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A letter to Knowledge Translation Media

April 30th, 2015

Dear Knowledge Translation Media,


I was very excited to receive your email invitation this morning and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to reach me by phone.  It’s so flattering to know that I am one of only a “small selected number of researchers and institutes around the globe” you’ve approached with your exciting offer to translate my research. 


Given how enamored grant agencies are with the concept of knowledge translation, it was only a matter of time before some enterprising soul stepped up to the plate to give us what we’ve all been waiting for: a media organization dedicated to knowledge translation.  I love how you’ve taken the concept of knowledge translation so literally, promising to produce “concise, clear and engaging” articles for “30,000 key decision makers across both the private and public sectors”. There’s something refreshingly modern (or, rather, postmodern) about an approach that treats knowledge translation as a pure simulacrum.


It will certainly make life a lot easier when I’m preparing grant applications in future, because I can confidently say, without qualm or equivocation, that I will be “translating” my research findings to “key stakeholders and beyond” – it says so right there on your invitation!  Who cares if they’re in business or chemistry or environmental science or a field entirely unrelated to my research?  They’re stakeholders.


Your community-minded fee structure also warmed my heart (or is it my digestive tract?  I never was any good at biology).  As you state in your invitation:


We had a choice as a publisher to opt for either a paid model with an annual or quarterly subscription fee or to fill at least half of the page space with adverts from commercial businesses supporting and interacting with the research community or sell advertising space to big commercial groups. We chose none of the above, and decided to pass on a fee which essentially allows us to produce and distribute the publication, to those who wanted to engage in such knowledge transfer activity. This has benefited tremendously in allowing more space dedicated to wonderful basic and fundamental research. 


I don’t see how anyone could disagree with the statement that passing on fees to academics is “tremendously beneficial” – who it benefits is hardly the point.  Besides, wasn’t it Mae West who said “you won’t buy the cow if you can get the milk for free”?  (I’m not sure if researchers are the cow or milk in this analogy, but the point is that cows cost money and someone has to pay for them.)


Is $2,200 for a three-page article (only $900 for a one-pager!) an unreasonable price to pay for such a service? Sure, it might seem like a pointless exercise in vanity that few will ever see, but unlike anal bleaching at least you can advertise it on your CV – and grant agencies are much less likely to baulk at it if you try and claim it on your budget.  So count me in, Knowledge Translation Media, I’m waiting for your call.


Yours, etc.,


Kirsten Bell.

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