Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Research Has Benefits Even if No One Reads It

Each year academics write thousands of papers, but half of these papers will never be cited and many only read by a handful of people as a recent Chronicle of Higher education article points out. The article goes on to say that the vast amount of "bad" research is taking away valuable time of top researchers who instead of spending all of their time researcher are spending more time reviewing and rejecting bad articles. Chris Blattman points out that it takes him a few hours a month to reject horrendous articles he reviews.

I think my research could still be a net positive even if no one reads it or cites it. I was thinking about something Justin Wolfers said at a session I attended on Economics of Sports Blogging. If you blog and no one reads it, your blog is not a good use of your time if your goal is to have a widely read blog. However, if your goal is to work on your communication skills and critical thinking then it can be a success.

Many academics are more teaching than research focused. By trying to publish and even publishing things that no one reads but the authors, I think they will be better teachers and improve their ability to explain things and keep up to date on their field.

I do hope people actually read my blog and my research.

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1 comment:

Britt said...

Yeah... Is it worthless for a student to write a paper if the only one who reads the paper is the instructor?

Getting a peer-reviewed paper published requires the author to do a lot of work (the original research, the literature review, and the writing) which can only improve the author's knowledge and skills, and the peer-review process gives the author valuable feedback.

Even if that paper is not widely read and cited, perhaps the next paper, which benefits from the author's improved knowledge and skills, will be.

And even if the author doesn't write another paper, as you say, they become an incrementally better teacher.