Make your research available

I have now worked nearly two years outside of the academic research world.  However, as I work with questions related to different environment issues and nature conservation, I regularly read articles and publications related to these subjects. But…

One thing I miss about working in a research institute is that while I was working in one, I had access to many different scientific journals and databases. Today, not so much… Many of the articles I would like to read are behind journal fees and hence often out of my reach. This makes things sometimes difficult if I am e.g. looking for good references to back up my recommendations regarding the width of ecological corridors or the width of riparian buffer zones of small head water streams when land use plans are made, for instance. And to be honest, I find this situation absurd. That scientific research and results are not made available for  everyone. It is like all the good recommendations and suggestions made by the very experts in their fields go to waste, when the results of their research are hiding behind paid journals and hence do not reach the people who actually make the decisions about these matters at the local scale.

Another thing I have noticed is that it is nearly impossible to find original (peer-reviewed) research articles in my own native language as in Finland it is custom to publish research results in English in international journals. I do understand this from the point of view of researchers as the number of published articles affects your chances to get funding etc.  However, there is one negative side in this. Being published only in this way, leaves your research and results easily unknown for many people. People outside of the academic world rarely read “official” scientific journals. And if they do, reading scientific articles can be difficult if you’re not a scientist yourself, and especially if the text is written in a foreign language. Also, not everyone knows how to interpret the results of linear regression analyses and adjusted R Square values for instance.  Sometimes it almost feels like that researchers are publishing articles mainly to other researchers, when, at least in my opinion, research should be made “for the public”, especially if you really want to make an impact and promote change with your research work. 

For these reasons I encourage all of you brilliant researchers out there to make your research openly available to every one. Publish your results also in a way that even non-scientists have access to them and most importantly can understand them. I think this is important if you truly want to make a real impact with your research and see your recommendations actually in practice. And if you want to make a difference in your own country, publish your results also in your own native language. In this way, there is a better chance that your research reach your local decision and policy makers, and even land owners. In the end, they are the ones who make the final decisions, for instance, about how large riparian buffer zones they leave around small headwater streams running through their forests.

~ KT ~

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