Academic research is inaccessible – and change is needed


23 March 2022

In a time of disinformation and mistrust, there is increasing demand for credible, reliable and high-quality information.

Yet while academics tirelessly research the most pressing societal challenges, often their work is not seen or read by anyone outside of the university.

Why? Because today’s state of academia is not accessible. 

And when we talk about accessibility, we’re talking more than just physical access.

Sure – the extravagantly priced paywalls imposed by traditional publishers do little to help. They uphold elitist barriers, and make it expensive for individuals, NGOs and small organisations to curiously browse and discover the latest academic knowledge.

But we can’t place all the blame upon dinosaur publishers.

In fact, the existence of the open-source movement alleviates their guilt somewhat. As while a crucial step forward, open source publishing is still not accessible.

Accessibility is about convenience. Its about finding exactly what you need. It’s about the availability of perspectives that represent a community or topic. It’s about the effort and skill needed to interpret and comprehend its insights. And it’s about understanding research’s value and real-world application. 

The time barrier

But most of all – accessibility is about time. Findings are hidden within lengthy and complex papers, demanding vast amounts of time to read, understand and interpret. 

In one survey, we asked 1,250 academics and professionals how long it really takes to read one academic paper. While we expected the answer to be “a long time”, the results still surprised us.

On average, it took the majority (68%) over an hour-and-a-half to read just one paper, and for 58% of those, one paper required over two-hours.

And if you think academics would be faster – they weren’t. Possibly due to their extra vigilance when reviewing a paper’s theoretical sections. 

So in conclusion, it takes everyone a long time to read and digest academic research.

But this is not feasible for the current world, where time-poor professionals hardly have a moment to pause, let alone devour four or five papers seeking the perfect insight. A task, which by our calculation, would require a full day of work.

Our solution

And this is why Acume exists – to serve this need and make academia truly accessible to everyone. Not just the scholar or the wealthy or those with the luxury of time. But to the busy professional – who can actually use it in their work and turn research findings into real action. 

And where better to start than serving policymakers and practitioners across the international affairs and development sector?

Professionals in this field shape policy, development programmes, and implement humanitarian approaches who work to improve societies and the lives of people. But to make the biggest impact, they need reliable insights and information.

And by making academia fast to read and easy to find diverse and relevant papers, the academic also benefits. It increases the chances of an academic’s work being read and then used in practice. 

But accessible academia is not just a win-win exchange, it’s the essential process to turn academia into action – and facilitate meaningful impact.