Disciplined inquiry

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Many people can contribute in different ways to the ASO project overall, as described in our web-page How you can help, but a central part of the ASO vision is the development of a collaborative framework within which Alexander scholarship (in the broadest sense) can flourish, based on recognized models.

The model of disciplined inquiry

The development of the natural sciences has derived from disciplined collaboration amongst researchers, whereby theories and evidence are accurately specified, tested and interrogated by recognized experts in each given field of inquiry.

Without achieving absolute truth, these collaborative processes have generated extensive areas of consensus about the natural world (whilst leaving some questions unanswered and new ones to emerge). This consensus underpins and defines what we think of as "scientific" or "reliable" knowledge. 

In the human sciences (so-called), and even more in the humanities, "knowledge" is often contested and interpretation (varying considerably from person to person and era to era) plays a more important role. Nevertheless, similar processes of collaboration are invoked in order to achieve shared understanding and insight, to the extent that these are possible[1] and to create a recognizable field within which debate can occur.

Alexander studies straddle natural sciences (for example, physiology) the human sciences (for example, psychology) and humanities (for example dance, music and theatre studies) and our platform aims to support collaborative processes that are common to all.

Communication

The essential requirement is a framework for effective communication amongst those involved. Three hundred and fifty years after the appearance of the first volume  of  the Transactions  of Britain's Royal Society the publication of the research or academic paper in Journals, printed or online, remains a key focus of activity. 

The appearance of a paper in a journal is, however, a middle stage in the collaborative process. The first stage, pre-publication, involves editors assessing submissions for suitability. Material meeting editorial criteria is then passed for evaluation through the peer review process. Typically this will involve suggestions for amendment or in less favourable cases a recommendation for outright rejection. In most disciplines, authors compete with one another for limited publication space so rejection cannot be taken to imply that the material is of low quality: it may end up being published elsewhere.

After publication, in the third stage in the life-cycle of an academic or research paper, there is a further process of critique via letters to the Editor, via papers that challenge the interpretation of results or quality of evidence or even, where experimental research is involved, via replication of the original research to test its validity.

A fourth stage can also be identified. Papers in academic journals are numerous and can be highly technical: popular science writers, journalists and sometimes the researchers themselves, if sufficiently gifted, distil findings for dissemination to a much wider audience.

As regards the journals themselves, they are normally international in character and, even where run for commercial purposes or under the auspices of particular organisations, they enjoy editorial independence that puts knowledge creation above  private interest. 

The ASO framework

ASO offers a framework that demonstrates the characteristics outlined above, specifically:

  1. its collaborative processes involve people with established capacity to contribute at a suitable level
  2. material submitted for publication goes through a process of selection and critique  prior to publication
  3. mechanisms are available for feedback on material that is published.
  4. ASO is explicitly international in character
  5. ASO operates on the basis of editorial independence
  6. contributors are required to adhere to specified standards of conduct.

Additionally and unusually, the ASO platform supports further opportunities for collaboration by

  1. supporting the pre-publication critique of material that is not necessarily destined to be published by ASO itself, thus supporting multiple publishing channels beyond ASO
  2. involving, where possible, "barefoot researchers" - volunteers from within the Alexander community who are able to contribute to projects such as developing the Digital Library, or the Alexander Index
  3. hosting projects such as Alexander Technique in Autobiography which allow anyone with Alexander experience to make a contribution to the corpus of material relevant to the understanding of the Alexander Technique.

Although ASO aims to make its resources widely accessible, our material may be too specialist or detailed for some needs. However, we can support the production of material tailored to a wider readership through pre-publication review of articles aimed at a more general audience (point 6 above).

Praxis

As its name implies, the Alexander Technique is essentially a practical tool. Theory, if it has any relevance, must connect with practice. This encounter between practice and ideas, involving reflection on practice, is intended to feature in our dedicated Praxis section.

Mechanisms for collaboration

The opportunity for collaboration is provided through several routes of which the follow stand out:

  • the "comment" feature integral to our Drupal Content Management System (the technical platform for the ASO website) is intended for relatively informal and accessible feedback on material published on the ASO website. Nearly all the material posted on the website, whether papers, editorials, blogs, encyclopaedia entries or whatever, is available for comment by our Contributors and the comment system forms the backbone of the online forums and any discussion associated with blogs
  • community review, peer commentary and open commentary are more formal processes of review with a more substantial editorial input to ensure appropriate quality and curation of materials, described in more detail here.
  • additionally, we aim to offer peer review as an orthodox, anonymous (or partly anonymous) option of review by selected Editorial Advisory Board members of submissions by other Contributors

The website features a simple Discussion Forum feature that offers the possibility of free-form debate or discussion amongst our Contributors. A number of broad topic areas have been identified to help with the organisation of the material. Forum discussions may subsequently be edited into a publishable form. And forum discussions may be "seeded" by the editorial team introducing issues aimed at focusing debate on a particular subject  or theme. 

At a later stage, we hope to implement a a mechanism that will allow a time-limited, public debate of issues amongst a wider demographic. Such opportunities will necessarily be limited as they would require the moderation of all contributions.

Standards of conduct

Online commentary is subject to rules of "netiquette" that reflect the spirit of collaboration which ASO seeks to encourage and all contributions have to conform with internationally recognized Standards for Authors described here.


Notes

1. "There is no mileage in the view that the so-called soft psychological and social sciences would somehow escape interpretation if they became like the so-called hard natural sciences. Knowledge in the hard sciences is also interpretive, since interpretation is a feature of the exercise of rationality itself". Roger Smith, Being human: historical knowledge and the creation of human nature (Manchester University Press, 2007)