Unpublished. In Development. Excerpt.
This essay is intended for U.S. universities and scholars who desire a pivot toward public scholarship but have fallen short or face institutional or individual resistance deterring that outcome. The essay discusses barriers and provides solutions driven by primary findings for both the academic social system and the individual. Overall, a comprehensive and actionable plan is provided to diffuse academic knowledge to wide audience, drawing extensively on diffusion theory and the scholarship of public engagement.
We produce treasure, yet it remains buried. Buried by whom? The irony is us. Every year, we churn out millions of words and thousands of ideas that can transform minds and redefine how we live and see the world — yet much of that knowledge will forever be unread, at least beyond the eyes of small circles of specialists, acquaintances, and students who feel obligated, instead of desiring to turn the pages. This is no mystery: we've heard and said the little jokes amongst ourselves, the quip uttered, our aching hearts disguised, that only those who must, or that we know, will give our work a glance and likely only after a quick check of the abstract and conclusion first. I say this as a lament, a mourning, because I value academic work deeply, especially the work created by my peers and professors I profoundly admire. It has radically altered how I think about the world, and even my life. I remain forever indebted.
But why this neglect from work that can instantly transform ill-formed conceptions? A question that raises many points. Why create solutions to the world's most pressing troubles and dilemmas, ideas and innovations that can set minds free and blaze new paths of progress, only to have them languish on library shelves, the spine of your cherished monograph uncracked, or locked away in slightly trafficked journals that few can afford and most know nothing about. We've read the headlines and heard the whispers, Why Professors Are Writing Crap That Nobody Reads, $33,000 Academic Journal Articles That Almost No One Reads, Academics Write Papers Arguing Over How Many People Read (And Cite) Their Papers, Prof, No One is Reading You, The Science That’s Never Been Cited. We've seen the statistics, that scholarship generally goes unread, that journals are invisible beyond academia, that citations, the sweet febreze of validation from our peers, are never a strong, consistent wind and more like a rare puff that has a tendency to scatter into nothingness.
It is a wonder why we are resistant to change when the way is before us and the path is clear: it's only us getting in the way of ourselves. And I didn't need to plumb the depths to arrive here. All of what I wrote seemed obvious and there have been a number of academics like Noam Chomsky and Robert McChesney, and many others, whose worked has reached the many. Yet as I reviewed the commentaries, assessed the pulse, the feelings on academic writing through content analysis and survey, and weighed the solutions, the problem still existed, even with identification of horrendous issues and a multitude of solutions offered: pervasive, amazing, mind-expanding work read by a cherished few ... to this day. But it doesn't need to be this way. Synthesized and summarized in this essay, we have means, methods, and models, including diffusion of innovations theory, to shine the light forward and walk us down this path: alter the system, allowing for the re-shaping and the release of that potentiality. And we can have it both ways — writing for our peers, while also giving them and others elegant ideas, elegantly expressed, that inspire and exceed our reach, diffused to the many, our innovations in their minds and spread far and wide and likely informing us through their interpretations down that long, windy road. It's only us, creating these limitations and social systems that bend our ideas and prose into hardened, gnarled wood that doesn't sing. We only need a culture and a few tools to set us free. It is, indeed, pretty straightforward as Chomsky would say. And if we fail to act, the so-called "experts" like Dan Bongino, Ann Colter, and Judge Jeanine Pirro will be serving the public with another fine dose of unreality. Come on, come on, let's work together, now now people.