Re-imagining the research article: Participation, dialogue and the radical potential of an ‘ecology of knowledges’

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This thesis critically explores the peer-reviewed research article and its potential to contribute to lasting social and institutional transformation. This investigation is located within the global movement of collaborative and participatory community-university partnerships that has flourished over the past few decades. My focus is on the persistent absence of substantive contributions to the scholarly literature by diverse community-based experts. Addressing this matters deeply if social and institutional change is to be more than mere accommodation. The core research question of this thesis is to ask: how does the peer-reviewed research article enable or constrain full participation in the communication and dissemination of collaborative research? Posing the question in this way signals a particular conceptual and methodological stance. First, it is making an argument for epistemological diversity and cognitive justice, such as proposed by Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Second, it challenges the notion of the research article as immutable, neutral – that it just is. In order to interrogate the latter, and assert the former, I employ a social semiotic understanding of language use as being socially and historically situated. This framework underpins my analysis of co-authored articles and peer reviews from a journal in the field of community-based research, of which I am the Managing Editor. A significant, original contribution of this thesis is to empirically demonstrate the ways in which the rhetorical conventions of the Western scientific research article permeate co-authored manuscripts and the peer review process. Fine-grained text-based analysis also demonstrates the ways in which authors are innovating, resisting and adapting these genre conventions. In the final chapters, drawing on a collaborative museum exhibition methodology co-developed with Australian First Nations communities, I propose an alternative dialogue-based framework for a re-imagined research article. While speculative, this is an important undertaking, offered as critical and practical encouragement for a form of scholarly communication in which social and cognitive justice is not just acknowledged, but is present.
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