Connect with your public audiences and not only with your peers
Writing for a public audience asks for a mind shift for scholars: thinking in plain,
simple, jargon free language and write that same plain, simple jargon free language. How to contribute to public understanding of your research, that is what this article is about. And also what Sara ElShafie aims to accomplish by her workshops at Berkeley.
Start to ‘pitch’ your research. And yes that is very difficult but so important to attract your audience at the right time.
The article states a painful quote:
“Passion and generosity are missing from scholarship. One editor we talked to quipped, “Academics are told to smother passion in return for tenure.””
Ouch…let me here talk about myself, passion is what keeps me going to do my research, passion for the subject of study (human-wild animal interactions) is what makes me enthusiastic and curious. This is something I don’t want to lose…(nope I am not tenured, I am an independent researcher right now).
Again connect with what matters to your readers, know what they care about. Having an unique project and ‘knowing your market’ are not – or should not be – opposites! Contrary, it means that you should know your market, again your audience, pretty well and at the same time be unique, find your niche in research-country.
And the article is going on. This one I like pretty much:
“Knowing more about the process by which books and articles get created, edited, produced and disseminated can help authors conceptualize and complete their projects”.
I like it, because most often experienced – tenured – scholars, who are journal editors themselves, know this process very well. But for PhD candidates, junior researchers, this process is completely unknown. Supervisors or graduate school should take time to introduce the step by step process of submitting, reviewer handling etc. Not just ‘on the go’, but beforehand to know how these – often very long and slow and sometimes disappointing- processes go. For experiences scholars this knowledge is common sense, but all new for new PhD candidates and this might be very frustrating when you have limited time for publication (and well, writing might be useful before you submit something). For phd candidates you have many audiences you write for: supervisor, your final dissertation (it should be coherent with the rest of your papers), perhaps an organization that pays for your research, and the journal you want to publish in. A bit more knowledge about the journal review process would give a PhD candidate something to hold on to in the whole dissertation process.
Scholars have lack of editorial oversight.
I think that is a good point, or at least…, it makes you think. I think what matters is ‘that so many co-authors, have so many ideas and so many writing styles’. But I agree, flow in a paper is completely other business than ‘just’ writing your research findings and conceptual thoughts.
This quote one made me laugh and also made me a bit sad:
“Academics often express jerkiness as a cover for anxiety”.
I wish academics are more open to admit any anxiety, that they admit they just don’t know. Next to what they do know and are indeed experts in a particular field of knowledge. Academics, just as many other people, can’t be an expert in all parts of ‘busy-academic-life’. And one of them is, as this article suggests ‘really edit’.
Use YOUR unique qualities and be proud of them!
And again, I really agree with this one:
“Each scholar must figure out how their individual talents and disposition can best be put to use.”
Consequently, there should be enough space for that in the often so much criticized tenure tracks, in which you need to ‘have it all’ to become the best scholar ever: gather large grants, teach with the best results, publish as much as you can in high ranked journals,…. Ok, probably a bit exaggerated, but the message is clear….
Scholars as entrepreneurs
Actually…scholars should be entrepreneurs when it comes to writing more popular articles…As Sara ElShafie tells her audiences: use storytelling techniques – like in the film industry – to communicate difficult science projects. As an just started entrepreneur, I have learnt a lot, really a lot about what matters most to do good business (and read if you like: to do good research): know your audience, connect with your audience, use audience-specific language, and don’t forget: connect with these audiences from your passion for the subject. THAT will bring your message across.
Not so difficult, right? So, let’s do it! And get YOUR message across.