Does Anyone Read Academic Papers?

April 17, 2015 • Ethics and Quality, Research • by

Academic journals are read from cover to cover by fewer than ten people on average, according to an opinion piece in the Straits Times, by Asit K Biswas, and Julian Kirchherr.  Biswas, a visiting professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in the National University of Singapore and Kirchherr, a doctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, argue that university professors and researchers should climb down from their ivory towers and write for more popular, accessible platforms.

“Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them are not shaping today’s public debates or influencing policies,” the authors write.

“Indeed, scholars often frown upon publishing in the popular media. “Running an opinion editorial to share my views with the public? Sounds like activism to me,” a professor recently noted at a conference, hosted by the University of Oxford.”

Yet where academics do want to publish their work in the popular media, the system seems to be against them.  Even now, in the digital age of open access and self-publishing, publications in peer-reviewed journals continue to be the key performance indicator within academia.  Whether anyone actually reads them does not seem to matter.

Research shows that academics are not reading their colleagues’ articles either. The authors cite evidence showing that of the 1.5m articles published in peer reviewed journals annually, 82 per cent of those published in the humanities are not even cited once.

While there is a movement for change, and some examples of successful academic publishing on open access platforms, the authors argue that it is changing too slowly.

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pic credit: Flikr Creative Commons: Jenica


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