Since the advent of the written word, man has engaged in a pursuit of using the medium to transfer ideas, thoughts, images and stories. Literacy ie. the ability to read and write, has become the benchmark that is used to measure the level of education across the world. The pursuit continues and does not seem like it has an end in sight.
As far as writing is concerned, the more glamourous media and broadcast industry seems to get all the plaudits. The writing in this space tells stories. Stories have become a part of who we are as people. It attracts the interest of a large segment of the world’s population. There is however been an unheralded form of writing that has been used to transfer some of the most important ideas in history. In terms of value to civilization, it is arguably the most important form of writing. The research paper.
There is little doubt over the value of information that has been documented via this medium. All our scientific discoveries, sociological and historical breakthroughs and even the technology driving civilization forward was once a research paper.
Writing a good paper takes a great amount of skill. Of course the research holding it up needs to be sound but that is not enough to bring fruition to the work. The ability to communicate an idea, prove it clearly and convert it into a principle is a herculean task.
“If you’re an academic, you might remember that in your first year as a PhD student you had the feeling it wasn’t too difficult to write an academic article such as the ones you had been reading for your first course, only to figure out, after a year or two of training, that you had been a bit naïve: you had been (blissfully) unaware of the subtleties of writing for an academic journal; how to structure the arguments; which prior studies to cite and where; which terminology to use and what to avoid; and so on.” Freek Vermulen states. Often criticized for being inaccessible, the pitfalls of writing such works are great.
There is not always a guidebook to follow to help with perfecting it. A good custom writing service might provide some aid but the debate on their value is ongoing. Even after the struggle to put together a paper of some substance, getting it published in a journal of note is a challenge in itself.
With the exception of the odd celebrity scientist making their paper available to the public, these works tend to restrict themselves to the academic circles they are created in. Some of the high profile works, after they pass through their peer review system to ensure their credibility do make it out but that number remains small. There have recently been calls for an upgrade in the way these papers have been presented. Considering these are some of the most important ideas in society, there is merit in finding a way to make the accessible to a larger audience. Accessibility comes not only in the way they are created but also distributed. To the lay man, a thesis seems unappealing because of its technical nature. It takes a tremendous degree of understanding to make sense of its contents. While there is no arguing the need for research to be backed by solid technical data, the argument can be made for a way to make some of its contents available for consumption to the general population. The key here is to take that technical information and fashion it into a slightly easier to comprehend format.
Whether it is a by product of specialized research or a college student’s thesis, the research paper today, seems to be losing value. When scientific discoveries are communicated to the world the article with the eye catching headlines might have a small quote from the original paper. More likely though, even that would be replaced by a quote from a press conference held by the concerned scientists. The paper gets relegated to a scientific journal. While it is public domain information accessible to all, rarely would it find readers outside academia.
Through history, academia has had the tendency to remain a closed society. Today in an age where information is carried across the world, instantly, it might be time for them to shed this perception. With the technology and tools available, there is no need to keep the information contained.
The argument citing rampant plagiarism is one concern. The other might be the time consuming legal process surrounding IP and patent laws across the world. These are not new problems. In this age, they are not a good enough excuse to keep the work of some of the worlds greatest minds locked away. It is time that the research papers made their way into easily accessible public domain.
|This article was contributed by fellow NYU students. If you would like to make a contribution to the NYU Dispatch, please email us.|