The Impact Platform

Author: Jefferson Pooley

Abstract: The Conversation—”academic rigour, journalistic flair”—is the leading example of a new, web-enabled mode of academic popularization: the impact platform. The nonprofit site’s unpaid scholar-writers, together with professional staff editors, produce dozens of short, image-filled dispatches every week day. In a crucial twist, each piece is released into the web with a Creative Commons license and the hope for widescale republication. There’s no grumbling about the Huffington Post and other aggregators stealing page views: The whole point is to spread the academic news to any and all takers, as long as the author and publication are credited. The “impact” in impact platform is a nod to the motivating source for The Conversation and its imitators: the policy-driven demand for “public impact” in the Anglophone university systems. It’s no accident that The Conversation started in Australia and has its second-biggest “edition,” by far, in the UK. Both countries have adopted controversial higher-ed ranking regimes that require academics and their departments to demonstrate—and quantify—public reach. The Conversation‘s reader tallies are a convenient way to show taxpayer “return on investment.” This explains the site’s array of funders, which tend to be universities, grant-making foundations, and national research councils. The “metric tide” dynamic that underwrites the enterprise may be questionable, but the upshot is a new stage for “translated” or born-public scholarship—for all of us, not just those laboring under the Research Excellence Framework regime. Cleanly written, synoptic research capsules are ricocheting around the web and getting read. It’s spillover from the neoliberal university, and drinkable all the same.

Citation: Pooley J. 2017. The Impact Platform. Humanities Commons. http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M65K8K

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