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“Publishing in academic journals and popular media are not mutually exclusive” – Ramasamy

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COMMENT BY YB PROF DR P.RAMASAMY, DEPUTY CHIEF MINISTER II, PENANG

Publishing in academic journals and popular media are not mutually exclusive

A journalist friend of mine sent me the above piece “Prof, no one is reading you” (Straits Times, April 11, 2022) about two days ago.

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

#TamilSchoolmychoice

The authors basically argue that while publishing in peer reviewed journals are significant in the sense they determine the promotion of the academics, it is not altogether clear whether they influence policy decisions.

This is because the peer reviewed journals are read by an average of ten persons mostly in the respective academic disciplines.

Even if publications in the popular media might not have the high standards in terms of research findings, they are read by many with the possibility of influencing policy decisions.

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

But publications in the peer reviewed journals might not get the readership required to influence public opinions on a variety of matters.

Another equally a compelling reason why academics frown upon publishing the popular media is because they are not considered “scientific” enough.

Maybe true in some instances but not necessarily in all instances.
It really depends on the academic disciplines that are in question.
Anyway publishing in peer reviewed journals and the popular media cannot be construed as engaging in mutually exclusive spheres.

In fact over the years, there is growing realisation by academics that publishing in the popular media is an important in as in respected peer reviewed journals.

While peer reviewed journals might have the tendency to engage in esoteric engagements thereby limiting readership, but the popular media can address the gap by allowing for a larger readership.

Most significantly, since the readership is broader for the popular media, thoughts and ideas on policy matters might have indirect influence on policy matters.

I started publishing in online publications such as Malaysiakini more than 20 years ago while I was an academic at UKM. With the emergence of other popular media publications, I have broadened my base.

I think I have published hundreds of articles in this period on variety of topics under the broad subject matter of political economy. Presently, I am considering them for publication.

Whether these popular publications have an impact or not I am not sure.

But one thing is sure, my online publications have obtained a bigger readership than compared to those that I published in academic peer reviewed journals.

I do concede the fact that publications in the popular media might not be subject to peer review as the academic ones, but they perform an important function in society especially for those enthusiastic for the latest news and information.

Rather than seeing publications in academic journals and those in the popular media as mutually exclusive, the publications must be seen as complementary.

Publications in the popular media provides an opportunity for a academics to present alternative views on society in comparison to those considered as mainstream ones.