Closing the impact gap report
Digital innovation and improved connectivity are changing the way many of us access information, communicate, and learn. In academia, advances in the digital space make it easier for researchers to collaborate and share findings. However, despite these opportunities, published research is often cited as inaccessible, or difficult to use in practice. Our commitment to help researchers drive change in society, along with supporting quality education for all, has prompted us to seek answers to questions on how research is currently used and shared both within and outside of academia. We also look at how research outputs might be developed in the future to advance accessibility, learning, and real-world impact. We gathered global perspectives on the future trends in learning and research presentation, comparing the views of students, early career stage researchers and the established research community. Some of the report highlights include:
- 3 in 5 academics believe research is difficult to use outside of academia
- 45% of academics agree research papers are too long and 57% feel research summaries could help to more effectively present findings to decision makers outside of academia
- 64% of academics believe there needs to be greater focus on real world experiences and bringing the outside world in more - to improve the learning experience from academic research
- 64% of academics believe that content forms such as videos, podcasts and infographics could help when presenting research
Four areas of interest emerged from our research
Is academia stuck in a rut?
We found 92% of academics present their research as journal articles, but also identified a strong need for more varied formats that appeal to different learning styles, and that are more in line with the way the world has moved on in terms of how information is consumed. 1 in 4 students believe academics are more concerned about career progression than making learning easy for non-academics or students
Are research papers fit for purpose?45% of academics and 43% of students agree there is too much to read/papers are too long to digest
Barriers to innovation 47% of academics and 29% of students see budget constraints as the major barrier to change within research outputs3 in 5 academics believe it is difficult for research to be used outside of academia
Only 30% of students generally read the full article and 57% tend to check the abstract first, and if relevant, go on to read the full article
The future of learning and research outputs 64% of academics believe a greater focus on real world experiences, simulations and bringing the outside world in is the most important way to improve learning outcomes from academic research
32% of students would like to learn using video and animation and 64% of academics believe that videos, podcasts and infographics could help when presenting research to students
45% recognise the need for faster research dissemination in a post-COVID world, another 45% place responsibility on publishers to reduce Article Processing Charges for underfunded research areas
57% of academics feel research summaries effectively present findings to non-academic decision makers
Top changes academics believe will help research lead to greater impact include:quick dissemination, reduced Article Processing Charges for those in underfunded areas and more focus on interdisciplinary research
Is academia stuck in a rut?
here is a gap between the needs of academics and those of the next generation of learners. Alongside teaching, academics are under pressure to secure funding, carry out research and publish, often, in high impact factor journals. Meanwhile, students attend university to gain qualifications, skills and experiences that will set them up for the future.There have been calls for innovation within teaching, but the traditional lecture has largely dominated the scene. Teaching approaches have been forced to change during COVID-19, with academics adapting lectures for remote students, and providing digital and interactive content.We are yet to learn the changes within higher education that will remain post-pandemic, but it is clear from our research that students are hungry for a more varied learning experience.
Information and learning preferences outside of academia The top 3 most popular ways that academics/students consume information outside of academia
While online channels, social media and YouTube are significant for both groups, students are more drawn to digital content than academics who prefer traditional media such as books and newspapers. In China, where they have their own social media platforms, most students (78%) and academics (59%) favour social media learning. Meanwhile, traditional books are particularly popular for academics in Australasia (70%) and Europe (66%), as well as for students in Brazil (72%) and India (49%).
Research and learning at university
In the context of higher education, students and academics gravitate to similar content types but to varying degrees. Academics are far more likely to choose journal articles over other formats. Students are principally drawn to traditional books, but open to a wide range of content forms for learning and research. When we drill into less traditional content forms, preferences start to widen. Students have a high appetite for video and animation (29% students vs. 8% academics), quizzes (23% students vs. 5% academics), book apps (19% of students vs. 4% academics) and audio & podcasts (17% students vs 4% academics). In their quest to learn, students are more likely than academics to simplify content using annotated articles (21% of students vs. 10% of academics) and infographics (17% of students vs. 9% of academics). Students also prefer content that is made more interesting and digestible through games (12% of students vs. 3% of academics), de-jargoning software (10% of students vs. 1% of academics) or cartoons (10% students vs. 1% of academics).
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