Report: “Educational Expertise, Advocacy, and Media Influence”
Authors: Joel R. Malin, a doctoral student in education policy, organization, and leadership, and Christopher Lubienski, a professor of education policy, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary: A new study, published in the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives, explores the relationship between expertise in educational research and the likelihood of playing a role in news-media debates over education policy. The researchers assigned scores to more than 230 people regarded as education experts, for both their actual expertise and their level of media influence, to see how the two scores matched up.
The expertise scores were calculated based on a formula that took into account whether the subjects had a doctoral degree or equivalent, how long it had been since they obtained that degree, and their Google Scholar citations. The media-influence scores were based on how often the subjects were quoted in newspapers, blogs, or the education press (including The Chronicle) in 2013, and also on a widely used measure of influence on Twitter and other social media known as a Klout Score.
Many of the subjects were associated with either the conservative American Enterprise Institute, the libertarian Cato Institute, or the liberal National Education Policy Center.
The researchers identified a striking disconnect between academic expertise and media influence. Among their key findings:
- Possession of a doctoral degree was, on average, associated with 67 percent fewer blog citations, 60 percent fewer newspaper mentions, and a lower Klout Score.
- Affiliation with a policy or advocacy organization substantially increased media presence. People associated with the American Enterprise Institute, for example, were, all else equal, nearly 2.5 times as likely as others to be cited in education media and about 1.5 times as likely to be mentioned in blogs.
- Academic expertise played some role. Each one-point increase in Google Scholar scores, for example, was associated with a 1-percent increase in blog mentions. Each one-point increase in years of experience corresponded with about a 1-percent increase in blog mentions.
Bottom Line: Education researchers in academe need to be more willing and able to be heard in the media if they do not want people in advocacy-focused organizations to dominate and distort their field’s policy debates.