Saturday, October 29, 2016

It's That Low?

"Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors."
"So what’s the reason for this madness? Why does the world continue to be subjected to just under 2 million academic journal articles each year?"

Asks Daniel Lattier in "Academics Write Rubbish Nobody Reads." I believe him that few academic articles are read and that they are written for the sake of the writer's resume. But that doesn't make them "rubbish." The process of writing develops the mind, and any given academic with his mind duly developed has a shot at benefiting colleagues and students who never read a word of it. And more importantly, there's something else, something that's the flip side of a negative point Lattier makes.
Ideally, the great academic minds of a society should be put to work for the sake of building up that society and addressing its problems. Instead, most Western academics today are using their intellectual capital to answer questions that nobody’s asking on pages that nobody’s reading.
What a waste.
Oh, I don't think we really want to put academics to work building up society and addressing its problems. It might be a very good thing to contain these academic types in a place where they won't do too much damage. It may be that we have marginalized these very intelligent people who live deeply in their own minds and conjure up new ideas because it's best to keep them separated and deactivated.
I do know that at least a few people read at least some of the papers I wrote, because they asked me about them in person, and I had hundreds of reprint requests. But I'm pretty sure that most people didn't get far past the abstract. I rarely did.

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