The research process particularly the final product, the manuscript, is often inaccessible for a myriad reasons. Most (read: all) research articles are overflowing with jargon and sit behind journal paywalls. It’s no wonder that most research findings receive little attention beyond very discipline specific academic spaces. Yet, we (academics) do it to ourselves. Academic language is a performance. Academic journal publications are necessary for promotion. So too are presentations at academic conferences. The system does not incentivize making any of it accessible to a broader audience or reaching into those community spaces. So comes as no surprise that academics are often accused of dictating from ivory towers and are out-of-touch from common reality.
Like many of my colleagues, I, too, am taxed by having far too much to do with far too little resources or time. Yet, I don’t want my work to sit in journals gathering dust. I don’t want my countless hours of work to be read by a select few. I want it to have impact…actual impact…that is measured in more than citations or journal metrics. I’d like for people to read and use it. (I must note that this isn’t a criticism of my colleagues but of the system we are forced to operate in — I am beyond lucky to have the privilege and ability to spare time for this work and prioritize it, with the hope that it normalizes it and those with power to change the system start to recognize it’s value.)
As an experiment, to find broader audiences and make my work more accessible, I’ll be writing plain language synopses of my previously published work every few weeks. I’ll be sharing these with the hashtag, #PlainLanguageResearch — please join me if you like or follow along.
I’m not sure where it’s going to go but the only way to know is to start.