A PhD is endowed when Academia is persuaded that a person has made a significant and original contribution to human knowledge. This usually involves research work planned and conducted under the auspices of a major university with intensive mentoring, peer review and formal publication.
Now alongside such formally recognised work, much significant, innovative and worthwhile work of similar value to mankind happens outside universities: in industry and government institutes, military research organisations and in private companies worthwhile intellectual advances are made that others may later stand upon to make further progress. Surely it would be of great benefit if individuals, who had in their careers made a number of such contributions, could retrospectively and incrementally get formal accreditation via records of accomplishment held in private and public internet domains using organisational frameworks that would bring to the table and apply the rigour of competent peer review, discussion and publication/dissemination of sanitised extracts of their work.
Imagine for instance a Facebook or a LinkedIn application that provided a collaborative environment that could apply the disciplines of verification and expert review of such bodies of work for a fee. That fee might even be constituted by a nominal percentage of ownership in the associated intellectual property either past, prospective or for a defined period. Universities and or professional associations would gain yet another income stream, the volume of ideas thrown into the academic melee would swell, and productive individuals would be more likely to get deserved recognition and involvement in projects of value.
The frameworks would serve to filter, sort and redirect specialised information, or sanitised abstracts of same, to appropriate institutions and individuals suited to review it. They would track and acquit the checks and evaluations of evidentiary material submitted and third party attestations of worthiness. They would interpose a level of firewall-like obfuscation (or indirection) where information had corporate sensitivity or national security implications. Work of emerging significance and value could be banked for a time to give it the breathing space to develop or commercialise successfully. Later, when recognition was sought retrospectively, the bank of related ideas, their review products, and the closed community contributions could be selectively unbanked or de-classified for purposes of academic accreditation.
Given that panels of excellence in disparate fields are always going to be a limited resource, echelons of expertise – much like the layers of committees one encounters in public office – would be identified and managed in the frameworks. As confidence in worthiness was incrementally established, so too would the evaluation be promoted to more distinguished a review. Abstracts and third party assessments would give way to more complete compilations with supporting material. Indeed reviewers themselves might be incrementally matured or promoted by virtue of their screening work and its subsequent validation.
The hope is that a framework might be prototyped then evolved both in scope and application. A pathway would be constituted whereby areas of accreditation and specialisation are gradually added, academic jurisdictions are accrued into the pool, participant reviewers are inducted, and especially creative originators are motivated to lodge a trace of their progress in the framework. The Internet itself was a brave idea that might have seemed somewhat of a pipe-dream not so long ago. Social Media Accreditation Frameworks might just be a way to facilitate mankind’s further intellectual self-organisation in a semi-autonomous way to leverage our collective productivity. That might also provide a useful business model for our universities and other academic institutes to earn income and provide a very useful service to those already out in the productive workforce.