I know Knowledge Mobilization, Relevance, Knowledge Transfer and all that are hot topics right now.
And if you are doing work that has immediate relevance to particular non-academic audiences, you really need to work out the best way to reach those audiences. Which is one reason that I wrote that earlier post.
But that doesn’t mean that academics who are primarily concerned with advancing academic knowledge are becoming an endangered species.
Academic publishing is also about reaching the right audience
One thing that I find interesting is that many academics talk about publishing as if it is just about ticking boxes to get tenure or some other external prize (like a grant).
They focus on the numbers.
Or the reputation of the journal, even when they are unclear how that reputation is determined or whether it is even right.
Combine that with a sneaking suspicion that no one reads journal articles, and it isn’t any wonder many academics find writing difficult.
Which academics do you want to reach?
Which debates do you want to be contributing to? Where are they happening?
Does collective knowledge really move on so quickly that the review cycle of a traditional journal is “too long”?
Do some journals have a wider readership than others? Even if the primary subscribers are libraries are they just libraries in one country? Or are they in libraries internationally?
Does a particular journal reach a broad audience within your discipline? Or primarily a sub-discipline?
What audience (broad, narrow; disciplinary, interdisciplinary; etc) are you trying to reach with this particular article?
There is no one right place to publish
You have to make decisions about each and every piece that you write.
Is this idea most appropriately conveyed in a book-length work? In an article length piece? In some other way?
There are probably several debates to which you want to contribute. One piece isn’t going to reach all possible audiences. You might want to write several articles about one aspect of your work for different audiences.
Or, you might have a book length project which is mainly addressed to one audience, and write an article relevant to another audience (and published in a journal or other outlet that is likely to be read by that audience) on one aspect of that work.
By looking at publishing this way, you are likely to publish in outlets that are well respected, if for no other reason than that respect results in more readers. And you may also publish more, because you are focused on getting your ideas out there, not ticking boxes that may be meaningless to you (or even contrary to your values).
If you are still worried about the “relevance” piece, the comments on my last post should provide some reassurance that there are people out there in the business of getting academic knowledge to non-academics who need it, and they read journal articles.