Who Is Reading

How many people actually read papers published in peer-reviewed journals is a question that is not straightforward to answer. Rose Eveleth at Smithsonian has written a piece entitled "Academics Write Papers Arguing Over How Many People Read (And Cite) Their Papers" where she concludes, "Hopefully, someone will figure out how to answer this question definitively, so academics can start arguing about something else." There is even a joke that claims that as many as half of papers in academic journals have never been read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors. With a little math, such can be translated to the statement that "An average academic journal article is read in its entirety by about 10 people." With academic journals now available online, the number of views can now be recorded. Still, how does one know that someone who has viewed and downloaded an article has likewise printed and distributed copies to other readers? Citations are easier to count than readership but even with this metric, citation databases usually do not produce the same number for any given article. Anyway, these perhaps only outline a prologue to a much deeper issue. Are decisions or policies guided by these academic journals?

At least with pediatricians, an article published in the journal Pediatrics is read about 10,000 times in the three months following publication. For those among us who send their children to see these professionals, it is comforting to know that pediatricians stay up to date with primary literature. Unfortunately, this finding can not be easily extended to other fields. Medical professionals tend to read more than others as shown in the following figure:

Above copied from the J Med Libr Assoc. 2004 Apr; 92(2): 233–241
The field of education portrays almost the opposite. In a previous post on this blog, the following was highlighted:
In a paper published in The Journal of Educational Research, Sylvester-Dacy and coworkers point out that in major textbooks used in teacher education, only 18 percent are based on good evidence research.

This is quite a discouraging and disturbing picture. The other sources are usually books or position papers, secondary sources that often propagate what is popular, anecdotal or trendy, and not what is based on evidence.
It is therefore not surprising to see myths abound and linger in the field of education. The general public is not expected to read academic journals but practitioners must be reached by evidence-based research in their respective fields. Pediatricians keep themselves up to date. Teachers need to do the same.

Teachers are overworked but pediatricians also have a very tight work schedule yet they are able to find time to read. Thus, there maybe other reasons why academic articles on education and psychology are not being read by educators. In the Philippines, lack of access to these journals is probably a major reason.

Another reason may be deduced from the following table, which highlights the difference between academic articles and other reading materials:

In a scholarly article, the reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background. It is true that journal articles can easily be seen as conversations between experts. These are usually long and cannot be reduced into sound bites. In short, it takes a lot to read an article from a peer-reviewed journal.

This blog has been reaching out to education practitioners. Most of the articles posted in this blog are based on results or findings reported in peer-reviewed academic literature. The blog's readership has been growing and in the past three years, the blog has been viewed one and a half million times.

Number of monthly page views of Philippine Basic Education over time
With regard to the target audience, the blog is widely read in the Philippines:

Whether increasing access to primary literature by providing a blog such as this can improve impact of research on policies is of course another difficult question to address. We can only hope. Policies especially in the Philippines are usually drawn from the top. These are therefore people who already have access as well as resources to read primary literature. Here, a more important reason emerges on why education policies are usually not based or informed by research. Policies are usually made out of preference and not evidence.

This blog cannot change the minds that are already set. This blog can only hope to inform those who are in the ground and it is rewarding to hear from teachers who have spent some time reading my posts. Thank you very much. This blog is for you.


  1. and teacher should read this even when they are busy to be enlightened regarding current issue in education

  2. Brian Tracy Leis-Crisostomo DoApril 15, 2015 at 10:40 PM

    "Those who choose to teach, must not cease to learn..." ; "One cannot give what he does not have..." READ AND LEAD!


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