad
  • show how you can contribute in positive ways to the department and/or the institution
  • demonstrate your knowledge of the broad area to which you identify, as well as your #medrhet area

Scan through the storify for more details.

Use the summer to be working on your materials, and don’t be shy about reaching out for help with questions or for someone to read your materials. The #medrhet community is a thriving and more so, it is generous.

 

 

Voting is open CCCCs Med Rhet Standing Group Elections

Per our by-laws we’re set to elect an Associate Chair and Member-at-Large this year.

Those of you who identify as a scholar of the rhetoric of health and medicine and are also members of the CCCCs are eligible to vote. (We’re on the honor system here 🙂

As out going Associate Chair, one of my duties to run the elections and provide a slate of candidates that represent our membership. I am particularly proud of the diversity of institution types represented. I would be thrilled for any of the candidates to be elected and lead our Standing Group.

Good luck to all of the candidates! Now, members, go and vote!

Here is the link for the election: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D6X38RG (opens in new tab)

Voting is open for one week and will close on May 3 at 5:00 pm EDT.

If you have questions or concerns or encounter any problems voting, please email Lisa Meloncon,Associate Chair (for one more week 🙂

 

Submit!! Rhetoric of Health and Medicine As/Is

Deadline extended due to lots of questions and requests for extensions.  New due date for proposals is June 15, 2016

Please consider submitting to the following. We are especially interested in a wide variety of voices and innovative proposals. This is your chance to help shape the foundation and direction of the field!!

We look forward to seeing all the great ideas and proposals!!

The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine as/is: Theories and Concepts for an Emerging Field

Editors: Lisa Meloncon, Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John Lynch, and Cynthia Ryan

Descriptive Rationale for Volume

The rhetoric of health and medicine is a growing and vibrant discipline that has emerged out of the rhetoric of science (Meloncon & Frost, 2015; Scott et al, 2013) and incorporates scholars from a number of fields—most notably, communication, technical and professional communication, composition, and linguistics. Accordingly, the overarching goal of this volume is to identify the key concepts that ground the rhetoric of health and medicine, as a field of inquiry. In so doing, this volume will explore how scholars in the rhetoric of health and medicine use rhetoric in theoretical and practical ways to examine the discourses of health and medicine and how those discourses create meaning within a wide variety of scientific, technical, practical, and political sites.

The growing body of work (see Condit et al, 2012; Meloncon & Frost, 2015), however, lacks the critical apparatus necessary to help place it within a broader context that is accessible to a wide range of scholars within and outside of the field. That is, at present we have many exemplars of scholarship that do not have/lack clearly articulated field-wide theoretical and methodological foundations. The health of our discipline relies in part on scholars ability to identify and share these foundational underpinnings.

Thus, the central concepts of the volume will be presented in terms of rhetoric of health and medicine’s’ dual perspectives: both “as” and “is.” First the discipline can be seen as a theoretical construct that guides research and thinking in the field. Additionally, the concepts can be explored in the is stance as a way to define the boundaries of the field. Both orientations are necessary to any scholarly field. Both allow a diversity of approaches while also ensuring a common core. For example, let’s take the concept that is part of the field’s name, “rhetoric.” For many years, scholars in rhetorical studies and rhetoric and composition have argued that rhetoric is way of analyzing existing discourse as well as providing a framework for creating it. As provides us an entryway into thinking about different concepts as theoretical underpinnings. Is provides us an entryway into thinking about how theories can potentially be applied in practice. We definitely want to nudge and even push scholars in the rhetoric of health and medicine to appraise what it is that we do and examine what sets us apart from other related fields. This endeavor means taking a critical stance to determine what is at stake when we say that we are rhetoricians of health and medicine.

Call to Action

Starting with a series of terms participants at the Discourses of Health Medicine 2015 (www.medicalrhetoric.com/symposium2015) felt were vital for a conceptual understanding of the field, we challenge scholars to continue the participatory nature of this collection and propose innovative chapters that incorporate the following terms.

Consent Advocacy
Ethics Health citizenship
Professionalism Environment
Global Risk (comm)
Methods Publics
Performance Invention
Materiality Circulation/delivery
Ontology Discourse
Agency Narrative
Lived experience Decision-making
Online STS
Technology Disability studies
Visual Rhetoric of science
Genre Medical and health humanities

We strongly encourage collaboration between scholars from across institutions and more importantly, across fields and disciplines. Your chapter proposal should bring two or more of the terms/concepts into conversation and speak directly to the as/is theme. You are welcome to propose new terms or concepts in addition to these.

We also encourage cluster proposals. That is, if a group of scholars believes that particular chapters might work together nicely, you can propose them as a cluster. Think of this option as similar to proposing a panel at a conference or a section in a book.

We are leaving this call more open than most because we do want the overall volume to be shaped by the contributions. In other words, we truly are embracing participation and innovation.

A university press has invited a full proposal on this project and once proposals are received and acceptance decisions made, we will be forwarding a full prospectus to them.

If you want to discuss your idea or if you have questions, please contact Lisa Meloncon@tek-ritr.com or Scott grahams@uwm.edu

Submissions

Chapter proposals should be from 750-1000 words (give or take and excluding citations). Include a cover page with all of the authors’ contact information, a list of the terms your chapter (or cluster of chapters) addresses, and a short c.v. for each author.

Submit proposals as PDF or Word files to rohm_asis@medicalrhetoric.com

Proposals due: June 15, 2016 UPDATED

Proposal decision: June 30, 2016 (or soon thereafter 🙂

Final chapters of 6000-7000 words: December 30, 2016

 

 

CCCC 2017 Standing Group Proposals

It’s time to submit proposals for CCCC 2017 Medical Rhetoric Standing Group Panel. See the CFP below!!

——

The field of the rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) has come a long way since Judy Segal described it as a “subfield” (2005, p. 312). With new publication opportunities and a burgeoning cadre of graduate students studying RHM, the 2017 Medical Rhetoric Roundtable offers an opportunity to consider and discuss how to sustain this growth and cultivate new opportunities.

Participants could consider the following questions:

  • How do we sustain ourselves, both individually and collectively,
  • How do we cultivate collaborative relationships?
  • What labor is involved in cultivating and sustaining our own research and the field?
  • How do we cultivate new voices in scholarship, prepare future faculty and future organizational leaders?
  • How do we develop and sustain public voices for our scholarship?
  • How do we create broader understanding and appreciation of our disciplinary landscape?
  • How do we sustain and enrich our members in their varied interests throughout their careers?

We are taking the roundtable format seriously in that we will be using a modified ignite format (5 minutes) where participants will provide an overview of their primary research and then pose a question for the audience. The roundtable will be designed to be interactive with short presentations to fuel discussions. Following these, attendees will break into small groups to discuss the questions/topics presented.

Please submit 250-word proposals to lora.arduser@uc.edu by April 28, 2016.

Professors, Let’s Go (and Get Credit for Going) Public

4 April 16 by Erin Trauth

Before entering academia, I worked as a full-time journalist, writing features and news for a daily paper. Now, though my career focus has changed since choosing the path of an academic, my interest in journalistic work has not waned. While pursuing my master’s and Ph.D. degrees and holding various teaching and administrative posts, I have kept my freelance journalism work going, posting to various websites related to food labeling, nutrition, and health communication – all extensions of my academic work in technical communication and rhetoric. This past and present journalistic work, in terms of public readership and reader response, has spoiled me in a major way.

Some of these posts have been read by tens of thousands of people, and, on some, I receive reader comments and questions so frequently that I often can’t keep up with my responses. One article on health communication, for example, was shared almost 27,000 times and received nearly 300 comments and questions. When such exposure happens, I like to think that I have made some sort of impact sharing my work in such a public way – but this isn’t always the case with my academic writing.

Meanwhile, in academia, we most often aim to publish our research in peer-reviewed journals. While peer-reviewed publications are of value and certainly create meaningful conversation in the humanities, how much does this discussion extend to the general public or to help shape public policy? An April 2015 article by Asit K. Biswas, a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and Julian Kirchherr, a doctoral researcher at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, claim in “Prof, no one is reading you,” that we, as academics, sometimes do not make much of a public impact with our academic work: “Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them are not shaping today’s public debates or influencing policies.”

There are of course exceptions – I would not downplay recent endeavors by so many scholars to publicize our work, especially with efforts to publicize academic work on social media and in collaborations with field practitioners. However, while some individuals may extend their reach outside of the academic vacuum, Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker’s archive editor and a former academic, writes, we still have to turn most of our attention back to continually pleasing a relatively small group of people: “Increasingly, to build a successful academic career you must serially impress very small groups of people (departmental colleagues, journal and book editors, tenure committees).” And the numbers on the readership of peer-reviewed journals do make a startling point. As Biswas and Kirchherr explain, “Up to 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually. However, many are ignored even within scientific communities – 82 percent of articles published in humanities are not even cited once.” By some estimates, the authors posit, peer-reviewed journal publications are read by no more than 10 people.

Despite these dismal numbers, it is well known in our field that these peer-reviewed publications are still essential for tenure and promotion in most university posts. So, while churning out pieces for public consumption may be the most efficient way to share our research in a public light, we do have to spend six months to a year focusing on an article or perhaps even longer on a book project to get and keep our jobs. Rothman writes: “Academics may write for large audiences on their blogs or as journalists. But when it comes to their academic writing, and to the research that underpins it—to the main activities, in other words, of academic life—they have no choice but to aim for very small targets. Writing a first book, you may have in mind particular professors on a tenure committee; miss that mark and you may not have a job.” And, after the fact, re-purposing our academic writing for public spaces takes time and effort. So, then: what’s an academic with only so many hours in the day to do?

Some say it’s the availability of academic journals themselves that should change: “Most journals are difficult to access and prohibitively expensive for anyone outside of academia,” write Biswas and Kierchherr. Further, Nicholas Kristof writes in The New York Times that academic “goobledygook” is often “hidden in obscure journals” – meaning the important work we are doing in many areas of rhetoric might be seen as just that. The open-access journal movement would seem an easy answer to some of these issues, but, even still, the nature of the articles themselves, Biswas and Kierchherr claim, would still make the use of such work prohibitive for the general public: “…the incomprehensible jargon and the sheer volume and lengths of papers (often unnecessary!) would still prevent practitioners (including journalists) from reading and understanding them.”

So, for change in this realm to happen, we must first consider how and where we publish our work. If we truly want to make an impact beyond our university walls, we must consider revising our academic work to fit more popular media formats – considering length, tone, and diction – and reach out to publish in popular media from time to time. Kristof exclaims: “professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks – we need you!” The journalist in me wholeheartedly agrees.

But then again, what good will our time spent writing for public contexts and popular media for us as scholars in need of a paying job? This charge doesn’t seem an easy one to meet. Many still may feel that public commentary simply is not worthwhile or perhaps will even penalize it. Will McCants, of the Brookings Institute, writes in The New York Times, “Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research. This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-review publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.” In 2014, the International Studies Association even put forth a proposal that would bar its journal editors from blogging. After much protest, the proposal was tabled, but the point is that someone in that association thought this might be a plausible idea.

Is it time, then, that we further problematize what the university values and what counts for tenure and promotion? In 2016, why shouldn’t a popular media piece which engages the public in academic research have some weight toward these university goals? As Briwas and Kiercherr posit, “It may be about time to re-assess scholars’ performance. For tenure and promotion considerations, their impact on policy formulation and public debates should also be assessed.”

Why, in addition to impressing small groups of people, isn’t our work on popular media sources, social media, professional blogs, and other public spaces part of the package considered on a more frequent basis? While we may informally acknowledge these efforts, is it time that such public writing work is formally and officially considered, too?

While some may scoff at the idea of popular media and its place in our academic publication records, we should also consider the ability for such work to generate public conversation and demonstrate practical relevance of our research work to an outside audience. While “high impact” journals are frequently touted for their ability to make an impact, I ask that we consider what this impact really means. How often will we have the ability to reach the masses with our important findings if we aim only to publish in academic journals? What if we could pen a version of such work for public space– and then having this commentary actually count for our vitas? Can we negotiate a space in which our work in the public realm can be counted as something more than just a byline?

Our work matters, and the world needs our voices. It’s time that the solid work we do to engage with those outside of our academic spaces counts for a bit more, too.

Strategies for Public Work

by: Lisa Meloncon

As some in the community are about to get together at the ATTW Conference and the CCCC conference, the Medical Rhetoric Standing Group will convene for its first meeting since the move from a special interest group to a standing group. Thus, we had to come up with a discussion topic for the evening’s business meeting.

We decided to talk about different strategies to make our work more public. Now, public can mean all sorts of things because each of us has different strengths and different goals for our careers. My public may not be your public and that’s ok. Public can be as simple as trying to write a blog post about your article or it can be volunteering at a local health clinic to re-write some of their handouts or informational materials. There’s also the route of writing more popular press pieces (see the work of Cynthia Ryan) or it can be pushing your research into more community-based or participatory research where part of the aims is helping the community.

So the discussion part of our meeting will be talking through some of these examples, and hopefully, we’ll have some tips on getting started to share in our resources section when we’re done.

If you’ll be going to Houston, join us Thursday, April, 7, 2016 @ 6:30 in GRB, Room 351 B, Level (which is in the convention center).

Our agenda will be
— Announcements about Standing Group Elections.
Since we are a CCCC Standing Group, we have to hold elections. Two position on the executive committee are up for election. Consider nomination yourself or someone else. More details will be discussed at the meeting.
— General Announcements (Standing Group Panel, publication opportunities, etc.)
— Topic for Discussion
Strategies for public work:dissemination, connections, and crossing boundaries
Several members will describe their approaches and then we will have an open discussion
— Networking
The last 10-15 minutes will be reserved to meet folks, to talk about possible panels for next year, to plan meet-ups for RSA, or in general just to get to know each other better

If you have questions or want to add something to the agenda, just email Lisa.

Sessions at the Cs

Session Title Schedule
A.05 Studying Action in Medicine through Surrogates, Simulations, and Other Shadow Thursday 4/7 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM in Hilton, Room 329, Level Three
 
B.10 Labeling, Naming, and Visualizing Health and Illness: How Food Labels, FDA Reports, and Ebola Charts Can Help Teach Rhetorical Analysis Thursday 4/7 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM in Hilton, Room 330, Level Three
 
B.24 Medical Rhetoric and Scientific Communication Thursday 4/7 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM in Hilton, Room 344B, Level Three
D.06 Beyond the Helping or Hurting Binary: Examining Healthcare Rhetorics and Contexts Thursday 4/7 3:15 PM – 4:30 PM in Hilton, Room 346A, Level Three
 
F.02 Rhetorics of Health and Medicine: A Roundtable Examining the Breadth and future actions of an Emerging Sub-Field Friday 4/8 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM in GRB, Room 351B, Level Three
 
F.31 Challenging the Rhetoric of Non-Neurotypicality: Documents, Stories, Memories

 

Friday 4/8 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM in GRB, Room 351A, Level Three
H.31 “Stories That Change You”: Birth Stories as Rhetorical Action Friday 4/8 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM in GRB, Room 351B, Level Three
 
POSTER Keep Mad and Tumblr on: Neurodivergent Identity and Autistic Self-Advocacy in Social Media Based Counterpublics Thursday 4/7 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM in Hilton, Ballroom of the Americas Prefunction, Level Two