23 SES 14 C, Educational Research at the Crossroads? What Journals of Education Can Tell Us About the Development of the Discipline
Publications in academic journals are in many ways the currency that regulates and drives the academic market of institutions and researchers. Dissemination of research findings and of the latest thinking in a discipline in the form of publications is a major indicator in university rankings, in the assessment of research quality and in the demonstration of productivity in the academic sector. For individual academics, publications in leading journals have an important and often direct impact on research careers, be it as part of selection processes for academic positions, as a criteria for career progression (such as tenure processes) and as evidence of success in research more generally.
Two examples illustrate the importance of publications in academic journals at the institutional and the individual level. In the United Kingdom, the Research Assessment Exercise has determined the level of state funding for research activities of university units (such as departments of education) since the 1980s. In the last Exercise in 2008, the quality of research outputs accounted for 60 percent of the quality profile upon which the formula for distributing research funding to higher education institutions by the public funding councils was based. The majority of outputs submitted (up to four per academic) in education were journal articles. At an individual level, the publication of journal articles seems to increasingly replace traditional research monographs. For instance in Germany, there is trend towards article-based doctoral theses, sometimes called ‘cumulative’ theses. The German Association of Education has recently published guidance on these types of theses.
In all these contexts, publications in peer reviewed journals seem to enjoy the highest level of esteem; quantifiable indicators for the impact of articles measured in citation indices such as the SSCI (Social Science Citation Index) play a particularly important role in international university rankings. Highly cited journal articles have become an indicator of esteem in academia; a trend that is also observable in the area of education (see Schmidt & Weishaupt, 2008 and Zierer, 2010).
Against this background this symposium takes a closer look at publications in educational journals internationally. It brings together the work of a number of separate research projects which analysed publication patterns in a number of countries and contexts. The contribution by Ertl and Zierer draws on two projects investigating published articles in education in England, Germany, the USA and European journals. Keiner’s contribution draws on some earlier empirical work to outline a theoretical and methodological framework for comparing publications and to discuss the value of the framework for comparisons in European education. The contribution by Gaussel and Rey builds on a comparison of articles published in a French, a British and a Scandinavian journal and identifies several fields of research that have been particularly important in these journals. The symposium will make it possible to compare the rationales, methods, findings and implications of these different studies and will, therefore, allow drawing conclusions about the development of educational research and of education as an academic discipline.
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