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Developing infrastructure for team-based research: The module-and-seminar model

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Title: Developing infrastructure for team-based research: The module-and-seminar model
Authors: Michael, Lev
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: This paper focuses on the infrastructure that was developed to coordinate research activities among the participants of the Iquito Language Documentation Project (ILDP), a team-based project involving both graduate students and trained community members, aimed at documenting Iquito, a highly endangered language of Peruvian Amazonia. The ILDP was designed to document Iquito during six eight-week field periods between 2002 and 2006. To compensate for these short field periods, fieldwork was carried out by a team of researchers. Additionally, the project was designed to rely on graduate student researchers, thereby tapping this large pool for endangered language documentation. Concomittantly, the ILDP was intended to test methods for team-based language documentation, the focus of the present talk. Team-based research faces two challenges not faced by a lone linguist: a synchronic coordination problem and a diachronic one. The synchronic problem arises from the holistic character of linguistic fieldwork, and the fact that knowledge gained by any one researcher on a team is relevant to the work of the other researchers. In order to avoid duplication of research, overlap in research topics must be avoided, and data and analyses need to be shared rapidly among researchers. The diachronic problem concerns documentation of the findings of one season's research team for use by the following one. To address these issues, we developed the module-and-seminar model, which consisted of domain-specific project coordinators, modules, a module schedule, and daily seminars. Briefly, modules were week-long research projects assigned to individual researchers, focusing on a particular part of the grammar; these were written up in reports that were presented to the rest of the team during the daily seminar. The revised modules were subsequently included in a project-internal volume of that season's findings, for use in following years. In order to provide continuity in the project, two coordinators were selected, one who coordinated text and pedagogical materials preparation, and another who coordinated dictionary and module preparation. The latter coordinator also prepared each season's module schedule, in consultation with participating researchers. In this talk I discuss the overall success of this model, especially in addressing the synchronic coordination problem, and its potential replicability in other field contexts. I also discuss the few difficulties faced by this model, principally with respect to diachronic coordination, as new students were challenged to rapidly assimilate previous findings in order to contribute to new descriptive work.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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