Academics flock to research the Occupy movement

A New York Times article suggests a number of academics have seized the opportunity presented by the Occupy movement to not only teach about but also research the protests:

“This thing just erupted so quickly,” said Alex S. Vitale, a sociologist at Brooklyn College who studies the policing of demonstrations. “It’s almost overwhelming to deal with all the information that’s out there.”

Mr. Vitale is finishing a 10-city study of interactions between protesters and the police since last fall, which he said showed a lack of overall “militarization” in police response in major cities. (New York is an exception, said Mr. Vitale, who organized a demonstration against police tactics in Zuccotti Park last fall but said he did not consider himself part of the Occupy movement.) Other researchers are doing ethnographic studies, crunching survey data, recording oral histories and analyzing material by and about the movement, all at lightning speed compared with the usual pace of scholarship.

“Academics are used to taking forever, but we don’t have to,” said Theda Skocpol, a sociologist at Harvard and author, with Vanessa Williamson, of “The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism,” a study of Occupy’s right-wing counterpart published in January…

Some researchers also say that the sympathy many academics feel for the movement risks undermining objective research.

It will be very interesting to see the research and then the resulting discussions.

This highlights a larger issue in academia: the common lag time between events and publishable research. This can often take a few years as researchers quickly draw up plans, collect data, analyze it, and then work through the review process. I imagine there will be some pressure to get some of this Occupy research going more quickly, perhaps with an interest in more quickly addressing and understanding this phenomenon and with the idea of capitalizing on political momentum. Could this change how research is presented and considered in the future? Work could be published in web or open source journals. What about books that are rushed into print or even more timely, e-books?

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