Science writers trawl the social science (and hard science) journals looking for interesting findings that will, if properly written up for a wider audience, net thousands or tens of thousands of views. My own work has been mined for pieces on NPR, and made it on the front page of Reddit. Scientific research is used to inform public policy, or to make a legal case for the redress of an injustice. It’s used in marketing, in devising best practices in education, therapy, social work, industrial organizational management, medicine, nursing. To claim that journal articles are worthless because a significant percentage of them are uninteresting and not widely read is to say that contemporary science is worthless. It’s baldly untrue.
I get the frustration with journal articles. They are dry, meandering, jargon-laden, inaccessible, and many of them do go largely unread. But that last problem is largely a consequence of their turgidness and their inaccessibility, both of which can be changed. In fact, if articles were open source and released to the public, I’m sure the quality and accessibility of the writing would improve nearly immediately.
We need to stop talking to ourselves and no one else. We need to learn to sell our work better. We need to deal with the fact that the majority of journal articles do go unread — it’s such a waste of hard, good work. But don’t think for a second that just because this resource is being exploited by corporations and neglected by the lay public that it lacks actual value. Our work matters, or it has the potential to. If it were freed from the pay wall, *or* if researchers themselves had the ability to negotiate/set prices and reap financial benefits the same way any professional writer does, that value would finally be allowed to shine through.