Johann. N. Neem’s article Coming Down From the Clouds, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education, brilliantly explores both sides to the question: Should academics write for each other or for the public?
We increasingly live in an age of hard-fought-for and, at times, diminishing transparency: in government; in media; and now, at times, in scholarly communication. When the tax-paying public becomes aware that their taxes are paying for the vast majority of research conducted within this country (and most others) many would like the opportunity to share in that knowledge creation and dissemination of which they are an integral part. To know, for example, that two black holes are colliding and that the impact of that collision can now be measured and conveyed to us in layers of profound meaning is, indeed, human progress. Neem writes:
We want physicists who write for each other. I appreciate that, at conferences and in academic papers, they have challenged each other’s conclusions and, in doing so, have pushed forward the boundaries of knowledge. Yet I am also grateful for my scientist friends who posted on Facebook links to videos and essays in which scientists explained, in terms that I could understand, why it was so significant that we had heard black holes colliding.
Has the time come for researchers to embrace lay summary dissemination services such as GrowKudos.com? Then, even if the scholarly work is impenetrable, at least the common Google researcher could find a trace of it and perhaps links to other works that may help explain it.
To explore more of Neem’s insightful piece please go here Coming Down From the Clouds: On Academic Writing