Academic journals or bust!

Is it still worth it to get published in an academic journal?

I was enjoying my late afternoon coffee while fixing my computer files earlier when I chanced upon this opinion piece on Singapore’s The Strait Times which discusses why the academe needs a major paradigm shift in putting knowledge out there.

Aptly titled “Prof, no one is reading you,” that thought is actually my own thought ever since I became an academic and was forced to churn out those academic articles for academic journals in order to gain some academic traction in my former academic career.

Some papers I created to be presented first in various local and academic conferences, and they have gathered interesting reactions from the people who listened to our panels. The Q&A that comes after such paper presentations were very important to me, the academic paper writer, because I get to listen to feedback from the audience and they also weigh in on the facts, theories and thoughts I presented in my own paper.

One particularly memorable moment I had was about a paper I wrote about how lesbians were being misrepresented in early independent digital full-length films. This paper got accepted in a graduate studies conference in New York, so of course I was ecstatic because I got a free trip to NYC courtesy of the university’s travel fund grant for paper presentations plus I got to hear and interact with fellow film school and cinema studies people in that conference. I traveled with two other young co-faculty in the UP Film Institute who presented similarly-themed papers. The people who listened to our paper presentations were actually in awe that such “things” were happening na pala in Asia, and in the Philippines at that, meaning having a very active independent film movement here, filmmakers doing digital films and presenting queer issues in their stories.

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Siyempre feel na feel lang ng lola mo ang pagiging New Yorker sa pagtawid sa Fifth Avenue in Manhattan where I presented my paper. [March 2010 New York City]

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Happy to be part of this small but significant graduate studies conference full of cinema geeks like me. [March 2010 CUNY NYC]

Another good discussion I had was when I presented in Jakarta this paper I wrote about how Filipino queer women are building their identities in Twitter. The Ateneo-like school that hosted the international conference on media and globalization chenerz was very interested in the openness of queer culture online here in the Philippines, and my fellow attendees were also interested in knowing more about the media situation here in the Philippines since they’ve been having difficulties there in Indonesia and in other parts of Asia. Again, the discourse that stemmed from my paper presentation was very engaging and it was fulfilling for me as a writer and also an academic researching on queer life in the Philippines.


This was one of the happier conferences I attended, ‘yung tipong gusto mong makinig sa mga interesting paper presentations ng ibang tao. Plus hanging out with the young faculty of UPH was also a hoot! [February 2013 Tangerang, Indonesia]

Now my beef with academic papers is that the academe insists on publishing them in peer-reviewed journals to gain some legitimacy in the academia. But having these journals accessed is another thing. Not everyone reads these journals, let alone being aware of their existence as that Straits op-ed wrote. Sure, students and researchers read them, but wouldn’t it be great to make them available for a wider audience outside of the academe so that we academics could share our knowledge to a wider world? We’re always publishing for our own peers and for people who study things, but aren’t studies supposed to educate more people than this?

Another beef I have with these journals is that their writing style is so high up there that many people who may want to read these articles or papers could get alienated by the heavy academic jargon that is required in these papers. I mean, I myself retch at some academic papers I read in journals because I know they’re just dropping jargon after jargon as a requirement, not as an enhancement to their papers or their thoughts, if ever they had any original ones in the first place.

Like I had this academic friend-colleague who presented a paper in a Hong Kong international conference that I also attended to present a paper, and after another colleague of mine presented her jargon-heavy paper, I turned to my friend-colleague and asked her opinion about it, and she said “Hindi siya nagbabasa masyado, ‘no?” meaning my other colleague just lifted thought after thought from her academic resources and peppered them with jargon after jargon to cook up her paper. I laughed and said “Yeah, siya lang ang nakakaintindi ng paper niya hahaha!” I think it defeats the purpose of writing to share knowledge when the manner of presenting that knowledge is not clear to people you want to educate.

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Tipa-tipa lola mo as I coffice to polish my paper presentation. [March 2012 Starbucks Nathan Road HK]


Getting ready for my close-up in this conference. [March 2012 HK University]

But I think my main beef about academic writing is that these so-called peers who will review you require you to cite earlier scholars who may have written about an original thought you presented in your paper. It’s like you’re not allowed to write your original thoughts and they think you merely lifted that thought from another source, so they push you or force you even to “Cite your sources!” Okay, granted that we get influenced by what we read but it’s ridiculous to think that we don’t own a single original idea or thought in our heads. And worse, we are required to support our original idea with similar ideas that have been previously published before. Whatever happened to “producing new knowledge” people? I give up.

I’ve always been a writer and I’ve tried many types of writing styles and genres, but admittedly, academic writing is one of my most hated style of writing. I guess this comes from the fact that I’ve always written for popular media as the op-ed suggests academics do, to reach a wider audience and to educate more people. It’s not to say that academics should “lower” their standards in order to have mass appeal. But seriously, who are we educating ba kasi in the first place when we write above the capacity of readers? I mean, even our own students sometimes don’t comprehend much the jargon-heavy papers academics write. What’s the right way to educate?

For me, it’s just simple: be understandable enough to educate more people. I know my professor-colleagues might frown upon this, as they insist on writing using that “higher” level because they want people to step up to reach that level. No harm in that, but also, there’s no humility in that as well. If we insist on being “higher” than the rest of them “lower” folks, what kind of hierarchy are we imposing on knowledge ba?

Ewan ko sa kanila, but I went into teaching with a combined theory+praxis approach to imparting knowledge. That there should be some effort to have the theoretical stuff applied to the practical side of things in life. More importantly,I believe that people should learn new knowledge so they could also use/teach/transfer/share that knowledge to others, so dadami na tayong knowledgeable, di ba dapat? But the thing here is, some academicians just want to be the ones who are on top of that knowledge hierarchy. The so-called ivory tower, doon nila gustong magka-tenure. And it starts with keeping the upper hand of knowledge to themselves. Yes, believe me, there are teachers out there who don’t want to really share their knowledge, and this makes me really sad. Oh well, kanya-kanyang trip na lang siguro ‘yan, kahit sa akademya.

This muni-muni was also so timely since yesterday, I was contemplating on putting my stuff online so that researchers or students could have access to my papers. Now that I’ve ended my 8-year teaching stint, there are still students who ask me to be a resource person on topics that I’ve written about before. I was toying with the idea of polishing my unpublished academic papers yesterday, but I think it’s better for me if I release those papers here in social media where more people could use them. Dedma na sa plagiarists. Karma is always on my side and I believe karma will give these credit-grabbers a swift kick in the butt naman if ever they plagiarize me. I know a bigger percentage of people out there will benefit naman from my materials so I’m cool with that.

So I’m going to create a separate page within this blog where I will post my academic papers, published and unpublished. It’s also a way of archiving my material na rin. Sige abangan na lang iyan soon.

Be well, folks.


~ by leaflens on April 15, 2015.

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