Raise a finger if you have heard of the academic journal ‘Science’. Raise a finger if you have cited ‘Science’ in your work. Raise a finger if you have read an article in ‘Science’ out of curiosity. Raise a finger if you are a regular reader of the journal. Raise a finger if you have read a complete article in the journal. Raise another finger if you have read any other academic journal. How many fingers did you raise?
Do not feel disheartened if your score wasn’t a five out of five. While Science is one of the most popular academic journals, its popularity lies within the scientific community and is not considered so among the general public. A study by Biswas and Kirchherr shows that generally no more than ten people read a complete article in an academic journal (Biswas and Kirchherr, 2015). The number is perhaps even lower for humanities and social science journals. Therefore, it doesn’t seem so surprising when the general public accuses academics of staying out of public debates.
Where does the problem lie?
This is not to say that academics do not contribute to public discourse at all. The accusation is based on the phenomenon of ‘disconnectedness’ that the public experience. They feel isolated from intellectuals as their opinions, views, perspectives, or findings are not directly visible to them. The general public wants to witness this intellect portrayed in the same space where they, too, can participate. They don’t want it to be limited to the confines of educational institutions and/or academic journals.
This disdain towards academic journals is a creation of its own making. Due to its exclusive nature, academic journals are not household names like lifestyle or travel magazines are. They contain jargon and complex terminologies, and quite often, articles come with a paywall. So, can we really blame the general public for assuming that all academics do is remain as mere observers? Academics cannot work in isolation if they seek to share their ideas and knowledge with the world. To achieve this, they must communicate with people in ways other than publishing articles or research papers.
Understanding our Initiative
While there are various ways to connect to a larger audience, for example, using social media platforms such as Twitter or Blogger, Sociology Group has come up with a unique approach to bridge the gap between academics and the general public. The online academic community brings to you an initiative called ‘Meet the Professor: Insightful Interview Series’. It is the group’s ardent belief that to gain and share knowledge should be free and available to all. While the importance of academic journals cannot be undermined, Sociology Group is only trying to make knowledge accessible to as many people as possible without compromising its quality.
We handpick academics for this collaborative project; however, we are also open to suggestions from our readers. Let us know who you would like to hear from next at [email protected]. Through this initiative, we are trying to connect academics with the general public. Professors and scholars working towards making a real change in addition to their teaching responsibilities will be considered. The questions asked will be based on the interviewee’s profile, their research works, experience, suggestions, and many more insightful questions. Currently, these interviews are conducted via email.
What have we done so far…
Every Saturday, Sociology Group publishes interviews with distinguished professors who wish to share their expertise to inspire change. The team has had the opportunity to interview scholars such as Dr. Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs (Professor, Modern Languages and Cultures, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Seattle University), Richard Scharine (Professor Emeritus, University of Utah), Lindsey Martin-Bowen (previously Criminal Law and Procedure Lecturer, Blue Mountain Community College) and Dr. Christina Jackson (Associate Professor of Sociology, Stockton University). These published interviews perfectly capture our mission to make knowledge available to people beyond the classroom. These scholars also share the same ideal, to work alongside the public sphere.
Although many of us sought to write to bring a change, writing for academic journals alone is not enough. It is true that one cannot condense important issues or concepts into mere paragraphs, and our goal isn’t so. The goal is to make knowledge accessible to people beyond the scientific community. As Savo Heleta from Nelson Mandela University also argues, “Quality academic research and innovation are crucial. It is equally important, though, to get ideas out into the world beyond academia. It could make a real difference in people’s lives.” (Heleta, 2017)
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the “Meet the Professor: Insightful Interview Series” initiative, and how does it aim to bridge the gap between academics and the public?
- We believe knowledge should be accessible and shareable with people, simplifying knowledge and promoting critical thinking for a meaningful life. Students can learn from their experiences and academic writing too.
- Is this initiative limited to sociology or social sciences only?
- No, it is inclusive of all subjects. Knowledge from every subject should be shareable with people, so there are no restrictions. We bring in professors and scholars from various backgrounds.
- How are the interviews with professors conducted in this initiative?
- Currently, we conduct email-based interviews. We believe that framing questions and providing thoughtful answers requires sufficient time. In the future, we may explore the possibility of podcasts.
- How many questions will be asked? Can we skip them?
- We generally ask 12-15 important questions, but yes, you can choose to skip any of them.
- Can you provide examples of professors who have participated in the “Interview with Professors” initiative?
- You can access our previous interviews by checking this link.
- How many days will we have to answer the questions?
- You will have 7-10 days to answer the questions. If you need extra time, we can extend the deadline, so don’t worry.
- How do you select professors for the interview series?
- We ask for recommendations from our audience, conduct independent research, and contact professors. If any professor voluntarily wants to share their insights, please email us at “[email protected].”