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Do you ever find yourself referencing a study in conversation
that you didn't actually read?
I was having coffee with a friend of mine the other day,
and I said, "You know, I read a new study
that says coffee reduces the risk of depression in women."
But really, what I read was a tweet.
That said --
"A new study says drinking coffee may decrease depression risk in women."
And that tweet had a link to the "New York Times" blog,
where a guest blogger translated the study findings
from a "Live Science" article,
which got its original information
from the Harvard School of Public Health news site,
which cited the actual study abstract,
which summarized the actual study published in an academic journal.
It's like the six degrees of separation,
but with research.
So, when I said I read a study,
what I actually read was 59 characters that summarized 10 years of research.
So, when I said I read a study,
I was reading fractions of the study
that were put together by four different writers
that were not the author,
before it got to me.
That doesn't seem right.
But accessing original research is difficult,
because academics aren't regularly engaging with popular media.
And you might be asking yourself,
why aren't academics engaging with popular media?
It seems like they'd be a more legitimate source of information
than the media pundits.
In a country with over 4,100 colleges and universities,
it feels like this should be the norm.
But it's not.
So, how did we get here?
To understand why scholars aren't engaging with popular media,
you first have to understand how universities work.
Now, in the last six years,
I've taught at seven different colleges and universities
in four different states.
I'm a bit of an adjunct extraordinaire.
And at the same time, I'm pursuing my PhD.
In all of these different institutions,
the research and publication process works the same way.
First, scholars produce research in their fields.
To fund their research, they apply for public and private grants
and after the research is finished,
they write a paper about their findings.
Then they submit that paper to relevant academic journals.
Then it goes through a process called peer review,
which essentially means that other experts
are checking it for accuracy and credibility.
And then, once it's published,
for-profit companies resell that information
back to universities and public libraries
through journal and database subscriptions.
So, that's the system.
Research, write, peer-review, publish, repeat.
My friends and I call it feeding the monster.
And you can see how this might create some problems.
The first problem is that most academic research is publicly funded
but privately distributed.
Every year, the federal government spends 60 billion dollars on research.
According to the National Science Foundation,
29 percent of that goes to public research universities.
So, if you're quick at math, that's 17.4 billion dollars.
Tax dollars.
And just five corporations are responsible
for distributing most publicly funded research.
In 2014, just one of those companies made 1.5 billion dollars in profit.
It's a big business.
And I bet you can see the irony here.
If the public is funding academics' research,
but then we have to pay again to access the results,
it's like we're paying for it twice.
And the other major problem
is that most academics don't have a whole lot of incentive
to publish outside of these prestigious subscription-based journals.
Universities build their tenure and promotion systems
around the number of times scholars publish.
So, books and journal articles are kind of like a form of currency for scholars.
Publishing articles helps you get tenure and more research grants down the road.
But academics are not rewarded for publishing with popular media.
So, this is the status quo.
The current academic ecosystem.
But I don't think it has to be this way.
We can make some simple changes to flip the script.
So, first, let's start by discussing access.
Universities can begin to challenge the status quo
by rewarding scholars for publishing
not just in these subscription-based journals
but in open-access journals as well as on popular media.
Now, the open-access movement is starting to make some progress
in many disciplines,
and fortunately, some other big players have started to notice.
Google Scholar has made open-access research
searchable and easier to find.
Congress, last year, introduced a bill
that suggests that academic research projects
with over 100 million or more in funding
should develop an open-access policy.
And this year, NASA opened up its entire research library to the public.
So, you can see this idea is beginning to catch on.
But access isn't just about being able
to get your hands on a document or a study.
It's also about making sure
that that document or study is easily understood.
So, let's talk about translation.
I don't envision this translation to look like the six degrees of separation
that I illustrated earlier.
Instead, what if scholars were able to take the research that they're doing
and translate it on popular media
and be able to engage with the public?
If scholars did this,
the degrees of separation between the public and research
would shrink by a lot.
So, you see, I'm not suggesting a dumbing-down of the research.
I'm just suggesting that we give the public access to that research
and that we shift the venue and focus on using plain language
so that the public who's paying for the research
can also consume it.
And there are some other benefits to this approach.
By showing the public how their tax dollars
are being used to fund research,
they can begin to redefine universities' identities
so that universities' identities are not just based on a football team
or the degrees they grant
but on the research that's being produced there.
And when there's a healthy relationship between the public and scholars,
it encourages public participation in research.
Can you imagine what that might look like?
What if social scientists
helped local police redesign their sensitivity trainings
and then collaboratively wrote a manual to model future trainings?
Or what if our education professors consulted with our local public schools
to decide how we're going to intervene with our at-risk students
and then wrote about it in a local newspaper?
Because a functioning democracy
requires that the public be well-educated and well-informed.
Instead of research happening behind paywalls and bureaucracy,
wouldn't it be better if it was unfolding right in front of us?
Now, as a PhD student,
I realize I'm critiquing the club I want to join.
Which is a dangerous thing to do,
since I'm going to be on the academic job market in a couple of years.
But if the status quo in academic research
is to publish in the echo chambers of for-profit journals
that never reach the public,
you better believe my answer is going to be "nope."
I believe in inclusive, democratic research
that works in the community and talks with the public.
I want to work in research and in an academic culture
where the public is not only seen as a valuable audience,
but a constituent, a participant.
And in some cases even the expert.
And this isn't just about
giving you guys access to information.
It's about shifting academic culture from publishing to practice
and from talking to doing.
And you should know that this idea, this hope --
it doesn't just belong to me.
I'm standing on the shoulders of many scholars, teachers,
librarians and community members
who also advocate for including more people in the conversation.
I hope you join our conversation, too.
Thank you.


【TED】エリカ・ストーン: 公的資金による学術研究の成果を自由に見られないのはなぜか? (Academic research is publicly funded -- why isn't it publicly available? | Erica Stone)

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Zenn 2018 年 4 月 20 日 に公開
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