23 SES 13 JS, "Publish yet Perish": Philosophy of Education in an Age of Impact Factors
Joint Session with NW 13
What kind of research do philosophers of education do? And what may be the relevance and impact of their scholarly activities? In a recent empirical study, Matthew Hayden (2012) used the titles, abstracts and keywords of 1,572 articles published from 2000 to 2010 in four journals to portray the sub-discipline and its impact. His ambition was “to empirically determine what the field is saying about itself,” and to describe recent trends and thematic topics. Hayden found that contemporary philosophers of education engage with a somewhat narrow range of thematic topics. Moreover, that there is a significant increase in the number of articles published. Hayden concludes by questioning the value of such an increased number of (irrelevant) publications.
This symposium is a response to Hayden and a rejoinder to the recent debate on journal rankings as a way of assessing the relevance and impact of philosophy of education (Bridges, 2011; Smeyers & Burbules, 2011; Strand & Kvernbekk, 2009). In many countries publications in Web of Knowledge journals are dominant in the evaluation of educational research. Comparisons are often made between the output of philosophers of education in these and the publications of their colleagues in educational research generally. However, the aim of this symposium is to question this way of assessing the quality, relevance and impact of philosophy of education and to introduce an alternative.
In doing so, the cases of The Netherlands, South Africa and Norway are used to illustrate the current situation. First, these cases reveal that the present debate about the relevance or irrelevance of philosophy of education in the context of educational sciences is obscured, even poisoned, by focusing almost exclusively on a particular kind of publication output. As the ‘reward’ system that is accordingly developed is possibly the most important impetus of educational research, the common way of assessing the relevance of philosophy of education by using impact factors seems to put the sub-discipline unduly under pressure.
Next, the cases of The Netherlands, South Africa and Norway help to illustrate that a different picture would emerge with the use of a sub-discipline specific proxy system. One alternative to compare the research output is to invoke the comparisons with colleagues at the international level from the same sub-discipline, even if the comparison is limited to particular kinds of publications. The case is then made that if comparisons are regarded as a necessary part of the evaluation of an individual scholar (for appointment, promotion, tenure, and/or funding application purposes), it would be more fair if one decides to use a proxy system which is sub-discipline specific, or minimally contain one or other kind of correction to the more over-all quality assessment device.
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