Wednesday 12 September 2012

Knowledge exchange

I am all for academics engaging with popular debate (or 'knowledge exchange' according to our funders). Indeed, it's one of the main reasons why I write posts for this blog.

One of the things less enthusiastic colleagues struggle with is that often your research ends up getting misinterpreted. I've experienced this on many occasions - most recently when my research on the effect of public sector employment on private sector employment was interpreted by some as saying something about the impact of a move to local pay. Generally speaking, I think academics need to be fairly relaxed about this. After all, reaching broader conclusions from rather specific research findings is something a lot of us do when faced with big issues where the underlying research is indicative at best.

That said, I am surprised when people use my research to reach a conclusion that goes specifically against the findings of the research in question. Today's FT provides a nice example. Talking about the findings of our research on the impact of Regional Selective Assistance the article says "research by the LSE shows grants to small UK businesses help increase productivity." In fact, our research shows the exact opposite, as you can read for yourself in the abstract of the paper (kindly linked to by the FT article): "we find that the program has had a positive effect on both employment and investment [...]. There is no statistically significant effect on total factor productivity."

Still, it's good to know that people out there read your research (even if you might wish they read it a little more carefully).