Let the world knowSuccessful research findings should not remain on library shelves or online archives
The general public often asks us researchers, “What is your research for?” Researchers feel blessed when their paper gets published in a reputed journal. We immediately inform our co-authors about it. We also post it on Facebook and check the feedback on it. This behaviour can go on for long periods during our lifetime, feeling low-spirited when the paper fails to be cited much. Is this what our research is for? What is the purpose of our research and papers?
There are farmers waiting to hear from scientists about improved methods of farming, quality seeds and proven low-cost technologies for soil, water, crop, nutrient, pest and marketing management. The general public in developing nations is waiting for low-cost energy and communication technologies proven by sound research. Incidences of new diseases and complications demand scientific results. I believe that novel technologies emerge from applied research. Conducting research to address the priorities and problems of humanity always remains challenging.
Technical and expensive
It is tragic when successful research findings remain on library shelves or online archives, far from the reach of those eagerly waiting for research-based solutions. How our results communicate to the target stakeholders or whether they understand the findings and can apply them to solve their problems remains a grey area in the research process. Developing writing skills, being promoted or being recognised as an expert on a specific subject are all related to one’s papers getting published in good journals. Proper dissemination of research findings to the target stakeholders will not diminish these opportunities. The value a researcher increases exponentially when target stakeholders access research findings. This is real research and real applied science where both researchers and target groups benefit.
The papers published in journals can be quite technical. However, farmers or the general public can hardly understand the article, so it is very unlikely that the research findings are applied. Extracting scientific results from the papers and presenting them in an understandable and user-friendly format should be emphasised in the scientific and academic fields. Who is responsible for doing this—researchers, affiliated organisations, universities, NGOs or the government?
Researchers tend to submit their papers to high impact journals. They need to wait for a long time to be notified whether their papers have been accepted for publication. Research takes a long time; publication even longer. Many journals are subscription-based and one needs to pay to view each paper. Researchers and the general public in the developing countries can hardly afford to subscribe to these journals and papers. So, there is very little chance that many people in the developing countries will read the research results and apply them in real-life situations. Why are we promoting the culture of hiding research results indirectly? I believe that making it difficult to access things is equivalent to hiding them out of selfishness.
Research costs a lot of money and the research results are precious. With the emergence of web technology, an open-access culture has been promoted for papers irrespective of the trustworthiness of the publishers, reviewers or editors. Researchers need to pay a handling fee to publish their papers on most international open access journals. It is challenging to obtain funding for research in the developing countries, and publishing papers in journals has been made more challenging. Why do researchers need to pay money to freely disseminate their research findings to the scientific community, general public and target groups? Due to this culture, authors feel self-worth only when they become able to publish their papers in international journals.
Short, sweet and simple
One of the most important skills researchers want to develop is the ability to disseminate their research findings to target stakeholders. This is not difficult if we keep aside our selfishness. We can use popular free media such as daily newspapers to disseminate our research findings to a target audience. The value you receive from this and the contribution you make will be higher than the value you get from publishing papers only in reputed journals.
A research newsletter can be more powerful than reputed journals in creating research impact when we go beyond our selfishness, focus on them instead of us and make our writing short, sweet and simple to understand. How encouraging it would be if university service commissions consider bringing out such publications so that faculty members happily engage in writing for them. A small group of like-minded researchers, students, university teachers and development practitioners can develop these proposed research clubs and research newsletters. The real impact starts when our research findings are easily accessible by those who need it.
Kafle is an assistant professor at Agriculture and Forestry University, Chitwan