Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Fasten Your Seatbelts For Open-Access & Knowledge Mobilization

fasten seat belt

Maybe years from now academics will reflect on a time when the process of peer-review submissions for journal publication of research findings was like taking a several hours or days journey by horse and buggy that today might take us less than an hour to complete by car, train, bus or airplane. We can start to reflect on the changing view of academics to become more accepting of open access journals yet we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of peer-review itself to ensure quality control and verification.  Open-access allows for faster publication and faster access – yet that doesn’t mean speed doesn’t have its own dangers, or that we don’t take responsibility ourselves to not be fooled by everything we read as “accurate knowledge”.

Researchers know that the archaic and painstaking process of old-style peer-review submissions can often take upwards of a year to finally get published. Criticisms around the timeliness and relevance of making the data known creates barriers that can limit the effectiveness of presenting the research knowledge to other researchers and to the public.

Open-access journals for faster publication of research findings have now also finally started to gain respectability among scientists as a mode of broader knowledge dissemination to a public interested in being included in knowledge mobilization – not excluded – from the prior elitist realm of discipline-specific publications and “knowledge circles”.  (There are also now other timely means of sharing research knowledge such as #scholarsunday that takes place on Twitter in which both research scholars and the public can participate).

Yet trouble in the open-access waters hasn’t always made the process so smooth.

Let’s revisit journalist John Bohannon’s undercover investigative report from 2013 discussed further in Michael Eisen’s blog which caused quite a stir and opened the eyes of many open-access supporters. Bohannon, who has a PhD in biology, submitted a fraudulent cancer-research article and reported that 157 open-access journals had agreed to publish his fake findings.

The lesson to be learned from this is not that open access journals are not relevant modes for research publication. Rather the emphasis must continue to be on quality control by any professional publisher and any reader to automatically accept any research findings published. We must all approach knowledge exchanged with critical thinking – even after publication – open access or not.

When we fail to use our own critical thinking around research results and knowledge exchange we abdicate our own responsibility in accepting at face-value any research or “knowledge” that is received. The real problem is not necessarily the mode of transportation used –whether horse and buggy, car, train, bus or airplane. It’s how safely we secure ourselves on the ride that occurs – by using our own “scholarly assessment” of research findings.

If we are so-called research experts in a particular discipline we should already be taught to re-examine with scrutiny any published research findings anyway as part of the scientific method.

We now live in a time where the general public must also learn to approach any “evidence” with the same critical eye.

Yet there’s the underlying problem itself…learning to be critical thinkers ourselves. Peer-review publication is supposed to ensure quality control, yet even the peer-review process can’t keep the train on the track. Making an indictment of the open-access model is like saying we should go back to travelling by horse and buggy as a “safer” mode of transportation.

Don’t blame the mode of transportation if you haven’t secured your own self properly for the journey.

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