One great perk of my role with the Scholarly Communication Institute is that I have the opportunity not only to learn about how the Praxis Program functions, but also to learn alongside the team members, particularly in this second year. The semester has barely begun, and already the collective wheels are turning as the new group begins to develop its own charter, to brainstorm new directions for Prism, and to learn the fundamental skills they’ll need as they extend, modify, and rethink it.
I’m excited to take part from the start of the academic year. When I joined SCI in April 2012, the first Praxis cohort was nearing the completion of their year-long project. I watched from my Brooklyn perch as they untangled the last knots in functionality, design, deadlines, and communications as they prepared to launch Prism. They had already learned and assimilated the skills that the project required, and I was impressed by how fluidly the group worked together to navigate the complex hurdles of polishing and releasing their work.
As the second cohort begins its year together, I have the opportunity to observe from day one. Sitting in on the group’s weekly meetings (as a disembodied Skype presence), my goals are double: First, consistent with SCI’s intention to work with a handful of unique but allied programs in the development of a Praxis Network, I’ll be watching to see how the program functions, which elements of it are particular to the Scholars’ Lab ecosystem, and which might be useful to other programs wishing to develop similar initiatives.
Second, and more selfishly, I’ll be joining as an eager student. In the past few months I’ve worked at learning some of the skills required to create the kinds of data visualizations I want to use to report on SCI’s study of alternative academic careers, and also to gain more control over my website. Giddy over minor successes with Vim, GitHub, HTML/CSS, and D3.js, I’ve tasted the Kool-Aid, and am excited to learn more. Since I’m not physically in the Scholars’ Lab space, I’m not only looking forward to the technical instruction of the SLab gurus, but also (even more) to the collective nature of the process as we all go a bit out of our comfort zones, embracing the challenges and failures that are a part of learning new skills.