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“Whither Geography?” Concluded: Is Geography Graduate Education Missing One of Its Targets?

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As geographers working in a professional capacity, many of us engage in scholarly research. Unless it is self-supporting and the results are kept confidential, this activity requires that we strike relationships with various “third parties,” constituencies who lie outside of the usual two-party, researcher–subject relationship but are unavoidably drawn in because they help support our work, use our findings, or bear their practical consequences, good or bad. How (and why) should we relate to them? One option is to maximize all (positive) types of third-party impacts by intentionally pursuing scholarship that benefits the greatest range of constituencies. If this approach is desirable from the perspective of the discipline, science, and society, we have good reason to promote it, but how? Doing so with artificial (extrinsic) incentives or imposed mandates raises questions about academic freedom. Alternatively, recasting questions about which scholarly line to investigate into ethical terms that emphasize such third-party issues might, in and of itself, promote greater prior reflection and perhaps broader outcomes. Such outcomes seem even more likely when reflection on the objective question of third-party interests is accompanied by a nurtured compassion for parties who are less well off. The pedagogical implications of these conclusions will be explored.
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Keywords: ethical considerations; geographic education; scholarship; societal benefits

Document Type: Commentary

Affiliations: Michigan State University

Publication date: 01 February 2005

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