Recently Bill Gardner, a contributor to the healthcare policy blog The Incidental Economist, posted a piece titled “Disseminating Research: Translators Needed.” His comments are relevant to economics in general, not just healthcare policy. I would like to pass them along and add some of my own.
Most research papers are rarely read, few are cited, and very few directly influence the policy decisions that they are meant to inform. How can we get our data out of the journals and into the public square?Gawande is a practicing surgeon who is a staff writer for the New Yorker. I’m not sure who the equivalent would be in economics. A few years ago, the Daily Beast published a list of the 15 top economics and financial journalists. It included people like the David Leonhardt, who heads up the new Upshot venture for the New York Times. He is one of the best economics writers around, but, like most of those on the list, he is a professional journalist and neither a PhD or a practicing economist. The exception on the Beast’s list is Paul Krugman, although some might consider him too partisan to qualify as a “translator.”
Articles in specialist journals are largely inaccessible to non-specialists, even other scientists. The field needs translators, great researcher/writers like Atul Gawande, who can take research findings and restate them in a way that connects the data to the concerns of the educated lay reader.
Perhaps everyone could become his or her own translator, writing about their research on blogs and other social media. This proposal, however, collides with the contempt many researchers hold for social media.Our discipline does have some distinguished academic economists who blog regularly. >>>Read More
David Grande and his colleagues (including the physician/writer Zach Meisel) surveyed researchers about their perceptions of social media: “Researchers described social media as being incompatible with research, of high risk professionally, of uncertain efficacy, and an unfamiliar technology that they did not know how to use.”