ADUN SPEAKS | Impact of publishing in academic journals versus popular media

ADUN SPEAK | A journalist friend of mine sent me an article entitled “Prof, nobody reads you” from Straits time about two days ago.

I found the article interesting in that it sought to revisit the old but relevant debate about whether academics and university professors should limit their publications to peer-reviewed journals and not to popular media.

The authors essentially argue that while publication in peer-reviewed journals is important in the sense that it determines the promotion of scholars, it is not entirely clear whether it influences policy decisions.

Indeed, peer-reviewed journals are read by an average of ten people, mostly in the respective academic disciplines.

Even though posts in popular media may not have the high standards of search results, they are read by many with the potential to influence policy decisions.

It is true that when it comes to academic promotions, universities place more importance on peer-reviewed publications than on those published in the popular media.

But publications in peer-reviewed journals might not get the readership needed to influence public opinion on a variety of topics.

Another equally compelling reason why academics frown upon publication in popular media is that they are not considered sufficiently “scientific.”

This may be true in some cases, but not necessarily for all. It really depends on the academic disciplines in question.

Spheres not mutually exclusive

Publication in peer-reviewed journals and popular media cannot be construed as engaging in mutually exclusive spheres.

In fact, over the years, scholars have increasingly realized that publishing in popular media is as important as in respected peer-reviewed journals.

While peer-reviewed journals may tend to make esoteric commitments, thus limiting readership, popular media can bridge the gap by allowing for a wider readership.

More importantly, since the readership is wider for popular media, thoughts and ideas on political issues could have an indirect influence on political issues.

I started posting in online publications such as Malaysiakini over 20 years ago when I was an academic at UKM.

With the emergence of other popular media publications, I broadened my base.

I believe I have published hundreds of articles during this period on a variety of topics within the broad subject of political economy.

Currently, I am considering them for publication. Whether or not these popular posts have any impact, I’m not sure.

But one thing is for sure, my online posts got a bigger readership than those I published in peer-reviewed academic journals.

I recognize the fact that publications in popular media may not be subject to peer review like academic publications, but they serve an important function in society, especially for those who are passionate about breaking news and information.

Rather than viewing publications in academic journals and those in popular media as mutually exclusive, publications should be viewed as complementary.

Publications in popular media offer scholars the opportunity to present alternative views of society to those considered mainstream.


P RAMASAMY is a member of Perai Assembly and Deputy Chief Minister of Penang II.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

About Florence M. Sorensen

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