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

popular media and academic life

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

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

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