Publication Productivity in Research in Higher Education and the Journal of Higher Education, 1995-2005

By Rachal, John R.; Shelley, Kyna et al. | Educational Research Quarterly, June 2008 | Go to article overview

Publication Productivity in Research in Higher Education and the Journal of Higher Education, 1995-2005


Rachal, John R., Shelley, Kyna, David, William W. V., Educational Research Quarterly


Journal publication productivity has for several decades been a commonly used index of program quality within numerous fields. Following this ample precedent, articles in each issue of two of the premiere journals within the academic discipline of higher education were examined for the 11-year period 1995-2005 inclusive. Utilizing a point system based on authorship order and affiliation, institutions and individuals were ranked by overall publication productivity in Research in Higher Education and The Journal of Higher Education. Institutions were also ranked by productivity in each of the two journals separately. Additionally, data were collected concerning gender as well as academic rank or position of authors in relation to productivity. Findings include UCLA's first position in the overall rankings, considerable variation in the likelihood of collaboration among high-producing faculty, and the greater productivity of full professors as compared to other positions and ranks.

Examining institutional and individual publication productivity in scholarly journals is a commonly used index of institutional quality, influence, and prestige within a discipline. Research in this area has spanned several decades and numerous disciplines: psychology (Cox & Catt, 1977; Howard, Cole, & Maxwell, 1987; Webster, HaU, & Bolen, 1993), reading (Hopkins, 1979; Johns, 1983), computer science (Tinian, 2002), social work (Rothman, Kirk, & Knapp, 2003), law (Ellman, 1983), sociology (Lewis, 1968), gerontology (Rachal, Hemby, & Grubb, 1996), marketing (Clark, 1995; Clark & Hanna, 1986), finance (Heck & Cooley, 1988; Heck, Cooley, & Hubbard, 1986), advertising (Barry, 1990; Henthorne, LaTour, & Loraas, 1998), political science (McCormick & Rice, 2001), journalism (Cole & Bowers, 1973), and criminal justice (Fabianic, 2002), Some of these studies have examined single journals (Clark, 1995; Clark & Hanna, 1986; Heck, Cooley, & Hubbard, 1986; Johns, 1983). The general field of education has also investigated institutional publication productivity (Rachal, Bromfield-Day, & Gorman, 2000; West, 1978), as has the specific field of adult education (Rachal & Sargent, 1995). Other authors have examined issues related to publication productivity such as the influence of feminism (Hayes, 1992), productivity's relation to graduate training and graduate students (Blunt & Lee, 1994; McCormick & Rice, 2001), teaching vs. research productivity (Fairweather, 2002), productivity as a function of "intimate academic partnerships" (Creamer, 1999, p. 261), and correlates of productivity (Teodorescu, 2000).

As an index of program quality, publication in premiere research journals has the advantage of being quantifiable based on clear criteria that are independent of institutionally unique criteria concerning, for example, teaching-criteria that may vary from institution to institution. Productivity studies allow comparisons among programs within institutions which are not subject to impressionistic assessments based on general institutional reputation. Certainly such general institutional reputation assessments are made and have value, based on subjective criteria such as teaching reputation, general environment, and student friendliness, as well as such measurable criteria as selectivity, endowments, grant procurement, and faculty-student ratios. But general institutional reputation assessments do not necessarily reflect individual program quality, nor do they focus on research. The rationale for the long-standing and cross-disciplinary interest specifically in journal publication productivity studies is that they are a particularly useful and quantifiable measure of an academic program's engagement in research. While books, presentations, and grants are also useful measures of research activity, the esteemed place of the refereed academic journal is perhaps the sine qua non of scholarship, representing a discipline's most current thought, its newest findings, and critique of its established paradigms. …

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