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Virtual Conference 2022 Highlights! - Roundtable on Independent Scholar Community

Updated: Sep 29, 2022



Watch all three special sessions here!


At the SASA Virtual Conference this last August, SASA held three special sessions focused on building a community for Independent Scholars in Ancient Studies. The first of these sessions was a roundtable discussion on Independent Scholars Community Building and Integration. SASA’s Founder, Dr. David Danzig, began the roundtable by introducing a problem. SASA as an organization works to increase academic interest and research within the field of Ancient Studies, but academic positions in Ancient Studies field remain limited. To prevent masses of students, trained in Ancient Studies, from finding themselves jobless, SASA wants to reinvent the concept of scholarship. A community of independent scholars would allow for flexibility in career for graduate students who cannot find positions in traditional academia, bringing Ancient Studies to the wider professional world. As Dr. Danzig pointed out, “we need to separate the concept of ‘scholar’ from ‘academic.’”

The roundtable proceeded with a presentation from SASA’s Independent Scholars Working Group, given by independent scholar and Alumni Coordinator Austin Blackman. The presentation concerned the initiatives the Independent Scholars Working Group has been working on since last year, including monthly meetings, gathering of resources, and the Let’s Get Published events, a workshop for independent scholars which includes project sharing and peer feedback.


The resources that the Working Group offers are valuable to those independent scholars who are not directly affiliated with any institution. Heather Rosmarin, lead of the resource gathering initiative, spoke next on this project. It’s an ongoing process, but currently volunteers are gathering resources in a Google Sheet, with intent to publish them in a more legible form in the upcoming months. The issues that independent scholars often face are questions of where to publish, where to present, and how to gain access to scholarship. The resources the Working Group is gathering are meant to help with these issues, gathering platforms, communities, and conferences that are accessible to independent scholars.


After these presentations, the roundtable discussion began in earnest, led by Joel Christensen, an independent scholar. Christensen introduced three sets of questions pertaining to the building of independent scholarship. The first of these questions asked, “How do we support independent scholars better? What are the specific barriers that independent scholars face?” Participants agreed that lack of community and lack of resources pose a great challenge to independent scholarship. Paywalls and lack of open access, in addition to lack of academic connection, often prevent independent scholars from developing and publishing research where it will be read and reviewed. It’s not as if no resources are available. Rosemarin pointed out that there are alumni resources, alumni networks, and possible discounted subscriptions. Independent scholars should be encouraged to look deeply into the options available to them, even while SASA works to open these options further.


The second question was “How do we foster integration (and cooperation) between independent scholars and academia better?” Participants agreed that redefining scholarship across academia is essential to growing independent scholarship. Dr. Danzig confirmed that the problem is that independent scholars aren’t considered real scholars in academia, simply because they have different time commitments. Redefining scholarship is more important than ever before, because the digital age has brought about so many new opportunities to share research. Even so, it’s important that scholars, both academic and independent, mingle and collaborate. Heather Rosmarin shared that there are some open learned societies for both groups, such as the Association of Ancient Historians. Open source publishing platforms also get ideas out there, and many accept independent submissions. Balancing traditional and non-traditional platforms and communities is vital in the process of expanding the limits of scholarship.


The final question considered was “How do we reach and engage independent scholars to connect with SASA?” In order to help prospective and current independent scholars, SASA has to consider its outreach initiative. During the discussion, participants came to the conclusion that refining its social media strategy would be effective, but that there are many pitfalls that come with internet communication, such as misinformation. Handling outreach from the academic side by getting to undergrads through department administrators is also a possible strategy, but it is limiting. In order to encourage independent scholarship, a mixed strategy is required.


The roundtable discussion ended just as it began, with a call to action. SASA’s Independent Scholars Working Group is working to expand the definition of scholarship, and help is always appreciated. If you would like to ask what you can do to help independent scholarship, contact Austin Blackman at ablackman@saveancientstudies.org.


This special session was but one of the three special sessions held at SASA’s Virtual Conference 2022. Highlights of the other sessions can be found below.



SASA thanks all our presenters and participants for their attendance at this year’s Virtual Conference. Special Session 2 and all sessions from this year’s conference are posted on SASA’s YouTube channel. [Opening the Ancient World 2022 - An Ancient Studies Virtual Conference - YouTube]






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