RE: Why Isn’t Academic Research Publicly Available?

After writing my last post, I thought I’d sit down and shed a little light on my main thought process regarding academic research. Regardless of my personal experiences, I’ve had some questions about the way educational systems are run for as long as I’ve been in education. I stumbled upon this TED Talk by Erica Stone (a Ph.D. student) titled ‘Academic research is publicly funded – why isn’t it publicly available?’ and it got me thinking about the practical element of all my thoughts and skepticism.

Essentially, what this lady covered in this talk was why academics aren’t regularly engaging with popular media and how come this system (at least in the US) is publicly funded but privately distributed. In high school, I recall our Psychology teacher telling us about how journals are often biased; preferring to publish papers by students from more prestigious universities. This form of “discrimination” is also present in the researchers themselves as they have very little incentive to publish outside of prestigious journals. Universities generally build tenure on the number of times you’re published and as Ms. Stone pointed out, it’s like a currency that can gain you more research grants.

What bothers me about this notion is how ostentatious it comes off. Knowledge should not be exclusive. Especially not if a community is funding the research providing us with said knowledge. The impact this information could have on our communities is remarkable and we’re not giving people the opportunity to discover a lot of this knowledge because we either present it in a manner that is inaccessible and often illegible to those outside of the scientific community, make it expensive to get our hands on or allow it to be disfigured by tabloids in misleading headlines.

A solution to this that Ms. Stone proposed was to reward individuals for publishing in open-access forums. Such as Google Scholar – an unprecedented way of doing that – or NASA opening up its entire research library to the public. But also, I feel like “scientific research” needs to be incorporated into our communities’ “general knowledge”. We have so many specialists, experts, researchers who have delved in a plethora of important fields, yet their revelations are hidden away while the Kardashians are on every social media feed of mine. We need more specialists on AskReddit, tweeting about their research findings, writing digestible blog posts, and promoting that content rather than assuming those who are interested will find it. Of course, we never trust the “average” human specimen within a community because it seems our interests are becoming increasingly vapid, but I feel those pessimistic assumptions and undermining of our communities and cultures are what’s taking us down.

I don’t claim to have the answers, clearly, but I am interested in this question, interested in people’s ideas for solutions and just curious about the discussion it can bring up.

Thank you for reading.

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