What is Slow Scholarship?

I had not heard of the term “slow scholarship” until recently when it became the topic of discussion for a listserv that I follow.

In order to define slow scholarship, perhaps we should look at its opposite: hasty scholarship. Taken from the Slow Scholarship Manifesto, “hasty scholarship” looks like “the desire to publish instead of perish – many scholars at some point in their careers send a conference paper off to a journal which may still be half-baked, may only have a spark of originality, may be a slight variation on something they or others have published, or may rely on data that is still preliminary. This is hasty scholarship.”

Slow scholarship on the other hand, is “thoughtful, reflective, and the product of rumination – a kind of field testing against other ideas” (Slow Scholarship Manifesto). The idea is that scholars will be more efficient and effective if they are allowed to slow down in pursuing their research. Think quality over quantity.

Some are skeptical or even critical of slow scholarship, because in today’s climate with job pressures (think tenure and promotion) the desire to publish may outweigh the desire to publish something “good.” Not all scholars have the luxury of being able to do research slowly, and some would call it a privilege.

In the listserv discussion, a few key points were made, such as the fact that the amount of scholarly resources continues to grow over the years, and yet scholars do not seem to be given more time to read them – in fact, many might agree that there is emphasized pressure to publish even faster these days. How is a scholar supposed to be an expert in their field, when the growing body of research in their field keeps getting larger? How can one person keep up with all the new research?

I’m reminded of a book that our university did a book study on: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. From Greg McKeown’s website, essentialism is described as “applying a more selective criteria for what is essential. The pursuit of less allows us to regain control of our own choices so we can channel our time, energy and effort into making the highest possible contribution toward the goals and activities that matter.”

I would imagine most scholars hope that they are making the highest possible contribution towards their field of study that they can, that’s why things like essentialism and slow scholarship are really important to ponder.

For more reading on slow scholarship, check out:

Against slow scholarship

For slow scholarship