“Studies say…”, so they say.

Coffee – good or bad for you – is one of the things perennially in the news, which makes this fascinating talk especially relevant.. This is quoted from the TED blurb publicizing this video:

You know those amazing health stories that start out “Studies say…”? All too often, there’s a paywall between you and the original academic study, so unless you’re an academic too, you can’t check it out for yourself. And as scholar Erica Stone points out — that needs to change. In this funny, eye-opening talk, she advocates for a new, open-access relationship between the public and scholars. “Instead of research happening behind paywalls and bureaucracy,” she asks, “wouldn’t it be better if it was unfolding right in front of us?”

An article rederenced on the TED webpage for this video also continues in the same vein:

“Academics can change the world – if they stop talking only to their peers”

Some excerpts from this article:

Research and creative thinking can change the world. This means that academics have enormous power. But, … the overwhelming majority are not shaping today’s public debates. Instead, their work is largely sitting in academic journals that are read almost exclusively by their peers. …

Why, then, are academics not doing more to share their work with the broader public? The answer appears to be threefold: a narrow idea of what academics should or shouldn’t do; a lack of incentives from universities or governments; and a lack of training in the art of explaining complex concepts to a lay audience. …

Universities also don’t do a great deal to encourage academics to step beyond lecture halls and laboratories. There are globally very few institutions that offer incentives to their academics to write in the popular media, appear on TV or radio, or share their research findings and opinions with the public via these platforms. …

[A] factor holding academics back from writing for broader lay audiences: even if they’d like to, they may not know where to start and how to do it. …

Writing an article for an academic journal is a very different process to penning one for those outside the academy. Naomi Wolf and Sacha Kopp, in an article examining the issue, wrote:

“Academic writing has the benefit of scholarly rigour, full documentation and original thinking. But the transmission of our ideas is routinely hampered … by a great deal of peer-oriented jargon.”

Universities have a role to play here by offering workshops and courses to their academics and students. This can help develop creative non-fiction writing skills. … 

Quality academic research and innovation are crucial. It is equally important, though, to get ideas out into the world beyond academia. It could make a real difference in people’s lives.

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