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CrimeTalk

An educational resource at the heart of criminological teaching, debate, and research

Editor's Blog

Insecure knowledge

The article linked in below raises the issue: what exactly is scholarship today? In my opinion, this has been blooming as a florid question for the social sciences for some years now, notably since the advent of online publishing. One reason CrimeTalk was developed is my belief that so much of what is published in academic journals is simply AcademicTalk and only classified as 'scholarly' because the authors are often scholars. A second convergent reason I did not develop an academic journal instead is that academics talking to each other in a language all of their own is no guarantee of ' true scholarship' but merely produces what is commonly taken as an superficial attribute of it, namely incomprehensible technical writing to an internal, hand-picked audience.

Insecure in the knowledge

Scholarship, especially if publically funded, should refer to the production of knowledge that is publically available and comprehensible; academic practice is simply what academics do, and that will reflect their conditions of work and accompanying culture. What good journalists and commentators do today often surpasses academic production when judged in terms of knowledge production, as opposed to wittering away to yourself, your colleagues and 4 or 5 other people - especially in the social sciences.

Moreover, when you understand academic language, you realize how little is being said and how much of it is pure waffle. That of course makes the sheer snobbery embedded in the research audits in the UK look especially antiquated. Journalists and commentators in the popular and social media are also perfectly capable of being shallow, vacuous, unevidenced, atheoretical and unoriginal. But they don't pretend otherwise and at least call a spade a spade, whereas in social sciences it is potentially an instrument of agricultural or horticultural production designed from experience to maximise soil rotation.

Online social comment without grant funding and with minimal peer refereeing can be just as scholarly, and may well be a greater contribution to the knowledge of a greater number, as a social science article in an a academic journal. A top academic journal in social sciences might have a subscription of 1,000 per annum, a third to a half of which are from university libraries, and the number of readers per month globally, via university libraries, is hard to guess but could be lower than 100 a month. After only one year, CrimeTalk might reach 4,000 unique visitors per month and, however imperfect a measure that is, there is no doubt that our monthly 'social impact' is much greater than an academic journal, AND the editor here has been an academic journal editor and a professor.

So, if scholarship involves publically conveyed knowledge produced by people with strong academic credentials, we have to ask today: where is it most likely to be found? At a minimum, it should now be recognized throughout the terms of research audits, not just in the 25% 'social impact' category, that there are now a wide variety of knowledge outlets in the social sciences.

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