18 April 2022

Why we must democratise, diversify and decolonise academic research

Acume is on a mission to democratise, diversify, and decolonise academic knowledge. You can read what we mean by this in our earlier blog

Ferris Wheel

We believe that the democratisation, diversification and decolonisation is key for widening academia’s influence and making the greatest possible social impact.

Democratise

Today, access to academic knowledge is a privilege, only available to certain groups of people. This exclusivity makes no sense, and only limits academia’s potential to serve society.

It denies academics the opportunity to make a real-world difference with their findings. Their research could serve as the backbone of evidence-based decision-making across policy and interventions; supporting the advancement of the SDGs and helping to better society, yet its teachings remain locked away.

Making research available to everyone, and not just the university or those who can afford a journal’s high costs, will widen its branches of influence.

But for academia to become more effective, then it needs to become more inclusive. And for that – it needs to fundamentally change.

Academics need to access different types of knowledge to develop more diverse and inclusive theories.

Diversify and decolonise

Academia, as taught across the world’s top universities, reproduces colonial structures that need to be dismantled. These colonial structures control true diversity of thought and uphold Western dominance over the most popular theories.

Rigid definitions of what is and what is not deemed academic reduces its richness and value, and oppresses certain ideas from being seen and included within western academic debate.

In many countries, a journal article in a peer-reviewed, high-impact journal is not the most typical research output. And so limiting the concept of academia to a specific format only denies many academics from participating in the wider debate.

And yet – as we all know far too well – diversity of thought underpins innovation and progress. So why then do we restrict academic diversity?

Is some research less worthy because it did not have the same opportunity? Of course not.

And this is exactly why Acume aims to give every academic the opportunity to participate, no matter where they are from, their own intersecting identity, or the opportunities they had or lacked.

Local knowledge and Inclusion

In fact, we believe that an academic who is also a representative of the same local region they research, are uniquely positioned to research that group or context. For example, researchers from the same regions share cultural codes, which help to better interpret visible and verbal cues, and what goes unsaid. They understand complex background, can establish greater trust amongst the community, and less is lost in translation.

This is why the international affairs and development sector recognise local knowledge to be the most valuable and helpful. Local does know best.

Yet in the context of academia, it is argued that an academic with skin in the game holds greater bias. But that is why the outsider is also needed.

Therefore we advocate for the inclusion of both: the insider and the outsider. The academic who is a part of that community and the academic who visits from far away.

And so it is Acume’s position that to augment academics influence and social impact potential, research needs to not only be democratised, but to be decolonised and diversified too. It needs to be inclusive of every different type of academic, so not to oppress certain ideas – but instead have the different ideas and perspectives presented together.

Research needs to be critiqued on its own merit, rather than who, where or how it was made and shared.

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