Category Archives: Looting the Ivory Tower

Looting the Ivory Tower

Element Descriptor

There’s some knowledge produced by (tax-payer funded) academics, but usually behind paywalls and guarded by thickets of jargon. Getting it (aka looting the ivory tower) can help you figure out the world, and how to change it. Not doing it means missed opportunities for insight, in theory at least.

You can identify academics who are writing, researching and teaching on issues relevant to your particular area of activism, make contact with them and get hold of their research. With support, you can turn that knowledge into formats that are useful and digestible to other activists/normal people.You can liaise with academics and find out what hte new trends are in research on the topic you are an activist about. You can read more advanced research/books, and independently turn them into useful and digestible formats.You can critique the underlying (usually class and race bounded) assumptions that academics are operating under, but still pick out what is useful and right from research/writing, and convert it into useful and digestible formats, independently and at speed.You can spot gaps and mistakes in an academic’s work in comparison to others working in the field. You are able to critique and find flaws at short notice. You are able to spot the real deal and translate that into useful and digestible formats for fellow activists. You are able to understand and mock academic cultures.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You can identify academics who are writing, researching and teaching on issues relevant to your particular area of activism, make contact with them and get hold of their research. With support, you can turn that knowledge into formats that are useful and digestible to other activists/normal people.You can liaise with academics and find out what the new trends are in research on the topic you are an activist about. You can read more advanced research/books, and independently turn them into useful and digestible formats.You can critique the underlying (usually class and race bounded) assumptions that academics are operating under, but still pick out what is useful and right from research/writing, and convert it into useful and digestible formats, independently and at speed.You can spot gaps and mistakes in an academic’s work in comparison to others working in the field. You are able to critique and find flaws at short notice. You are able to spot the real deal and translate that into useful and digestible formats for fellow activists. You are able to understand and mock academic cultures.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

The reasons academic work is not translated into plain English or French or Arabic or whatever For the benefit of the people who are ultimately funding that academic work, is that there’s no incentive for the academics to do it. In fact, there are disincentives. “Oh, you’ve gotten populist.” “Oh, why are you talking to those stakeholders, (taxpayers), normal people, when the real stakeholders are the policymakers who can say that we’ve had a research impact, and then the research councils will give us some more money.”

The flipside is, activists are very busy and don’t have the training or the access through the paywalls half the time so it doesn’t get done.

The consequences are that the insights in academic work in journal articles that doesn’t get saved or distributed which is a pity because there is some good stuff, maybe as high as two or three or 7%, that’s my final offer of the work is deserving of further attention and might help activist groups get their game face on.

What is to be done?

Let’s meet halfway. Academics could make sure that their work is available for a popular audience, even though they’re not getting brownie points, REF points for it. And activists could develop the skills to do the looting. And there are some of us, of course, who have a foot in both camps. Maybe one foot more than the other.

The other thing I would recommend to activists is that they refuse to participate in research unless the academics who want to study them make a firm, binding, written agreement that they will turn their work into texts, columns, cartoons, memes,, videos, whatever that can be digested by the people being studied.

And I am quite literally talking about a contract that the academic signs in the same way that they force or you have to sign a consent form. We’ll have one in reverse.

Development Resources

Assessment Resources