Tagged: disability and society

Current Issues: New article on DSAs in Disability and Society

I have a new ‘Current Issues’ paper on cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances, published this week (4th July 2014) by the Journal of Disability and Society.

Reference: Lewthwaite, Sarah (2014) ‘Current issues: Government cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances must be resisted‘ Disability and Society. 4th July 2014.

The paper highlights issues around proposed cuts to Disabled Students’ Allowances and places them within a conceptual frame, focussing particularly on the relationship between Disabled Students’ Allowances, disclosure and how disability is defined in UK higher education. The article identifies how disabled peoples’ access to higher education will be endangered by cuts. In addition, research suggests that if DSAs are cut, the impetus to disclose disability will be reduced; as a result many disabled students within higher education could become invisible within academic statistics, damaging the validity of equality statistics. The article then draws on evidence to discuss the knock-on implications for the allocation of resources and satisfaction metrics. Finally, the article focusses on the ways in which DSAs shape how disability is defined (that is: who is consider disabled and who is considered non-disabled) in English higher education, and how government cuts will result in a redefinition that compromises both social and medical models of disability. Conceptually, cuts are observed to express Government’s regulation of disabled students as an enaction of biopower. I conclude that there is a risk with the proposed cuts, some disabled students will themselves be cut; excluded from higher education or rendered invisible within it.

The journal of Disability and Society is not an open-access journal. However, as the author, I have a limited number of copies (50) of the article that I can allocate freely. If you are working in this area, or involved in advocacy or consultation on cuts to DSAs, and cannot access the journal, please get in touch for your copy and I will be please to supply a copy. I will give preference to advocates and non-academic readers, so please let me know if you fall into either (or both) of these categories.

Finally; I’d like to highlight the value of ‘Current Issues’ and similar sections in academic journals for academics and researchers working in ‘live’ subject areas, particularly via open access journals. For my purposes, I pitched the paper to Disability and Society as the journal is a central to Disability Studies in the UK (and elsewhere). Disability and Society have a fast-track review process that means a ‘current issues’ article can be submitted, reviewed, amended and put through final copy process within 6-8 weeks for online publication. Full guidance on writing for this section is available on the journal website. My paper is short by journal standards (around 2,000 words) but much longer than many news or blog articles. As an academic publication, more conceptual and theoretical angles can be brought to bear upon the subject than other venues might allow. Many other journals have similar ‘current issues’ sections, and if you are wanting to disseminate your work or analysis these definitely bear consideration.

As ever, any comments are very welcome.

Journal Hacks for PostGraduates

Impact and Dissemination: two words to strike fear into the heart of any research student.  However, sharing your research is important, particularly in emergent and interdisciplinary fields, where research can become lost between academic genres. Publication is also increasingly necessary for bagging an academic post following study.   Fortunately, there are several straightforward ways for you to get your research Out There. For those with a finished thesis this may mean publishing a string of papers stemming from the PhD across several journals. For others, it may be preferable to publish a thesis online in a University or Open Access repository (for example nottingham Universities etheses repository), or with a Creative Commons licence in a personally hosted space. Importantly, the two may be mutually exclusive: some journals will not publish research that is already in the public domain for copyright reasons. As a result – consider which approach you will adopt, and which you can reasonably achieve.

With debate raging over the future of academic publishing, copyright and closed versus open access models of publishing your publication decisions may be swayed by ethics, politics, practical issues of audience share, accessibility and/or consciously aligning yourself with institutional values. In any event, between and amongst these controversies there are other opportunities available for sign-posting your work at both the middle and end of your studies. In each of the following instances I sketch options available to PhDs, postgrads and even…undergraduates.

Using a Journal to Circulate your Abstract

Last year, the journal of Disability and Society launched a ‘completed thesis’ list section to their journal to encourage new PhDs to share their research with a wider research community and help build Disability Studies as a discipline.

The journal cites this as as an important resource for readers, as well as a mode for sharing the names of new entrants to the discipline. Embracing new entrants in which way, is an important step for any learning community, be it focussed on a journal or a wider discipline. Junior researchers contribute new ideas to any discipline. Moreover, boosting the status of undergraduate and postgraduate researchers in the production of knowledge, promotes what Tang, Xi and Ma (2006) identify as the ‘scale free’ or egalitarian networks that prove more effective for knowledge transfer than traditional hierarchical networks.

I submitted my 100 word synopsis several months ago, and I recently received notice that my abstract will be included in the December issue of Disability and Society (Volume 26, Number 7). The information I submitted ran as follows:

  • Name of author: Sarah Lewthwaite
  • Thesis title: Disability 2.0: Student dis/Connections. A study of student experiences of disability and social networks on Campus in Higher Education.
  • University awarding degree: University of Nottingham, UK, PhD 2011.
    At university many undergraduates depend upon social networks such as Facebook to enter student life.  Using accessible internet-enabled interviews with 18 disabled students from three UK universities, this qualitative study examines disability as a socio-technical, networked experience. Networked publics are found to be highly normative. For some disabled students the network supports ‘normal’ status. For others, the network must be resisted as a form of social domination that is punitive and disabling. Foucauldian analysis demonstrates how, in each instance, social andtechnical network conditions propel students towards disciplinary techniques that mask diversity, rendering disability invisible. As a result, disability is both produced and suppressed by the network.

When drafting this text I was aware of a tension between the language of internet research / digital sociology (“networked publics”) and a wider Disability Studies audience.  I would not claim that this abstract is by any means “plain language” or summarises a 100,000 word thesis adequately. However, I do feel that my most important conclusions are outlined and key words gesturing to specific methods and discourses are highlighted (“Foucauldian”, “accessible”).

If you are a scholar in disability research, I highly recommend that you add a submission to the “completed thesis” to your post-phd ‘to do’ list. If you are working in another discipline, you may want to check journals in your field for similar opportunities, or request that this kind of space is developed.

Position Pieces and Student Perspectives

A second opportunity for postgrads is available in the form of a position piece. These are often short communication papers (not necessarily requiring data and hard research) that assert a new perspective on a research domain. Postgraduates are often uniquely positioned to supply these viewpoint pieces, bringing fresh ideas into a field. I was invited to submit such a paper to the journal of Learning Media and Technology who have a Viewpoint section combining postgraduate perspectives with more established arguments. This kind paper allows you to position your arguments within a field without exposing unfinished data. Check the journals in your field for similar opportunities.

In addition, Student Perspective sections are also valuable.  Disability and Society have launched a ‘Student Perspectives’ section for such papers. Again, this offers an excellent space for position pieces exploring any topic relating to disability research. The journal’s invitation for submissions runs as follows:

We have established a section within the Journal, entitled Student Perspectives, in which student papers will be published. Papers will be refereed and can explore any topic related to disability issues and questions. The papers must be authored by students undertaking under-graduate, postgraduate or research degrees. The papers need to be between 3000 and 7000 words (maximum).
The papers should:

  • Provide an adequate review of disability studies literature.
  • Have clearly acknowledged sources.
  • Be specifically written for the Journal taking into account its ethos and audience.
  • Conform to the academic requirements of the Journal
  • Where necessary adequately discuss the methods used.
  • Have particular attention paid to the presentation and analysis of empirical data.
  • Pay attention to the Journal’s policy on language.

The paper should not be a straight reproduction of work produced for academic assessment.
Submission details are the same as for main articles. See link to Instructions for Authors.

This is great for sharing an angle on a final year project, MA/MSc/MRes work or early PhD findings and literature that brings something new to the field, but might not constitute a full research paper.  It may also also offers a useful sandpit for those researching outside traditional social disciplines where a project may be undertaken but rarely disseminated outside a department, despite valuable findings (Computer Scientists, I’m looking at you). Importantly, Disability and Society invite both undergraduate and postgraduate submissions, so if you are undertaking research or developing a position at any level of university study – you have the opportunity to enter the refereeing process and potentially share your research in a international academic journal. Guidance is published on the Disability and Society webpages.

All of the above are possible, in addition to more traditional forms such as Letters and Book Reviews. If I have missed anything, or if you have additional thoughts, please comment.