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Abstract

Addressing the need for increasing the visibility and accessibility of language-related research for language teaching professionals and others interested in this research, particularly to address the widening gap between research and practice, Multiʻōlelo (MO) is a research communication project aiming to promote public engagement with language studies; thereby facilitating mutual understanding and support between researchers and various stakeholders such as language education professionals, language policy-makers, and language learners. In this concept paper, we will provide an overview of MO goals and activities, explain the rationales of the initiative, and document what we have accomplished so far, as well as provide a roadmap to realize our vision for a more democratic, participatory model of language research communication.
Second Language Studies, 38 (
1
), Fall 2020
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative for
Language Research
Communication
Second
Language
Studies
Hawai'i
Huy Phung, Ann Tai Choe, Maria Diez-Ortega, Masaki Eguchi,
Daniel Holden, Anna Mendoza, and Thu Ha Nguyen
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
ABSTRACT
Addressing the need for increasing the visibility and accessibility of language-re-
lated research for language teaching professionals and others interested in this re-
search, particularly to address the widening gap between research and practice,
Multiʻōlelo (MO) is a research communication project aiming to promote public
engagement with language studies; thereby facilitating mutual understanding and
support between researchers and various stakeholders such as language education
professionals, language policy-makers, and language learners. In this concept pa-
per, we will provide an overview of MO goals and activities, explain the rationales
of the initiative, and document what we have accomplished so far, as well as pro-
vide a roadmap to realize our vision for a more democratic, participatory model
of language research communication.
Keywords: research communication, open science, public engagement
Multiʻōlelo (MO) is a graduate student-led initiative for language research
communication based in the Second Language Studies Department at the
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. MO is a multilingual website curating lan-
guage-related research findings in accessible formats such as text summar-
ies, infographics, short videos and podcasts, in multiple languages. There-
fore, MO encourages different forms of scholarship for public access and
interaction for interested audiences (e.g., language teachers, undergraduate
and graduate students and instructors, and policymakers) around the
world. The word ‘Multiʻōlelo is a combination of the English prefix “multi”
Phung et al., 6
and the Hawaiian word ʻōlelo meaning voice, language, speech, utter-
ance, statement and more. Aligning with recent initiatives in the language
field, such as OASIS (https://oasis-database.org/), and bigger Open Science
movements in science and academic research (Marsden, 2019; Marsden et
al., 2019), the MO initiative aims to address issues of research accessibility,
visibility and public engagement with science and academic research. Spe-
cifically, MO aims to carry out the following activities with both short-term
and long-term action plans. In the short term, MO aims to create a platform
for students, teachers, and researchers to communicate and share language
research findings while allowing graduate students to learn about research
communication and writing for the public. Long-term, MO aims to create a
professional platform for language research communication where re-
searchers can increase their research visibility if they choose to address re-
search questions of wider relevance and communicate their findings in an
accessible manner, while practitioners can obtain research-driven infor-
mation for decision making. Practitioners include all individuals who make
decisions based on language-related research to inform their practice, in-
cluding, but not limited to teachers (e.g., speech language pathologists, test-
ing specialists, content designers, counselors). One of the aims of MO is to
make language research accountable to language teachers and other practi-
tioners. MO activities revolve around the following targets (3 Es):
Enable: MO focuses on creating a platform, sample contents, templates,
guidelines, and workflow to facilitate a new community of practice on lan-
guage research communication which connects researchers, educators, pol-
icy makers, students, and other stakeholders who share interests and are
involved with language issues. Practitioners can also benefit from our pod-
casts and bite-sized Q&A sessions, in which academic jargons are explained
in plain language.
Engage: Beyond just a repository of summaries of research findings, MO
caters to educators, policy makers, parents, and others as research consum-
ers while aiming to engage them in learning about the research process, crit-
ically assessing research findings, and using research for their own ends.
For example, language teacher educators may use MO resources in their
course lectures or assignments in teacher training programs. Teachers,
speech language pathologists, and language testing specialists can use MO
contents to design activities for professional development at the workplace.
Evaluate: MO plans to evaluate the impact of the initiative, keeping track
of which resources are being used most actively and how they are being
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 7
used, in order to adapt to the needs of audiences such as language educa-
tors, graduate students, and other members of the public. We also aim to
carry out research projects to investigate the impact of certain scholarship
forms on research use and engagement to identify the optimal formats for
these different uses.
BACKGROUND OF THE MULTIʻŌLELO INITIATIVE
Language Research Visibility and Accessibility
MO aims to address the issues of research visibility and accessibility.
Visibility is concerned with making research available to those who would
benefit from it most through reaching out to the public and practitioners,
engaging with them, understanding their concerns and contexts, and being
aware of different stakeholders within language studies. Accessibility miti-
gates financial, linguistic, and discourse barriers by making research avail-
able and understandable to a general audience. Both visibility and accessi-
bility are interdependent as two sides of the same coin. Therefore, we intend
to address them together.
Research findings are conventionally available to small circles of re-
searchers and experts who have more privileged access to specialized jour-
nals and databases. Most prestigious journals require subscriptions; due to
these costs, it is not a viable option for many practitioners if they are not
affiliated with a higher education institution or subscribed organizations.
This issue is already well documented in the field of language teaching, as
many teachers do not have access to journals or receive institutional support
(Borg, 2009; Sato & Loewen, 2019).
Even when articles are made public, they are usually written for other
trained researchers who have received specialized training and technical
knowledge to decipher them. In fact, when Plavén-Sigray et al. (2017) did a
corpus study of 709,577 abstracts published between 1881 and 2015 from
123 scientific journals, they observed a 10% rise in scientific jargon (defined
as “words which scientists frequently use in scientific texts, and not subject
specific jargon”, p. 5) across a dozen STEM and social science fields. Read-
ability indices revealed that research articles have become harder to read
over time. Such findings carry important implications for language studies.
For instance, if a teacher wants to know whether their language instruction
practice is best informed by recent research, they may have to go through
an excess of journal articles without the disciplinary knowledge to pick out
the most credible ones. They may also need to spend efforts in advancing
their schematic, linguistic, and discourse knowledge to understand what is
Phung et al., 8
being discussed. To address this issue, publishers and organizations (e.g.,
in psychology) have recently started to publish easy-to-read abstracts along
with the technical abstracts of research articles, indicating that lay struc-
tured abstracts are more likely readable than the conventional abstracts
(e.g., Psychology; see Stricker et al., 2020). The idea of accessible summaries
is relatively new to applied linguistics; one of the laudable initiatives in the
language field is the creation of Open Accessible Summaries In Language
Studies, or OASIS, in which article authors and their collaborators write
open access one-page accessible summaries of their articles (Marsden et al.,
2019). However, most of what has been put forward is still written in Eng-
lish and follows a research dissemination model which may not guarantee
high engagement from those who should be informed. In addition, one can
argue that an extra summary is not necessary because readers already have
access to the abstracts.
Since the majority of academic research is published entirely in English,
this creates barriers for international scholars and practitioners whose ac-
cess to research in prestigious journals (as both consumers and producers)
is mediated by English language brokers. These include peer reviewers who
guide international scholars how to cite other works to frame their argu-
mentsthe reviewers having better access to the most current and popular
theories due to geographic location (Flowerdew, 1999; Lillis & Curry, 2006).
An accessible introduction to this literature can be provided by materials on
the MO site, alleviating some of the reliance on these mediators and allow-
ing for a more independent self-introduction to the material. Moreover, it is
important to remember that international scholars themselves are already
brokers of academic knowledge in their own contexts, liaising with non-
academic stakeholders such as language policymakers, curriculum design-
ers, educators, and parents. Thus, research on the effects of a major lan-
guage policy change or curriculum change, as well as research on language
acquisition or language use in society that would make the public aware
whether that change is in the right direction, needs to be more quickly ac-
cessed by those who need it most, such as teachers of migrants, refugees,
and speakers of stigmatized regional languages.
Research Engagement and Models of Research Communication
Even though some forms of research findings are made available
through open access journals, lay abstracts or plain summaries that may fa-
cilitate the accessibility of academic research, this does not guarantee that
practitioners or lay people will engage with academic research. For exam-
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 9
ple, researchers have documented that language teachers show low engage-
ment with research in the language field (Marsden & Kasprowicz, 2017).
Specifically, Borg (2009) documented that only 15.6% of a total 505 teachers
of English from 13 countries indicated that they read research on a regular
basis. This number reflects a widening gap between researchers and teach-
ers in terms of research engagement. The gap has been discussed widely in
the area of language teaching (McKinley, 2019; Medgyes, 2017; Paran, 2017;
Rose, 2019; Sato & Loewen, 2019). Beyond language teaching, researchers
also identify the reasons for low engagement with research. For example,
jargon can reduce research engagement even when it is defined in the article
(Shulman et al., 2020).
Furthermore, a number of initiatives in making research accessible are
rooted in the open science movement which may not embrace models sug-
gested in the science communication literature. The assumption that “when
research summaries are available, professionals will use them” is still a mat-
ter of debate. In science communication, scholars have warned against the
one-way model of research dissemination known as ‘the deficit model’
(Cormick, 2019; Cortassa, 2016; Simis et al., 2016; Suldovsky, 2016). The def-
icit model assumes that the target audience lacks research-driven
knowledge and researchers should keep them informed of their up-to-date
findings. A recent report points out that the deficit model is “wrong” and
suggests different strategies for different communication goals (National
Academies of Sciences, 2016, p. 3). The report highlights that “people rarely
make decisions based only on scientific information; they typically also take
into account their own goals and needs, knowledge and skills, and values
and beliefs” (p. 3). While the deficit model still plays some important role
in research communication, a dialogue or participation model can be more
inclusive for engaging the public by promoting mutual interaction between
researchers and readers.
Research in science communication also provides practical ideas to
make research more accessible. For example, Schwabish (2020) provides a
multilayered approach to research communication with the inverted pyra-
mid philosophy of sharing research findings. He points out the interaction
between means of communication, audience targets and complexity of in-
formation should be considered to achieve the optimal communication
goals (also see Baron, 2010; Cormick, 2019). For example, researchers can
reach a huge audience via social media to share their research findings, but
the information should be simplified and linked to the original research. In
a recent study comparing different types of abstracts, the researchers re-
ported that participants found plain summaries and video abstracts easier
Phung et al., 10
to understand and more enjoyable to view/read than graphical and conven-
tional abstracts (Bredbenner & Simon, 2019). Therefore, MO provides an op-
portunity for readers to easily access academic articles through alternative
forms of scholarship.
DEVELOPMENT AND OUTCOMES
Building knowledge of key issues in language research and science com-
munication, MO focuses on prototyping a model of language research com-
munication. The initiative aims to create a crowdsourced multilingual plat-
form curating language-related research findings in accessible formats via
multiple languages and from multiple voices. After several rounds of infor-
mal discussion, we presented a proposal of concept at the college-wide
graduate student conference to receive feedback and assess if graduate stu-
dents and faculty were interested (Phung & Reinagel, 2018, see Appendix
for Initial Prototype for MO). Subsequently, the proposal was submitted for
a small grant to develop a prototype of the platform and test the idea in
practice. The initiative was partially funded by the UH IDEAS SEED grants
in Fall 2018 and Fall 2019. As a result, we formed a multilingual team con-
sisting of members with various research interests and areas of expertise to
pilot some ideas for testing development including creating sample text, in-
fographic, and videographic summaries, as well as to create the website. In
addition, we have engaged graduate students at UHM to voluntarily serve
as reviewers for MO summaries. Our work was presented at local confer-
ences and in-house meetings, receiving further feedback. We added social
media channels (Facebook and Instagram) to reach out to people in other
circles.
To date (July 2020), we have published 33 summaries in different lan-
guages and formats. There have been more than 7,000 views on the website
with 1,500 unique visitors coming from 42 countries and territories. MO
summaries have been downloaded 947 times, particularly the Q&A format
which explained a field-specific concept (i.e., “translanguaging”) in simple
language. After one year, we have had summaries in Vietnamese, Spanish,
Mandarin Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and English. We also prototyped sev-
eral mini-projects to standardize the workflow and document the process.
As a result, we now have letter templates, a guideline for producing pod-
casts, a tutorial on making academic infographics, and extra-credit and as-
signment templates for graduate courses. Additionally, several professors
have already included extra-credit for students in their classes who submit
to MO.
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 11
MULTIʻŌLELO FOR LEARNING, TEACHING, SHARING, AND
CONNECTING
Academic research should not occur in a vacuum. MO breaks down ac-
ademic silos by transforming lengthy research articles into bite-size formats
(e.g., one-page text summaries, infographics, videographics, podcasts, and
presentation slides) and in multiple languages, thereby holding the poten-
tial for encouraging productive, two-way communication amongst schol-
ars, educators, policymakers, and students who are interested in language-
related matters around the world. As a freely available online platform de-
signed for a wide range of audiences, MO can be used for multiple pur-
poses, including but not limited to learning, teaching, sharing, and connect-
ing.
Learning
The fact that scientific texts are filled with jargon and becoming more
difficult to read over time (Plavén-Sigray et al., 2017) creates unwanted bar-
riers that may prevent or even demotivate language lovers from retrieving
knowledge from the academic community. By delivering research findings
in innovative formats that are easily accessible and digestible for a general
audience, MO provides a gateway to education for those who are curious
about language-related research but who might not necessarily have the
budget and time to consume expensive, hard-to-read scholarly works. As
we emphasize the importance of multilingualism and two-way communi-
cation, our contributors are encouraged to submit works that not only trans-
late and dissect research articles from English into other languages but also
the other way around. MO is a user-generated platform with diverse topics
pertinent to language teaching and learning, language use and identity, and
language policy as examples. As such, we hope to offer our audience an
opportunity to gain valuable information which they will find practical and
relevant to their own interests.
Teaching
Those of us who have taught content courses to undergraduate-level
students in Second Language Studies or Applied Linguistics are well-aware
of the fact that most students find reading empirical research articles ex-
tremely challenging or less than engaging. While BA instructors are respon-
sible for presenting facts supported by empirical evidence, selecting appro-
priate materials that their students will find enjoyable to read is an infamous
struggle. Most language-related journals and books are designed for read-
ers with some experience and familiarity with the field, but teaching mate-
rials that are suitable for undergraduate-level students are rather limited.
Phung et al., 12
MO can be the solution to this issue. We ask our contributors to summarize
research articles from peer-reviewed journals, and our pool of qualified re-
viewers in multiple languages ensure the accessibility and accuracy of the
contributions. Therefore, aside from being a platform for learning and com-
munication, the variety of bite-size content provided by MO’s contributors
can be integrated into classroom teaching, making learning more pleasant
and motivating for the students.
Sharing and Connecting
Besides sharing the works of others, researchers and graduate-level stu-
dents associated with different institutions are highly encouraged to share
their work on our platform by breaking down complex concepts raised in
their own research, as long as their scholarly work has been published in a
peer-reviewed journal or an edited volume book. In addition, MO can be a
good head start for those who would like to contribute to the field but may
not have had the opportunity to publish in a well-established journal. All
contributions to MO are considered as a form of professional/community
service. MO provides guidelines to contributors for how to add their works
published on the platform to their CV. We also encourage our contributors
to connect with scholars whose work they have enjoyed reading and whose
work they would like to transform into an alternative format; to facilitate
this, MO provides an email template that contributors can use to reach out
to the original author(s). This is a perfect networking opportunity for these
contributors to connect with scholars, as well as for scholars to connect with
the general public.
ROADMAP FOR THE FUTURE OF MULTIʻŌLELO
In looking toward the immediate future, the MO team will begin by fo-
cusing on attainable goals in line with our mission statement. Our initial
next step will be to identify and begin conversations with our intended au-
diences, as well as expand the scope of current collaborators. As we strongly
believe that research communication should be accessible to the general
public, we need to make a greater effort to network and make connections
with those who would benefit most from our services. In order to carry out
this mission, we intend to reach out to the local community, in particular,
language teachers and administrators in other universities and community
colleges of these islands via social media and in upcoming events, both so-
cial or professional. To support continued involvement, we have already
drafted a template for submission instruction that instructors of language
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 13
studies can adopt (or adapt) into their own syllabi, allowing them to sup-
port MO either directly or indirectly. Furthermore, to continue expanding
our pool of potential contributors, we intend to draft additional sets of clear
instructions for interested teachers (such as K-12) to contribute submissions,
fostering their own professional learning.
Additionally, we intend to use existing connections with teachers and
parents outside of the university setting to better understand how this plat-
form can be useful to them, how these summaries are being understood,
and what their interests are. We plan to gather this information using sur-
veys and semi-structured interviews and focus groups. In this sense, out-
reach toward administrators and teachers in the Hawai‘i Department of Ed-
ucation (HIDOE) and private schools would be an invaluable resource in
expanding the scope of this project and disseminating research findings to
the Hawaiian and local community.
In order to keep the MO website relevant to our intended audience, our
team will also have to become more diligent about the articles that we
choose to host on the site. In addition, in having these discussions, we can
explore how accessible the current summaries are for the intended audience
as well. It’s possible that what the team has found to be appropriate in the
language of the current existing summaries may not be as suitable for read-
ers as originally thought.
Our next immediate step is to contact local professional associations,
such as Hawai‘i TESOL and Hawai‘i Association of Language Teachers
(HALT), to foster new collaborations with other professionals in our field
and enhance the visibility of our project. Furthermore, we are planning to
reach out to graduate students and faculty from other universities in order
to expand the scope of our research expertise and increase the number of
submissions.
In addition to those first steps, as MO keeps creating accessible high
quality content that could also potentially be used as teaching materials, we
believe that reaching out and connecting with other initiatives in the field
of applied linguistics, such as OASIS, could be a beneficial reciprocal rela-
tionship. For instance, MO could transform English summaries into differ-
ent multimodal formats (e.g., infographics, slide shows), or translate the
summaries into different languages, both with the idea of disseminating
language-related research and engaging a wider audience following the
Creative Commons (CC) licenses
1
. Adopting the CC licenses allows the
1
https://creativecommons.org
Phung et al., 14
work to be freely shared, adapted, remixed, and repurposed without the
need to seek permission from the original creators.
Other future plans with MO include becoming an interactive secure plat-
form for language professionals to interact and keep track of their learning,
an idea that resonates with sites like Blinkist (https://www.blinkist.com) or
GetAbstract (https://www.getabstract.com/en). This idea will be further ex-
plored once we have a large database of users and content, with future pro-
jects including the designing self-organizing modules, lessons, or reading
lists for users.
Finally, the MO team will continue its efforts to crowdsource and create
accessible summaries of language-related research in the multiple lan-
guages we currently share, but also other languages as well, while aiming
to publish the research in multimodal formats. We hope that, by sharing our
initiative with the community, we can empower teachers, students, and
other stakeholders by engaging them in MO as readers, contributors, and
reviewers.
AUTHORS’ NOTE
We would like to express our thanks to UH SEED IDEAS for partially fund-
ing our initiative. We are also grateful to our advisors for sharing their in-
sights and valuable suggestions as we have worked on this project.
The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 15
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The Multiʻōlelo Initiative 17
APPENDIX
Initial Prototype for MO
Each summary will be reviewed by another reader (proficient in the same
language) in terms of accessibility (i.e., whether the readability of the
summary is appropriate for a general audience) and accuracy with re-
gards to the content, language, and format.
The names of the authors and reviewers will be published for transpar-
ency and accountability.
Students whose contribution has published on Multiʻōlelos website will
receive extra credits from relevant courses at the discretion of their in-
structors
WordPress can be used as a platform to facilitate the process. Published
works can be shared on social media platforms (e.g., Facebook, Insta-
gram) for reaching a wider audience.
Published works on social media platforms can get ‘social’ metrics
(views, comments, interactions, feedback)
A tagging system can be used to organize the published works for easier
access and retrieval.
The quality of Multiʻōlelo works rely on peer review and crowd-sourced
feedback/evaluation. Each work will be reviewed by a 'competent reader'
before becoming published and scrutinized by other readers and com-
munity.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
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Findings from psychological research are usually difficult to interpret for non-experts. Yet, non-experts resort to psychological findings to inform their decisions (e.g., whether to seek a psychotherapeutic treatment or not). Thus, the communication of psychological research to non-expert audiences has received increasing attention over the last years. Plain language summaries (PLS) are abstracts of peer-reviewed journal articles that aim to explain the rationale, methods, findings, and interpretation of a scientific study to non-expert audiences using non-technical language. Unlike media articles or other forms of accessible research summaries, PLS are usually written by the authors of the respective journal article, ensuring that research content is accurately reproduced. In this study, we compared the readability of PLS and corresponding scientific abstracts in a sample of 103 journal articles from two psychological peer-reviewed journals. To assess readability, we calculated four readability indices that quantify text characteristics related to reading comprehension (e.g., word difficulty, sentence length). Analyses of variance revealed that PLS were easier to read than scientific abstracts. This effect emerged in both included journals and across all readability indices. There was only little evidence that this effect differed in magnitude between the included journals. In sum, this study shows that PLS may be an effective instrument for communicating psychological research to non-expert audiences. We discuss future research avenues to increase the quality of PLS and strengthen their role in science communication.
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