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Outing the invisible academic: how researchers can get the hearing they deserve

‘Most politicians will not read a single academic paper, or even an abstract, in any given year’ writes Cathy Alexander in Australian Policy Online (28.4.15).

‘Nor will their advisors, often party loyalists with law degrees. For Australian politicians, most academic research may as well not exist. It is invisible, as are the researchers who produce it.

‘This academic invisibility also permeates business and the media. Both sectors tend to underplay university research, engaging with it sporadically or dismissing it as irrelevant. Some academics assume they can rely on a ‘need pull’ for research (Thorpe et al. 2011) but that signal is often weak. Researchers who do not systematically, strategically engage with non-academic sectors may think they are maintaining critical distance and academic rigour. What they are really doing is allowing their research to be ignored. An interpretation of the scarcity principle appears to operate among a stubborn minority of academics; the fewer people who can understand their academic outputs, the better.

‘So some of the country’s most brilliant minds are holed up in universities, writing papers for each other, while powerful people make decisions without accessing that high-quality knowledge. We all suffer from the ensuing ill-informed, hidebound behaviour from policy-makers, business and media.’

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