There’s a new special issue of the online, open access Geography journal ACME on the impact of academic research. This has become one of the ways in which the value of academic research is assessed in UK Higher Education, through the Research Excellence Framework.
One of the papers is by Ian Cook et al (that’s me/us), about the longstanding ‘follow the things’ research and public pedagogy that led to the creation and opening of followthethings.com in October 2008. To give a flavour of its approach to impact, here’s an extract from the paper:
When you publish academic work and make it freely available online, people read it and get in touch with you asking if you’d like to take part in work they’re (thinking of) doing. So you end up doing all kinds of unexpected things. This way of working is a core principle of ‘organic public geographies’ (Fuller and Askins, 2010; Hawkins et al., 2012). And it involves writing critical, radical, scholarly papers that are both publishable in academic journals and books, and accessible to more than academic audiences – like school teachers, journalists, filmmakers and artists: the people who make and use the work you’re researching. This is not the kind of “unidirectional knowledge” transfer that aims to make clear interventions in public debates (Pain et al., 2010, 185). It’s the kind that has critical pedagogy at its heart, that treats knowledge as “emerg[ing] only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other” (Freire, 1996, 52-3). Here, as Rich Heyman (2010) argues, academic writing should not be treated as the end point of research. Instead, it should aim to encourage research and conversation to continue beyond publication by offering its readers, for example, catchy and surprising narratives to engage with, unheard voices to listen to, unfamiliar concepts to use, tricky problems to think through, new skills to learn, and intriguing detective work to do (Cook and Woodyer, 2012).
Cook et al (2014, 48).
If you want to read the rest of the argument, download it here.
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