Don’t hate the player, hate the game

There is this great big game that academics play—publish, publish, publish. Jobs, promotions, status are all built upon the publishing game (not on teaching or service, but that’s another blog). Thing is… no-one actually reads the work.

Academics get a bad rap (pun intended), especially in the business world. ‘We’ (dare I put myself in this category) are seen as those dreamy types, far removed from the “real” world with no practical skills. And yet academic research has led to the establishment of business and its processes and activities (and it’s not all bad). Business research and literature does make a difference, but no one outside of academia bothers to read about it.

As researchers and consultants, we go into enterprises, do our homework, and condense thousands of hours of reading and researching time into short executive reports for the organisation. The satisfying bit is that someone actually reads these, even if it is young Apple-Rose on reception. To me, this is the crux of our work—making tangible differences in real life.

But knowledge must be shared and share we must. So we then turn around and write a long-winded piece of academic writing that only a handful of academics (half of them being your close colleagues whom you asked to proof) will read. The people who may actually find this stuff useful are unlikely to be downloading academic journals or buying expensive books in order to read an obscure piece on how you can dream big and produce (Māori) unicorns.

My chirpy outlook on academia was further enhanced when I recently submitted a piece to an A-tier journal. Despite a positive review and resubmit, I was left rather disheartened. The essence of the feedback:

The substance is great, but you need to sharpen your aim. Please go away and quote me (the non-Indigenous journal editor) and all I have written on Indigenous values. Stroke my ego, lift my referencing status, and I will get you published.

And therein lies the game—everyone is searching for fortune and fame. It is a pity I have no desire to play by the rules.

Read a rant by somebody else


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