Citations – Not Enough for an Academic Promotion – the Emerging Role of Popular Media Presence

Citations Not Enough for an Academic Promotion
Citations – Not Enough for an Academic Promotion

In the contemporary world and academic life, citations might not be enough for an academic promotion.

Scholars all around the world are almost solely judged upon their publications in (prestigious) peer-reviewed journals.

Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them do not shape today’s public debates or influence policies. Indeed, scholars often frown upon publishing in the popular media.

In their recent article, in the London School of Economics and Political Science Impact Blog,  Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr argue that the “impacts of most peer-reviewed publications even within the scientific community are miniscule”.

They go on to say that the “impacts of most peer-reviewed publications even within the scientific community are miniscule  and 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually”, but “82 percent of articles published in humanities are not even cited once.

If a paper is cited, though, this does not imply it has actually been read. We suspect that an average paper in a peer-reviewed journal is read completely at most by no more than 10 people”.

Traditionally, the work and impact of scientists is evaluated by the quality and citations of their publications in peer-reviewed journals.

As per Nicholas Kristof and his New York Times article, presently scholars around the world have “a growing number of tools available to educate the public”. Yet, quoting Will McCants in this article, “many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research”.

Thus, the contemporary academic world has a tendency to wall itself off from the rest of the world, and many university professors are not involved in today’s great debates.

On the other hand, practitioners, policy-makers or business leaders rarely read articles published in peer-reviewed journals, even in recognized journals like Nature, Science or The Lancet: The reasons, first, they are not accessible for anyone outside of academia, and second, “the incomprehensible jargon and the sheer volume and lengths of papers (mostly unnecessary!) would still prevent practitioners (including journalists) from reading them”.

Thus, according to Asit Biswas and Julian Kirchherr citations are maybe not enough for an academic promotion, putting forward that publications in the popular media are becoming another important factor. They suggest that for tenure and promotion, “scholars’ impacts on policy formulation and public debates should also be assessed”. Along these lines, the authors indicate that for example the National University of Singapore (NUS) is now encouraging faculty to list op-eds on their profiles.

Source: Asit Biswas & Julian Kirchherr (2015), Citations are not enough: Academic promotion panels must take into account a scholar’s presence in popular media. LSE Impact blog, Accessed (28/10/2015).
Read More: LSE Impact blog

An Update

An array of social media platforms has given the world access to endless information, entertainment, news, and many other topics. Social media use from 2005-2015 increased from 7% in 2005 to 65% in 2015.

And not only has it influenced the issues mentioned above. However, it has increasingly become important in the academic community. Social media has become an essential tool for research promotion.

Importantly, social media results in increased interactions with others in the academic community.

It starts with finding the right channel for your research promotion needs.

  • Twitter: You can instantly link to and promote your latest research, conference presentation, blog, and more.
  • LinkedIn: You can use this professional networking platform to share updates on your work within a specific group or for a broader audience. You can also provide links to your work etc.

In early 2016, the Mayo Clinic Academic Appointments and Promotions Committee began including digital and social media scholarship among the criteria considered in review of proposals for academic advancement.

Academic and clinical institutions have an interest in creating a social media presence. In the digital era this constitutes a key component of knowledge dissemination, institutional outreach, branding, and communication management.

In conclusion, the role of scholars is changing with the rapid emergence of social media. The recognition and promotion of these new areas of scholarship represent a paradigm change. As more faculty members participate in this area, it is important for their institutions to guide and reward these activities.

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