Academic journal article Social Work Research

Social Work Authorship

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Social Work Authorship

Article excerpt

A colleague of mine claims that in addition to journals that accept only well-written manuscripts about quality research, there are journals that accept badly written articles about good research, journals that accept well-written articles about bad research, and others still that accept badly written articles about bad research. In other words, getting a manuscript published does not necessarily signify a major scholarly accomplishment. Yet an individual's scholarly productivity is often summed up as a simple publication count that may influence hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions; funding opportunities; and other professional rewards. Journal quality and author order are also taken into consideration in more nuanced evaluations of scholarly productivity (Geelhoed, Phillips, Fischer, Shpungin, & Gong, 2007; Seipel, 2003). Journal quality may be assessed by impact factor, rejection rate, and circulation size by the more assiduous evaluators of curricula vitae; however, there are limitations to these metrics. For example, although social work scholars are expected to show a degree of loyalty to the social work literature (Seipel, 2003), social work journals in general have notoriously low impact factors, and circulation size is a function of topical and methodological specificity, not just quality. Citation counts, which are now easily available online, provide additional useful information for evaluating scholarly contributions and influence, but they, too, suffer from various limitations that reduce their comparability across individuals, such as size of research community in a topical area and publication data (personal communication with M. O. Howard, Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, August 26, 2012). In sum, it is difficult to gauge the quality and impact of social work scholars' contributions, even if information on publication outlet and impact is sought out. Most often it is not sought out; simplistic counts are relied on to sum up scholarly activity.

Although the only way to get published in better journals, presumably, is to do superior research and present it well, less honorable options may be used to influence publication counts and author order on manuscripts, such as using status and power to obtain authorship credit or deny it to others (Arthur et al., 2004; Geelhoed et al., 2007; Jones, 1999; Marusi, Bosnjak, & Jeroni, 2011; Street, Rogers, Israel, & Braunack-Mayer, 2010). The quest for long publication lists and sole or first authorship inject zero-sum dynamics into authorship decisions in academic settings, which are characterized by power differentials, competing professional needs, and differences of opinion about appropriate assignment of authorship credit. The socially constructed stakes of publication credits combined with the conditions in which authorship decisions are negotiated make it advisable for social work researchers to establish professionwide ethical standards for authorship assignment. Two goals of such standards are to increase the validity of publication records as indices of scholarly productivity, and thereby enhance their utility for numerous purposes, and to reduce the occurrence of unfairness and coercion in authorship decisions. Developing comprehensive standards applicable to all publishing situations and preventing all abuses of authorship policies are not realistic goals. But social work scholars may be able to reach consensus on a number of acceptable and unacceptable authorship practices and on mechanisms to promote ethical assignment of authorship. This editorial proposes authorship guidelines for social work researchers and challenges those in positions of authority to promote their use.

THE PROBLEM

Encouragement of collaboration by funders and the numerous specialized skills required in large projects have increased the likelihood that multiple individuals make substantial contributions to the same project and manuscripts. …

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