Academia

The pull of interacting with the masses: data is like a gummy worm

The pull of interacting with the masses: data is like a gummy worm

As a Ph.D psychologist embedded within a community-based I address on a weekly basis the question of where do I publish my latest research results? I purposely avoided academia because I dislike the Ivory Tower perspective. The adage of “publish or perish” is not necessarily one that benefits students as a whole or the promotion of honest and fruitful discourse. To think of all the unpublished study results that lie in a drawer somewhere to never be dissected, discussed or considered. I once studied under the mentorship of a very successful psychologist in that she coined a psychological concept that is universally applicable and her book on said topic is a mega-seller that has been translated into over 25 languages.

I would call that a successful career. However, and oh so sadly, she has been derided by some of her colleagues for her mass success. These are academics that publish prolifically in the journal of personality and social psychology believing it is the holy grail. I just shake my head and note that maybe a few hundred read that publication, even less so remember it and an even smaller group will even care about it 20 years from now. The hot-shot academic celebrity trolls the halls of academic conferences as if they were Liberace at an early ’80s concert.

Back to my weekly conundrum. I can submit my findings write-up to an academic journal or I can write it up as a brief for wide dissemination. Or I can write a book. You know what? More often than not, I now tend to do all three. You thought I was going to pick one over the other, didn’t you? There is utility in all these dissemination methods as diverse audiences are reached. If you have the stamina and the will power, why not go for it all? I’m a bit greedy like that.

When I analyze my data I think of different stories I can tell. There is not just one story or hook. Data can be like a gummy worm and stretched (not in the embellished sense) to accommodate different tastes. Sometimes I prefer the red part over the green part and savor that most. Too weird an analogy? Sorry, I have been sick with a parasite for two weeks and am dreaming of sweets. Data at the end if the day should serve to empower the people in some way. What good is it if no one knows about it? As a researcher there should be a moral imperative to get the information outside of the vaulted towers and dusty journals. Dust mites do not carry information forward. People do.

Now would I rather have a mega pop culture best seller or a book that is highly revered by a select few? Depends on the day of the week. Mondays I may be idealistic and say give me the select reverence. On Wednesday, I am down in the dumps and want the wide accolades. Nonetheless, I would somehow want it to live on outside in the real world.

There is never a straight answer.

1 reply »

  1. I think what you highlight here is the benefit of being flexible and adaptable. Academia is a limited market. The domain of pop culture is also a limited market in a way. Those who have the most success are able to straddle across different zones/audiences and adapt their material accordingly. I think the same applies for social media websites. These days there are so many popular sites (facebook, twitter, tumblr, wordpress) that is unwise to solely focus on one – different sites attract different audiences and one’s material can be adapted accordingly to appeal to those different markets.

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