Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

I Want to Publish but ...: Barriers to Publishing for Women at a University of Technology

Academic journal article Perspectives in Education

I Want to Publish but ...: Barriers to Publishing for Women at a University of Technology

Article excerpt

Introduction and background

It is widely acknowledged that there is pressure on academics in higher education to research and publish as well as to maintain a full teaching load. In addition, Davies, Lubeska and Quinn (1994), Greenwood (1998) and Roth (2002) contend that research and publication outputs are central to an academic's life world and occupational identity. Where teaching was once the core function of university academics, research and publishing have now become far more integrated into the university milieu (Waghid, 2009:211). Sweeney (2001) further submits that scholarly publications produced by researchers are part of their jobs and do count significantly towards salary and job security.

This is reiterated in the words of Sullivan (1996: 40-46)

publication in recognised scholarly outlets is the prime indicator of academic worth, paving the way to rewards such as promotion, tenure and research funding ... scholarly publishing, in all its manifestations remains both the bedrock and the currency of academic life.

However, the ability to publish is evidently an outcome that some seem to attain with more apparent ease than others.

Hemmings, Rushbrook and Smith (2007) show that the publishing front line is fraught with perils, yet academics are urged by their employers to meet set criteria with regard to publishing. They refer to the term "research active" which entails that academics contribute to four types of publication, namely refereed conference papers, refereed journal articles, scholarly books, and scholarly book chapters. This definition of research activity will be used as the notion of what publishing entails in this article.

The difficulties of publishing (Hemmings et al., 2007) may be further compounded when the researchers are female and when the institution at which they are based does not have an established publishing culture (Davies, Lubelska & Quinn, 1994:5; Gottlieb & Keith, 1997; Martin, 2010:12). Much scrutiny has been placed on gender equity in academia and there is substantial literature devoted to gender inequality and difficulties women have in the academic arena (Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, Neuschatz & Uzzi, 1994; Peterson & Gravett, 2000; Maürtin-Caincross, 2005; Easterly & Pemberton, 2008). Moreover, "gender equity is one of the fundamental principles underpinning the transformation of the South African education system" (Dieltiens, Unterhalter, Letsatsi & North, 2009: 365-374).

From a gendered standpoint then, this article focuses on the experiences with respect to academic publishing of a group of women, or Community of Practice (CoP), a term coined by Lave & Wenger (1998). This CoP took the form of a "Women in Research" (WIR) programme at a University of Technology (UoT) in South Africa. This article attempts to explain why such a group of women find publishing challenging.

Compounding the pressure to publish is the fact that Universities of Technology (previously Technikons in the South African higher education sector) are now viewed in the same vein as traditional research universities. This means that similar yardsticks and pressures apply with regard to national research benchmarks. However, these UoTs have traditionally been considered to be "less research-driven", much like the "Historically Black Universities" (hereafter HBUs) which Maürtin-Caincross (2005) denotes as promulgating inadequacies and barriers to publishing that have "translated into institutional cultures that are characterised by a very strong emphasis on teaching and community-based research, while publications are relegated to a more peripheral component of the academic project". Perishing instead of publishing is potentially par for the course in these circumstances.

Given the context of this research, two key assumptions underpinned the project. The first was that the absence of a research tradition at UoTs was likely to negatively affect the research activity of academics at the institution. …

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