When I first started seeing things about Open Access it was all in the context of knowledge mobilization, wider impact, etc. And I kept thinking that OA was such a side issue for KMb/wider impact.
The reason non-academics don’t read your academic articles is not primarily because they can’t get access to them. It’s because they are written for other academics and your primary concerns are not necessarily relevant to non-academic audiences.
However, it has recently come to my attention that there are all sorts of academics out there that don’t read your academic articles either. (HT @ernestopriego)
They are your audience. They are engaged in the academic debates that you are engaged in. And they can’t get access to your articles because the funding situation in their institution is even worse than it is wherever you are.
Who are your peers?
When you picture your peers what do they look like? Where do they live and work? Are you imagining a bunch of Europeans and North Americans with the odd Aussie and Kiwi thrown in?
Even if that is an ethnically and internationally diverse group, do they all work in Europe, North America, Australia or New Zealand?
Can you even name a university in Asia, Africa or South America? Do you have any idea what academics in your field who work in those countries are working on? Do you read their work? Do you even attempt to engage with them?
Isabel Galina, a Mexican digital humanities scholar, said in a recent interview
Simply because they do not know of our work it does not mean it does not exist. The challenge is to make our work known.
I agree. And I think that we also have a responsibility to be aware of and seek out work that is produced and published in other places.
I know, I know, you are already not keeping up.
First step: Think about publishing your work in journals that a wide range of peers can get access to. Open Access journals, especially with online editions, are much more accessible to peers in the global south. Not to mention to peers in less well funded institutions in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Second step: Start to look for opportunities to engage with a wider global range of peers. You’re right, it won’t be adequate but something is better than nothing. Expand your pool of journals to be read. It is possible that people in other countries are raising different questions and bringing different conceptual tools to the analysis of the issues that interest you. They may challenge your thinking in interesting and productive ways.
Another step: When you are involved in evaluating the work of your peers (for grants, hiring, promotion or whatever) initiate a conversation about the criteria and how they are applied. In particular, pay attention to whether the journals in which they publish have “high impact” only on a limited range of audiences.
The first step to change is recognition that there is a problem.
If you (individually or as a committee) only care about whether other white guys at prestigious universities in Europe and the US cite the work, then that should be explicit. If that statement makes you, individually or collectively, uncomfortable, then figure out what to do about it.