R2R Research Process Protocol Project

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The R2R Research Process Protocol Project

Proposed by Leif Thomas Olsen February 12, 2012

Main Statement: R2R RFC

This document is a request for comments to the P2P research community on the following proposal for a new collaborative, commons-driven, research model. A research platform will be built by P2P Foundation according to the ideas from participants in this RFC.

With the Association of Peer to Peer Researchers, the P2P Foundation wishes to create a space for broad autonomous collaboration between P2P researchers around the globe. We aspire to foster heightened levels of interconnection both in volume, frequency and content, leading to qualitative transformations in the relationships and outputs of researchers in the field.

For this, we consider that new ways of conceiving, conducting, writing and publishing formal research are essential. Therefore, we would like to propose a P2P research model consistent with the very idea of P2P. We believe open P2P collaborative practices outperform centralised methodologies:

  • R2R is a ‘commons-driven’ research model.
  • This model shall be possible to use for any type of research (also social) that registered community members wish to conduct.
  • Research projects will benefit from being able to receive the collaboration of the most relevant and interested experts, regardless of affiliation.
  • Research projects will be able to afford significantly broader scope and to be conducted through innovative research dynamics.


Offers for collaboration on the building of the platform itself are welcome as well. If you wish to offer your help in design and/or development of this platform, please raise your hand.

Introduction

The goal of this RFC is to find possible improvements for this model of P2P research, initially proposed by Leif Thomas Olsen.

As the centerpiece of the P2P Researchers Association, the collaborative platform resulting from this RFC process aims to make the Association an action-driven where ideas and projects are consolidated and given visibility.

The long-term objective for the R2R project is to become a reference-point not only for other researchers, but also for (e.g.) investigative writers and journalists, documentary film producers, post-grad students, intellectual activists, futurists, etc, etc, linking back to the r2r Networking site briefly drafted below.

R2R is a ‘commons-driven’ research model. This model shall be possible to use for any type of research (also social) that registered community members wish to conduct.

Proposed Research Process Flow

  1. The following is a step-by-step of the development of research projects, from proposal to publication.
    1. The initiator launches a research project using a standard research proposal format.
    1. Each research project is sub-divided into any number of sub-projects, possible to undertake as independent but still integrated events, such as literature studies, surveys, case-studies, etc. A preliminary time-frame shall be allotted (not less than 3 months).
    1. Any number of researchers can participate, multiplying the same literature studies, surveys, case-studies, etc as many times as they wish. All research-outcomes/-findings are posted on the dedicated research site.
    1. Any researcher wishing to make a critical evaluation of the findings till date can access these, and post his/her review-findings / critique.
    1. ALL postings made MUST be by an identifiable research community member. Anonymous postings will be removed.
    1. When the research community has exhausted its efforts in any sub-project (while many sub-projects may be simultaneously on-going), those wishing to support the proposed conclusions e-sign their confirmation.
    1. Sub-project’s conclusions contribute to other and/or further steps of the research.
    1. The research-project initiator organizes the research findings internally, and ensures that participator’s are acknowledge as ‘contributors’.
    1. Once the entire project is completed along the above lines, a formal research-paper is issued by the initiator, which all (only) contributors are invited to co-edit.
    1. The final research-paper is listed on the p2p Foundation website, stating the title of the research project, key terms and concepts, a research summary, its contributors and a web-link to the full report.


An Invitation

By Thomas Olsen:

To the world’s up-and-coming ‘r2r community’

P2P Foundation intends to introduce a new and hopefully sustainable avenue for research and knowledge enhancement, differing from what universities and think tanks represent.


Universities are, although often populated by people full of good intentions, products of the Westphalian competition-based, nation-state system, where national, commercial and vested interests rule. They tend to compartmentalize and privatize knowledge, and are driven by both intra- and inter-institutional competition, both for resources and ownership. Cross-disciplinary research is therefore still rare and traditional institutional ‘cultures’ tend to rule both engagement and outcome.


As researchers we have therefore, for too long, been driven by institutional formats. E.g. shall a Master thesis in the UK preferably not exceed 50 pages, and even a PhD thesis shall only include ‘small contributions’ to the overall body of knowledge in its field – the rest focusing on a discussion on already existing knowledge. Not already established lines of thinking are frowned upon, which in itself is a serious problem for a world in transition. Furthermore is research conducted outside established research centers often ignored, and funding for independent initiatives still very hard to get by.


Think Tanks may have a different agenda, but their funding remains the key to their existence. Much such funding is of a very discreet nature – often for good reasons.


That the world is full of people who have both valuable and priceless insights in the environments and situations they are a part of - without having chosen an academic career - is, in a system like this, difficult to appreciate and/or benefit from. Research should therefore, if it is to serve people in general, also be contributed to by people on the fringes of - and even outside - the established research community. Our initiative’s main objective is in fact to help remove the glass ceiling that currently separates the societies we research from the research we do on societies.


Quality in research brews not only from acquired research skills, but also from interest, sincerity, integrity, urgency and relative importance. In our r2r (= researcher-to-researcher) research model can all these contributions freely meet and interact, to the benefit of society and humanity.

We believe that new ways of conceiving, conducting, writing and publishing formal research are essential. Therefore, we propose a p2p research model (which we shall call r2r), consistent with the very idea of p2p, as represented by the P2P Foundation. In brief we believe that open p2p collaborative practices outperform centralized methodologies, and we claim this will also apply to future research, as follows:

1) r2r is a ‘commons-driven’ research model.

2) r2r research shall be possible to use for any type of research that registered community members wish to conduct.

3) r2r research projects will benefit from being able to receive the collaboration of the most relevant and interested experts, regardless of affiliation.

4) r2r research projects will be able to afford significantly broader scope and to be conducted through innovative research dynamics.

At the P2P Foundation we have drafted a ‘model’ for how to initiate, conduct, execute and publish r2r research projects along the above indicated lines. We believe that this model could be of interest also to others who, just like ourselves, actively try to break away from today’s institutional monopoly-approach.


Discussion

A critique by Denis Postle

Denis Postle:

"I welcome this P2P foundation initiative and I'm warm to the context that Thomas Olsen and Nicolas Mendoza outline and their list of intentions.

1) r2r is a ‘commons-driven’ research model.

2) r2r research shall be possible to use for any type of research that registered community members wish to conduct.

3) r2r research projects will benefit from being able to receive the collaboration of the most relevant and interested experts, regardless of affiliation.

4) r2r research projects will be able to afford significantly broader scope and to be conducted through innovative research dynamics.


However I respectfully suggest that the detailed research protocol proposed in the wiki be regarded as tentative, as work in progress.

P2P research has a substantial history, I have been a collaborative inquiry researcher outside academia since the early 80’s and Heron and Reason have detailed the issues that arise in bringing it into play. An approach to research that honours the achievements of the P2P foundation needs to build on this experience and recent developments.

In the interests of brevity I’ll try to open a conversation about adjustments and enhancements to the proposals that seem to me to be essential.

I’d like to see an opening up of the hidden power relations common in research - so that we distinguish between research ‘on’ people and research ‘with’ people. Is the P2p foundation going to support research ‘on’ people? If so, that might have to be looked at very carefully.

Once we leave the academic enclosures of expertise and engage with others in human condition work as I sometime call it, collaborative, cooperative or p2p research necessarily takes the form of ‘inquiries’. And it can be tough for the academically committed to appreciate that the outcome of the research may be understanding, transformation, more accurate care, often of a private kind and even, in a recent example, political resistance; there is often neither need nor relevance for publication of the outcomes. The enquiries of the two, five or ten people involved may even be ongoing, a process rather than a project with no focused concluding outcome. An example would be the family group I belong to that is engaged an active inquiry into how to best to care for one of us who is slipping deeper into dementia.

If for the P2P research to be valid there ‘has’ to be a published outcome, then I’d suggest this was a severe limitation.

Validity and what counts as evidence is likely to be a key concern as this initiative gets going, which is why keeping a sharp eye open for how power is distributed is essential. Professional or academic institutions can find it difficult to accept that in a fully participative inquiry validity is internal to the participants, who may or may not fail in their agreed task. This is not to rule out, as I have seen, the value of having external scrutiny of the group’s process.

My experience of cooperative inquiry arises out of group facilitation and participation on a full P2P model and one-one psychotherapy psycho-practice which I have long seen as a form of cooperative inquiry. In researching the dynamics of the institutions that support psychotherapy I have lately experienced a somewhat shocking paradigm shift. You read about it more detail here, and here.

Essentially I have come to understand that informal cooperative inquiry is ubiquitous, everyone does it, we all learn from experience. I have started to call this process and the knowledge thus generated, a psyCommons. A consequence of this awakening has been to discover that to a considerable extent, professionalized and academicized knowledge amount to enclosures of this psyCommons.

My response to the request for comments comes from this perspective, I am least happy with the Proposed Research Process Flow schema since some of it would exclude or render invalid much of what I do. Here are a few of the things that I trip over:

‘a standard research proposal format’.

‘A preliminary time-frame shall be allotted’

‘ALL postings made MUST be by an identifiable research community member

‘The research-project initiator organizes the research findings’

‘Once the entire project is completed along the above lines, a formal research-paper is issued by the initiator, which all (only) contributors are invited to co-edit’.

‘The final research-paper’

If it was welcome, and a way of contributing to the development of the r2r initiative I’d be inclined to contribute another draft of this protocol formulation.

Response to Denis Postle by Thomas Olsen

Dear Denis,

Thank you for your grounded and well-founded comments to P2P Foundation’s “r2r” proposal. First of all, this kind of comment is not only invited, but also most welcome. We think this is what p2p is all about.

However, there is obviously a reason (actually several) for why the proposed research model is proposed the way it is, rather than in some other equally feasible way. Below I will try to lay bare some of those reasons. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that other ‘models’ (e.g. what you indicate you would like to contribute) can’t run on a parallel, since the main reason for us to at all propose what we call “r2r” actually is the rigidity of today’s academic world. To replace one rigid system with another will not take us very far. As we are not entirely sure what you would like to suggest as your alternative, I focus on two things that I understand concerns you; (i) the idea that the research we do shall be ‘published’ and (ii) the requirement that contributors shall identify themselves.

Let me start with the almost overwhelming fact that, whatever we ourselves may think about it, is the written word more long-lasting than the spoken one. In today’s highly competitive, high-tech, high-speed and highly commercialised world, can the ‘spoken truth’ (if there is any such?) only survive in written form. If any recent development has reinforced this, it is the Internet. Nowadays is even social interaction - to a very large extent -conducted in a written form, where social networking is spelled Facebook and Twitter (sadly enough at the same time commercial vehicles for private wealth accumulation). P2P Foundation is also evidence of ‘the power of writing’.

We can also take note of what Ghanaian Professor Irene Odotoi stressed many times; one of the main reasons why African tribal culture with all its ancient wisdom is totally overruled by the colonial culture - lacking in such wisdom - is because the former is oral while the latter is written. A ‘paper in hand’ will always win the dispute. A written document takes on its own life, and once it has a seal to it, it takes a court to prove it wrong.

The idea with r2r is to challenge the idea that institutional research is superior to non-institutional research. The reason for doing so is that institutions are biased by default. They have been set up for a reason, with funding from sources contributing them for a reason. Such institutions cannot challenge those reasons, why they cannot move in a direction not supported by its initiators and financial backers.

Take a very interesting example; acupuncture. Acupuncture has been practiced in the Chinese cultural sphere for millennia. When it was slowly starting to appear in the West, brought in by alternative practitioners in the 1980s, it was initially more or less ignored by the medical establishment - ruled out as sheer nonsense. In the 1990s it had however become so commonly found in Western countries so this establishment had to take note of it. So acupuncture was simply banned! The debate did nevertheless not falter, and eventually western MDs started to do research on how it actually worked. Once they had come up with a westernised explanation for why acupuncture works the way the Chinese always claimed it did, they took both pride and honour for having added something to the field of medicine. Although it turned out to work exactly the way its ancient practitioners had documented it, it was the fact that it had now been documented in a ‘western way’ that made it acceptable to the western society at large. Today is acupuncture only yet another type of treatment; one among many.

This doesn’t mean we have to document our findings in a format inherited from the current academic regime. Nor that we ‘publish’ our findings through ‘their channels’. To the contrary I would say. Firstly we need to develop more suitable ways of expressing our research-findings, so researchers cannot distance themselves from the reality they research, the way today’s research often does. If we understand you correctly you also – just as we do – feel there is a glass-ceiling between the (social) research taking place and the people being researched; as if the ‘research object’ was just an ‘object’. This is, of course, a legacy from the natural sciences, and it is sad that this view has been so thoroughly adopted by mainstream social science researchers.

A new and better approach is needed, and is probably one of the contributions that r2r can offer. Another contribution is an independent publishing venue, free from commercial interests. Our idea, although still in its infancy, is an online library, storing all the research conducted, free to access online under‘copy-left’ (i.e. the opposite to ‘copyright’), free to print out, and/or available in print ‘at cost’.

Again, we believe that such access is vital for a more wide-spread use of the results that the conducted research generate, and eventually for its ability to influence and possibly attract also current members of the ‘old regime’, unhappy with the way their originally high ambitions are discouraged, and their best efforts are redirected towards non-offensive banalities - merely for hierarchical reasons. In this manner we need not remain a fringe ‘experiment’, ignored by the powers running our societies (and hence ruling most of us), as acupuncture was, but build momentum and eventually become the Trojan horse needed to create change.

As for identifying yourself as a research-contributor - whether you consider yourself a researcher or a member of a collective gaining experience through participative action – is something we consider a key to credibility. If you don’t want others to know who did what, this ‘who’ could just as well be a dark force. It is well-known that all major Secret Service Agencies discretely and anonymously contribute to e.g. Wikipedia, hoping to make their views more legitimate. We also know that tobacco companies spend enormous amounts on ‘research’, intending to prove that smoking is not at all that dangerous, and that oil companies spend huge amounts on advertising their purely symbolic research into carbon free ‘alternative’energy sources, suggesting they really aretrying to cut the very branch they are sitting on – being the very branch they also use the funds from to bankroll presidential elections, ‘environmental symposiums’, etc. Knowing who is behind any research finding is important, if that finding is to be put in context.

Nevertheless, we see no reason not to run a parallel scheme, where findings are presented in totally different formats; e.g. ‘stories’ where the reader him-/herself draws whatever conclusions s/he feels relevant, online debates where experiences rather than ‘findings’ are exchanged, etc, etc. We are convinced your own background can be a good starting point for outlining such a parallel ‘model’. Welcome to the Team!

Cheers

/Thomas Olsen P2P Foundation