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.

Bit ironic then you cry that we’re now offering more information if we’re already struggling reading what we’ve already got! And that criticism is valid, other than IMPACT seeks to be a radical alternative, not just more of the same. IMPACT will use 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!

The type of feature will be about impact and IMPACT will encourage ‘Impact Narratives’ as its main offering to its readers. This reinforces that the ‘so what?’ question is the main editorial drive to this new medium.

The IMPACT Editorial Board is an extensive mixture of senior professionals and academic researchers – everything will be reviewed by such a mix to ensure the context and reality of the professional world sits hand in hand with academic systematic enquiry. That co-production of knowledge will be peer reviewed by a true partnership of the academic and the professional – with the common goal of seeking impact in improving policing.

IMPACT will use multi-media as well to cut through to the essential information, in short and to-the-point interviews with the researcher. As we have a growing community of practitioner researchers, there is a secondary benefit in professionals seeing their colleagues in action as this helps motivate and encourage more to follow them.

As an on-line resource, with that extensive Editorial Board, IMPACT will be able to deliver impact more in real-time, rather than the historical reflections that can take months or years to get published in the traditional journal. The quicker things are out there, the greater the impact and citation opportunities for researchers as well.

So, IMPACT is different. It’s faster, more to the point, more user-friendly, taking co-produced knowledge, peer reviewed by practitioners and academics equally. We throw down a challenge to the established, conventional and over-comfortable journals out there who will, no doubt, attempt to argue for ‘proper research’; in the meantime we’re going to get on with ‘proper impact’. The first number 1 volume 1 edition is out June 2017. Applied research will never be the same again!