Research institutes are not only spaces in which research and education take place—they play a political role in sharing knowledge that is intended to benefit society directly or indirectly. Who the knowledge is shared with and in which ways is of extreme importance; publishing research findings and learnings in English limits who can benefit from the research. In an effort to contribute to the decolonization of science, ISS Blog Bliss has decided to encourage the publication of blog articles in the native languages of the authors or the communities participating in the research.
The Editorial Board of ISS Blog Bliss meets at quarterly intervals to discuss numerous aspects relating to the blog, including its functioning, successes, and future directions. At such meetings, we always discuss the statistics of the blog, including which articles have the most reads and where the readers come from.
At our recent Board meeting, we noticed that of the top 10 countries in terms of readership, only two are outside the Global North. Moreover, these two countries—South Africa and India—were former British colonies where English is the lingua franca, understood and spoken by a large part of the population. The top 3 countries were the Netherlands, the UK, and the USA, while other countries included Germany and Switzerland. As all blog articles have been published in English, this inevitably means that people who are able to read English texts and do research in English have been able to access our blog site.
In an effort to increase the readership of our blog, we have decided to encourage blog authors to translate their blog articles to their native languages, or to the native language of the communities participating in the research. In the future, English texts will be encouraged to be accompanied by texts in native languages. We hope that in so doing, our audience can be diversified, moving beyond scholars, practitioners and research participants in the Global North to include those in the Global South as well.
Something we also found at Bliss is the importance of researchers sharing their blog articles on social networks. While Google helps to find blog articles, research dissemination on social media is also a form of scholar activism. Our research finds that Facebook is particularly important for finding blog articles, followed by Twitter and Google. We are therefore encouraging authors to share their blog articles on social media (in their native languages) as well.
The good news are that blogs remain a wonderful way to communicate what we are discussing or researching at ISS. The content is more accessible, both in terms of style and in terms of open access, than scientific theses or journal articles. We therefore encourage researchers to make use of this communication channel. If we really wish to live the scholar-activism many of us subscribe to—if we truly want to be scholar activists—we must also think of how and to whom we are disseminating the knowledge we have generated through our research.
Are you also committed to changing academia? Join us by writing for Bliss in your native language and then share it as widely as you can!
About the author:
Lize Swartz is a PhD researcher at the ISS focusing on water user interactions with sustainability-climate crises in the water sector, in particular the role of water scarcity politics on crisis responses and adaptation processes. She is also the editor of the ISS Blog Bliss.