Applied diffusion?

At the core of the applied model of scholarship is a faith in the passive diffusion model of knowledge transfer whereby peer-reviewed articles somehow lead to societal benefits. Insights diffuse like a concentrated gas. Or perhaps like the economic benefits of the rich are supposed to trickle down to others. It’s just this kind of hand-waving nonchalance that precipitated the accountability culture now taking hold of the academy. A faith-based impact story just won’t do.

The applied philosophy literature is full of insights about practical problems. But in our survey of the literature we find essentially no accounts of how a philosopher is supposed to ensure that these insights have an impact. It’s a bias rooted in the discipline: one has exhausted one’s intellectual task and professional obligation when one deposits a peer-reviewed publication in a reservoir of knowledge. Whether and how that knowledge gets used…well, who can say?