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  • Disseminate Better

    So you actually want your research read...

    Every year in science, tech, and medicine, on the order of 2 million papers are published.

    That’s a lot of papers.

    To remain current with their field, physicians must read about 20 papers a day. Given the growing “scourge” of cross-disciplinary science and the interconnectivity of life, our world, and everything, 20 papers honestly seems low.

    How, then, is an average journal article only read by 10 people, or only 20% of cited papers actually read?
    Maybe it has to do with the overextension of researchers (see Alberto’s post above for massive discipline-spanning course lists).

    Or maybe it has to do with the way papers are presented. They’re long, in archaic formats, and only accessible with a background in the given discipline (and, critically, freedom from paywalls).

    Why can’t we - scientists/communicators of knowledge/sharers of discoveries - agree to write clearly, concisely, and for broad impact and appeal?

    Many universities and other research institutions have press offices that interface with the public for just this reason. This is critical, as institutions’ research and resources help attract more funding and, nobly, should be shared with the world.

    The problem?

    You, as the person who did the research, probably know it better!
    And you (hopefully) won’t oversell it!

    A public service announcement courtesy of xkcd.com.

    This is why scientists at all levels should disseminate better. Yes, this probably means writing more than just articles. Yes, this might mean editing grad student or undergrad “layman”-directed writing.

    But we - as researchers, learners, and readers ourselves - will be better off.
    Maybe a bold claim, but society will be better off too.