When I wrote Faking It eight years ago, one of my motivations was to enable regular people to read about research findings and opinions that were ordinarily locked up in academic journals. Not only are academic journals typically user-pay operations, but also most people don’t know what they’re publishing and wouldn’t go looking. I thought that was a shame because researchers are frequently making discoveries that pertain to the lives of ordinary people. The research on body image and popular media publications was the perfect example. Girls didn’t know it could be harmful to their mental and even physical health to be regularly poring over glossy mags (“sinister muck” as Germaine Greer calls it).
This statistic may be false – that 98% of research in humanities and 75% in social sciences is never cited again – may no longer be true. And citation is only a surrogate measure of how valuable (or at least valued by other researchers) a piece of research might be. But even if research is cited, and even if cited frequently, it does not mean that people will read and understand and learn from it. Instead we have a vague hope that research will somehow trickle down to where it is needed, and then it will be appropriately applied to policy and practice, and will then benefit the world.
How to get more people reading research? How to get research into policy and practice? I don’t know, but it’s a crucial endeavour.