The open access movement is getting more and more attention. The question of where to publish outside of academia is one I have been so fascinated with that I left my dream job to see if I could create a platform to act as the voice and the stage for frontline researchers and knowledge brokers.
I started to think about how frontline information gets started. Typically a decision maker wants to know the answer to something. They want to know if a program is working, if they should change or adopt a new policy, or cancel funding for a project. For over 15 years, I was the person who answered these questions. Unlike researchers in academia, as a frontline researcher, I never had the pressure to publish or perish. Instead, I was faced with a different dilemma: disseminate or die.
I’m sure this diagram of evidence decision-making rings true. It’s how decisions get made in lots of industries. We research for evidence, we gather frontline resources, and we take into consideration our audience and the current context or state of affairs. Then we send it along to the decision-makers – who make a decision.
My colleagues and I used the same education and similar methodologies to “do” our research. Yet ours often only went as far as the decision-maker who commissioned the work. Sometimes it would be circulated through various committees and teams that could or would be affected by the decision. Other times it sat on our allotted shared drive.
The multi-layered question that plagued me was… where does someone who works for a government department or non-academic organization publish their work? Where does this person with a small window of time before they move on to the next project – and likely a very small sample size – publish their work?
I know from experience that gathering non-academic research and information informs decisions. The quality of the research is typically done by qualified people, sent up the chain of command, and a decision gets made. Then the research sits on a shelf or hard drive. And both the decision-maker and frontline person move on to the next project, crisis or decision. So, once the decisions get made, where does the valuable research and information go? How can we learn from it and how can others learn from us? How can we find it if we don’t know it exists?
These are the questions that kept me up most nights when I was a frontline researcher. Now, as the Founder and CEO of GreyLit, I am trying to answer them. My team, our supporters and partners are aiming to create a space within the world of open access that closes the information access gap between academia and the frontlines. We want to give frontline researchers a place where they can be celebrated, and where their work is shared quickly with relevant audiences that will turn it into action.