For a little light weekend reading, check out this intriguing analysis by Holly Yettick of AcademeOnline on how national newspapers cover academic, governmental and think tank research.
Ms. Yettick tracked research coverage in 2007-2008 in the New York Times, the Washington Post and your own Education Week, finding that while academic and government research got more mentions overall, any individual study from a think tank was more likely to get picked up than any individual academic study.
The findings make sense to me, particularly using this sample pool. Ms. Yettick included in the academic pool the entire presentation list at the American Educational Research Association conference, which as I’ve noted before, runs to the thousands but includes a fair number of technical studies on educational theory and measurement design that don’t exactly scream front-page news. I love unusual research, but a neo-Marxist analysis of a professional development program is going to be a pretty hard sell.
For the most part, think tanks tend to study topics already in the news or part of pending legislation, and relevance definitely increases the likelihood of a study getting picked up. Moreover, in my admittedly limited experience, think tanks are far more likely to announce their research publicly than are academic researchers.
While I disagree with Ms. Yettick’s assertion that education reporters don’t read research journals (and I have an e-reader list to back me up), she gives a number of good recommendations for researchers looking to increase the accessibility of their studies, the simplest of which is not being afraid to talk about your studies and methods. Her analysis is a good read for anyone interested in the education research field.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.