Let’s talk about IMPACT

Information overload, too much waffle, too little of the right kind when you need it, email boxes busting at the seams, meeting after meeting, no time..NO TIME!! Sounds familiar? But, hey, this is the 21st century and we have the advantages over our predecessors because of all this lovely information out there. Right?

What we need is more knowledge working for us, not us working for knowledge. And we need less silos  – where one may have the luxury to ponder deep and meaningful things yet another is so immersed in non-stop operations they haven’t even got time to pause. If we’re serious about a professional approach to improving policing and reaping the benefits of the knowledge out there, and around the corner, to improve practice, we need to challenge some of the current ways of doing things. EMPAC is not just commenting on this – we’re doing something about it, by offering change.

EMPAC is seeking every opportunity to deploy a new way of presenting and explaining research, using a conversational tone to report, update and explain but without unnecessary ‘academic’ stylistics.

Is there any evidence – at all – that traditional academic journals are the best way of disseminating information into practice? If the goal is to get the knowledge to where it’s needed in practice and get more co-production of new knowledge we have just got to get better at working with the realities of professional practice.

It’s interesting to consider how the increasing saturation of information out there is best to be managed, particularly for busy professionals. If we take the market lead from the media then we can see the growth of quick, accessible, condensed, salient information, for example, in the growth of the i, but the relative demise of the Independent.

There’s perhaps a purist argument that somehow more words represent more rigour and quality. Not an argument Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway subscribed to though. Complex work behind any ‘report’ is one thing but the delivery of information in a usable, translated format is quite different.

At times there’s maybe just a hint of a form of exclusive snobbery to academic journals; the mystique, the distance, the impermeability at times that just makes you wonder if impact in the professional world is the main priority. Of course, some scientists will argue science should not be constrained by industrial application. And that’s fine, but when we get into science reaching application the scientist is going to have to get involved in professional reality. Writing in an ‘academic way’ might be a requirement to satisfy an examination process, but is a pretty poor way of communicating to a busy professional audience. Complex ideas can be communicated in different ways – ‘good’ communication is not owned exclusively by academic journal writing house style!

There’s the ‘watering down of standards’ argument as well. George Orwell wrote, “never use a scientific word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent”; like Hemingway he was a supporter of the succinct. ‘Plain’ speaking and writing should not be confused with ‘simple’. So, the counter argument is we can handle complexity without getting unnecessarily complex about it – and it can make the reader’s life a whole lot easier!

EMPAC’s style in its web features and in its new partnership with Police Professional (The Research Inspector) are written in an accessible style. To achieve this we use feedback from policing professionals who tell us what language will reach the Parade Room as well as the Board Room. That practical insight complements our EMPAC Research Quality sub-group scrutiny (chaired by Dr Rebecca Thompson) to bring the best of both worlds together to benefit policing.

There is a longer term ambition we hold as well. We are working, behind the scenes, to create a new digital format called IMPACT with its own own mixed academic and professional peer editorial group, using co-produced knowledge (from researchers and professionals) for a more dynamic alternative to traditional journals through the use of multi-media. Watch this space!