Drawing lines between researcher and advocate?

By Alison Ritter

Alison Ritter (biography)

Is it possible to be both a researcher and an advocate? Indeed, is there even a duty to be both researcher and advocate?

“Advocacy” has been seen by some in the academy as a dirty word. Oliver and Cairney (2019) distinguish between an ‘honest broker’ and an ‘issue advocate’, suggesting that advocacy crosses some line. Simon Chapman, who has championed public health advocacy, has noted that some people see it as a “fraught, politicised activity” (Chapman 2015), and “disparaged” (Haynes et al., 2011). In the comments on Dorothy Broom’s blog post Researcher activism: A voice of experience one “persistent idea” is that academic work is somehow neutral while advocacy work is political. Smith and Stewart (2017) nicely reflect the tensions when they contrast it as either a “disciplinary duty” or “political propaganda”.

These contrasting views on advocacy seem to rest on what is being defined as “advocacy”.

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