Society and democracy are ever threatened by the fall of fact. Rigorous analysis of facts, the hard boundary between truth and opinion, and fidelity to reputable sources of factual information are all in alarming decline. A 2018 report published by the RAND Corporation labeled this problem "truth decay" and Andrew J. Hoffman lays the challenge of fixing it at the door of the academy. But, as he points out, academia is prevented from carrying this out due to its own existential crisis—a crisis of relevance. Scholarship rarely moves very far beyond the walls of the academy and is certainly not accessing the primarily civic spaces it needs to reach in order to mitigate truth corruption. In this brief but compelling book, Hoffman draws upon existing literature and personal experience to bring attention to the problem of academic insularity—where it comes from and where, if left to grow unchecked, it will go—and argues for the emergence of a more publicly and politically engaged scholar. This book is a call to make that path toward public engagement more acceptable and legitimate for those who do it; to enlarge the tent to be inclusive of multiple ways that one enacts the role of academic scholar in today's world.
About the author
Andrew J. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise with appointments in the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. He is the author and editor of 18 books, including How Culture Shapes the Climate Change Debate (Stanford, 2015). Among his list of honors, he has been awarded The Page Prize for Sustainability Issues in Business (2020) and the 2020 ONE Teaching Award.
"This book is a critical message for every university that measures its success by the real-world impact of the work on its campus. These chapters offer a road map for public engagement that resonate at a time when so much is on the line for science-informed decision-making. Hoffman underscores most crucially how the role of engaged scholar needs to be integral for academic careers, for the relevance of the academy and the needs of society."
—Philip J. Hanlon, President, Dartmouth College
"Hoffman understands the Academy and cares deeply about academia and its role in society. In this book he advances the mindset for increasing engagement and having an impact, and offers alternative ways that academics can clarify their purpose, engage with society and measure their impact."
—Nancy Baron, Director of Science Outreach, COMPASS Science Communication
"Hoffman, in his new blueprint for an academic world that makes a difference, delivers an architectural template for the academy that is long overdue. To help us find ways to better translate and make our insights matter, Hoffman outlines the logic and philosophy to move from sequestered scholarship to social understanding. This is a critical design map for a critical moment in academic and human history."
—Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University
"Scholars possess a powerful antidote to the poisonous spread of misinformation: Themselves. Hoffman presents an urgent and compelling call for scholars to leverage tools the public understands—from social media to journalism—to explain how their research impacts society. The Engaged Scholar should be required reading for anyone in academia today."
—Beth Daley, editor and general manager, The Conversation US
"Overall, this book combines polemic and practicality in a refreshingly direct way. It is an excellent summary of a particular paradigm of public engagement as a duty to communicate and create impact in the wider world."
—Paul Manners, Public Understanding of Science Blog