By Esha Bagora
Humanity as a whole can only continue to advance through science. Scientific discoveries improve our understanding of the world around us, lengthen our life spans, and revolutionize the global economy. However, the majority of humans are unable to find out about these miraculous discoveries for a simple reason: scientific journals are not widely/easily accessible.
Multiple factors contribute to the lack of accessibility, the first being the simple fact that academic papers are not written with ordinary people in mind. Academics write their papers for a small and select audience, people who can understand their scientific terms and jargon and are also extensively knowledgeable on the subject they’re writing about. The University of Sydney, Australia, attributes the complexities of these papers to poor writing skills and the need for academics to ‘impress’ the other academics reading their articles. But, people without PhDs are not well-versed in paleomagnetism or olfactory biology, causing them to lose interest quickly in the esoteric verbiage and abandon reading about the future of the world.
In a time when trust in science is waning (think: anti-vaccine beliefs), research papers need to be clearer and more understandable for ordinary people to be in tune with what’s happening around them. Ineffective communication between scientists and the public through jargon-filled articles lessens public engagement and trust in science. Only 29 percent of American adults trust scientists and scientific data. While political disarray has contributed to this downfall, the public’s trust can be rebuilt through comprehensible research that we can understand.
Expensive scientific journals, typically the carriers of new findings and discoveries, also add to the lack of accessibility. People often cannot find a particular study or experiment’s results in another journal or online because of the nature of academic publishing. Through this monopoly over science, publications are able to charge exorbitant prices. According to the UCSF library, an average health science journal costs 2,600 dollars and a chemistry journal costs 7,014 dollars. An increased interest in the scientific journals — a larger demand — has the capability of bringing down costs in line with the economic principle of supply and demand. As the demand increases, the supply increases, which reduces the rarity, thus depreciating the value, which could hopefully allow grocery stores to sell scientific journals like magazines.
People need to know about the boundaries and limits being explored in academia through scientific research. The unreadable language and expensive costs restricts the knowledge people can absorb, which in turn reduces the overall breadth of scientific knowledge. Reduce the cost and write the papers better.
(Sources: Pew Research Center, Smithsonian, University of Sydney, Scientific American, University of Iowa)
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