You can read all the posts here, plus new items at:
See you there!
The independent learner's advocate and home of Guerrilla Scholarship.
But one also has to mark the rise of the think tank as a substitute institution. These organizations sit somewhere between the university and the public, carrying on research on specific areas, mostly dealing with public policy. To some degree, they have replaced the public intellectual’s role in our discourse, and unfortunately their net influence has not been positive overall.
There are a few out there that do excellent work. But many others were engineered from the ground up to support a specific political agenda, facts and logic be damned. This is possible because Think Tanks answer to no regulations, no rules (aside from libel and slander) dictating their content. The people who run them don’t need to have college degrees or any education at all. They don't even have to produce anything as far as I can determine. Today's think tanks are to the intellectual what totally unrestricted capitalist business is to the economist, with similarly tainted results. Now, I am a firm believer in the veracity of the marketplace of ideas, but I’m also realist enough to recognize that no truth, no matter how “self-evident” can survive unaided in the face of a well-funded, well-designed propaganda campaign.
On the other hand, there are allegedly numerous tax breaks and other fiscal advantages available to think tanks that might be of use to the struggling independent scholar or amateur scientist who is trying to support their work. Most grants made for scholarship and the like are not made to individuals, but institutions. Wrap yourself up in one of these think tanks, and suddenly you can apply for grants. Or so it goes in theory. Besides the practical reality behind that kind of funding, the question is whether one wants to assume the shady reputation that comes with becoming part of the think tank crowd. This is something I will explore further in later installments.
1. Join the Audubon Society and participate in their annual Christmas Bird Count, including the tabulation and processing of the data afterwards.You now have a track record. You are showing that you have interest, drive, and have a knack for getting things done. This chronicle will go some distance toward establishing yourself as someone who has more than a passing interest in your subject. And when you finish your five items, you will probably find that you have accomplished more than what you anticipated; these kinds of efforts tend to build on themselves and lead you to opportunities you never imagined.
2. Volunteer as a docent at a local city or state recreation area or natural history museum, undergoing the training needed to qualify as a docent. This leaves a record.
3. Keep a regular notebook of regular bird watching field trips, and use the Grinnell Method or some other format commonly used by professional naturalists.
4. Work with a professional ornithologist on a project where he or she needs help collecting or organizing. Ask the person you’re working with if they will write you a letter of introduction or recommendation when you finish so you can document your work. If the project is a paper, you might get an acknowledgement or in some cases be listed as a co-author.
5. Take courses in ornithology, wildlife studies, or biology at a nearby community college or over the Internet. Completed coursework is the next best thing to a degree.