Think of this more as a provocation, than a definitive thesis. I am currently reading the March 2014 Current Sociology which focuses on issues of public engagement in Sociology. Within this Rodriguez-Garavito (2014) talks about four strengths of public sociology:
1. ‘Rapid Change of roles and identities allows one to see the same social reality from different angles’
2. ‘The design, the questions and the results of the research project are directly informed by interactions with actors from the reality under study’
3. ‘the public sociologist tends to have immediate and continued access to the places and actors of her studies’
4. ‘public scientists tend to continue the dialogue with the people and collectivities for whom these practices are not a laboratory but their lives’ (p.159)
It struck me just how similar these strengths are to conducting a professional doctorate within a context where the researcher is part of the professional context under research. Many of the concerns of the distance between academic research and practice are negated through the nature of the professional doctorate model.
In this case, the publics who are affected by the research are the professional communities within which the doctoral candidate works and thus, by its nature, the research should directly inform and influence those publics in the same way a public sociology would. Even if we consider Ethnography as being part of a community under research, there is always the need for withdrawal from the field eventually and distancing from the community under study. With a doctorate which centres around professional practice, it seems there is never that point of complete withdrawal and thus it mirrors much more closely a model of a public sociology and those strengths outlined above.
These were just initial ideas that struck me so i’d be interested to continue this dialog.
RODRÍGUEZ-GARAVITO, C. 2014. Amphibious sociology: Dilemmas and possibilities of public sociology in a multimedia world. Current Sociology, 62, 156-167.