Status: Refereed paper
EARLY AUSTRALIAN NURSING SCHOLARSHIP: THE FIRST DECADE OF THE AJAN
PART 1: SCHOLARS
This study investigated nurse-scholars in the first decade of the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (AJAN), the primary vehicle for disseminating Australian nursing scholarship in Australian nursing journals. It describes the personal and professional characteristics of the authors, and the interactions of some characteristics. It compares the halves of the decade. It also compares characteristics of scholars from Australia and the United States of America. Frequency descriptions were done to describe data and crosstabulations were used to investigate relationships. The most significant characteristics of nurse principal authors were that they were female, senior nurse-academics, employed in Victoria, with few publications in the AJAN. There were very few changes throughout the decade. Characteristics of authors from Australia and the United States of America were similar.
EARLY AUSTRALIAN NURSING SCHOLARSHIP: THE FIRST DECADE OF THE AJAN
PART 1: SCHOLARS
Australian nursing scholars have only just entered a period of expanding activity in nursing scholarship. Until the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (AJAN) arrived on the scene, there were few publishing opportunities for Australian nursing scholars. In the 1970's, the Australian Nurses Journal, published by the Royal Australian Nursing Federation, and the Lamp, published by the New South Wales Nurses Association, provided a limited outlet for scholarly work. In the early 1980's both organisations increasingly focussed these journals on industrial issues. In 1983, the RANF commenced publication of the more scholarly AJAN, which was to dominate Australian nursing scholarship for almost a decade. An analysis of the authors and articles of the first decade of the AJAN is therefore an important mechanism for documenting a major component of early Australian nursing scholarship.
The initial publication of the AJAN just preceded the beginning of the transfer of basic nursing education into the tertiary education sector in 1984. The juxtaposition of these two events provides an unique opportunity to study a critical period in the history of nursing in Australia - the emergence of nursing scholarship on a broader scale. It is important to understand the picture of early Australian scholarship at a time of great change in nursing and nursing education so that any subsequent developments can be compared with the early findings.
The present study investigated scholars, scholarship and the relationships between them in all of the articles in the first decade of the AJAN. This first part investigates the scholars, part two investigates the scholarship (Roberts 1995), and part three investigates the relationships between scholars and scholarship (Roberts 1995) This study was undertaken in order to describe some features of Australian scholars and scholarship and their interactions, in the period before the expansion of publishing opportunities and at a time of major change in the nursing education system. The author also sought to investigate whether the scholars and scholarship published in the AJAN were comparable to those for the United States at a similar period in their academic history. Therefore, the purposes of this part of the study were: to describe some personal and professional characteristics of the authors; to compare these characteristics in the first and second halves of the decade; to explore relationships between the characteristics of authors, and to compare the characteristics of scholars from Australia with those found in scholars in the United States of America (USA) at a similar period in their development.
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Sykes, 1976) defines a scholar as a "learned person". A scholar is a person who is deeply involved in the development of knowledge in a particular discipline by generating, evaluating, synthesising and integrating knowledge based on theory, research and practice (Roberts 1995) Nursing scholars make vital contributions to the development of the unique body of knowledge required for the recognition of nursing as a professional discipline (Worrall-Carter 1995). The forms in which scholars present nursing knowledge can vary from oral to written, but publication in scholarly journals is enduring and widely disseminated. Publication in refereed journals is evidence of scholarship (Hodges and Poteet 1992; Worrall-Carter 1995)
The pertinent literature comprised one Australian study and several studies from the USA during a similar period in their development. The development of scholars in nursing education in both countries took place mainly within the tertiary education system where scholars publish because they are motivated by desires for tenure, promotion and to advance the discipline of nursing.
The Australian paper reported an analysis of scholarship trends in the first eight years of the AJAN, including characteristics of the authors (McConnell and Paech 1993). The present study extended their work by analysing more characteristics of authors, exploring interactions among the variables and comparing Australian trends with overseas findings.
The studies from the USA were carried on from 1984-1991 and investigated authors of research articles (O'Connell and Duffey 1978; Brown, Tanner et al. 1984; Moustafa 1985; Moody, Wilson et al. 1988; Kilby, Rupp et al. 1991; McConnell and Paech 1993) and nurse-academics (White 1986). These studies found that most authors were nurses (Brown, Tanner et al. 1984; Moody, Wilson et al. 1988; Kilby, Rupp et al. 1991; McConnell and Paech 1993) and of those most were nurse-educators/nurse-academics employed in the university (White 1986; McConnell and Paech 1993). Most Australian authors came from Victoria and there was an increase of authors from Western Australia over time (McConnell and Paech 1993).
The majority of nurse-authors from the USA had postgraduate qualifications (O'Connell and Duffey 1978; Brown, Tanner et al. 1984; Moustafa 1985; White 1986; Moody, Wilson et al. 1988; Kilby, Rupp et al. 1991). Proportions with doctoral qualifications increased over time (Moustafa 1985). Most authors had published only one or two articles during the period covered by the studies (Moustafa 1985; White 1986). The findings in the USA and Australian literature were fairly consistent.
It was expected that this study too would find that most of the primary authors would be nurses, most of these would be nurse-academics, and most would only publish one or two articles. However, it was not anticipated that the majority of Australian nursing scholars would have postgraduate qualifications due to the short time that they had been in the tertiary sector.
This study was quantitative in approach and used a descriptive and co-relational design. The whole population of full articles in the first 10 volumes of the AJAN was used to ascertain data about authors.
The subjects, more correctly called the population, were all 313 authors of the decade of articles. Data about all of the authors were taken from the author information section attached to each article.
The researcher developed categories for each variable that were exclusive. These categories will be shown in the results section. For qualifications, authors with only an undergraduate diploma were included in the bachelor or less category. For employment characteristics, the level of employment of academics followed the academic award classifications.
To compare nurse-academic authors with their non-nurse counterparts, statistics from the Department of Employment, Education and Training for health science academics for 1992 (DEET 1994)and for all academics in Australia were used (DEET 1992) Institutions that did not have nursing courses were removed from the DEET statistics for the purposes of this analysis. Since nurses make up by far the greatest proportion of health science personnel, the statistics were taken to be reasonably representative of nursing. Statistics on the University of Canberra were obtained directly from the university.
All data were analysed using the program StatView. In this part of the study, the author was the unit of analysis, unlike the work of McConnell and Paech in which the article was used as the unit of analysis. Each author was only used once. Some analysis was carried out only on the first or principal authors because they have the primary responsibility for the article since the AJAN does not use an alphabetical system of listing authors. Only two-thirds of all authors (61%) were principal authors. Frequency distributions were used to generate descriptive data. Cross-tabulation was used to compare author characteristics.
Patterns of Publication
Most (84%) of the 313authors had published only one article, a few (11%) had published two articles and a very few (5%) had published more than two articles. The largest number anyone had published was seven. There was a tendency for nurse-academics to have more articles per person than the other groups of nurses.
Personal and Professional Characteristics
Most of the principal authors (83%) were identified as female, some (15%) were male and the remainder could not be determined as only initials were given. For nurse principal authors, females comprised 87% and males 12%, while for non-nurse principal authors, females comprised only 47%. Among the states with larger authorship, Victoria had the highest proportion of female principal authors (90%) and NSW had the highest proportion of male principal authors (23%).
As expected, most of the authors were nurses, with nurses accounting for 81% of all authors and 86% of principal authors. Most of the non-nurses were other academics mainly in the behavioural science, statistics and education disciplines, or medical doctors. There was no difference in these proportions in the first and second half of the decade.
A breakdown of the subgroups of nurse-authors (Table 1) shows that, as expected, the nurse-academics were the major force in publishing in the AJAN. The nurse-academics are more likely to be first and second authors, while the hospital and community clinicians tend to be listed later. Also as expected, there was no difference in principal authors' professions in the first and second half of the decade.
Table 1: Nurse-authors by type of nursing specialties (%)
Nursing Principal 2nd 3rd + All Specialty Author Author Author Authors Nurse Academic 53 61 34 50 Hospital 14 12 30 16 Clinician Community Nurse 10 8 23 12 Hospital 7 7 0 6 Educator Hospital 5 5 5 6 Administrator Nurse Researcher 6 2 10 6 Other Nursing 3 5 0 3 Student 2 0 0 1
Note: Each author appears only once in each column but may appear in more than one column if the author was for example a first author on one paper and a second author on another paper.
Examination of the highest qualifications of nurse principal authors showed that almost half had a bachelor's degree (47%), some had a graduate certificate or diploma (9%), over one-third had a master's degree (35%), while few (14%) had a doctorate. The proportions for nurse-academic authors were virtually identical. The nurse-authors with a doctorate were more likely to be a first author, while those with a bachelor's degree or less were more likely to be a second or later author. Two-thirds of male nurse first-authors had postgraduate qualifications, compared with half of females.
In comparing the qualifications of nurse principal authors in the first and second halves of the decade, the percentage of nurse principal authors with qualifications up to and including a masters degree remained stable, but the percentage of nurse principal authors with a Ph.D. rose from 11% to 16%. For nurse-academic principal authors, the percentage with bachelor degrees doubled to 50%, the percentage with doctorates rose by one-quarter from 25% to 32% and those with a masters degree fell by 10%.
Nurse principal authors had lower qualifications than their non-nurse counterparts. Half of the non-nurse principal authors had doctorates and only 14% had a bachelor's degree or less as the highest qualification. In contrast, 13% of the nurse principal authors had doctorates and 37% had a bachelor's degrees or less.
For nurse-academic authors, those at senior lecturer level (level C) accounted for more of the nurse-academic scholarship than any other level. Since lecturers (level B) account for the majority of health science academics (DEET 1992), senior lecturers account for more scholarship than would have been expected on a proportional basis.
Although there are more nurses, and more health science academics, in New South Wales than in Victoria (DEET 1992) Victoria had 37% of nurse-principal authors while NSW accounted for only 26%. There was no difference in authorship by state in the two halves of the decade, although the biggest rise proportionately was in Western Australia.
In summary, the scholars publishing in the AJAN in its first decade were primarily female nurse-academics with postgraduate qualifications working in senior positions in universities in Victoria. They were not as well qualified as their non-nurse counterparts.
One finding of this study was that few of these authors publish prolifically in the AJAN, which agrees with the USA findings of Moustafa (1985) and White (1986). This finding might reflect the limited opportunities for publishing in one refereed Australian journal during the decade under review. This finding must, however, be interpreted with caution and not be generalised to all nurse scholars since it only applies to those who published in the AJAN. This group does not include scholars who have published only in books, overseas journals, or non-refereed journals, so findings for them are undoubtedly under-representative of Australian nurse-scholars.
What has been established is that nurse-academics have been responsible for the majority of the scholarship in the first decade of the AJAN. This is understandable given the emphasis on scholarship and publication in the academic culture. However, the finding that the nurse-academics' publishing rates are similar to those of the other nurse-authors in the AJAN suggests that these nurse-academics' publication rates are also low. This might reflect pressure of work in a developmental phase of nursing courses, and it might also reflect an emphasis on acquiring qualifications rather than publications. This finding agrees with the finding of a subsequent study by the author that three quarters of nurse-academics published in journals had only one journal publication listed in CINAHL in a one-year period (Roberts 1996). However, only tentative conclusions can be made about nurse-academics from this study because it does not establish whether the nurse-academic authors in this study are typical of nurse-academics in general. Further research that directly surveyed nurse-academics would be able to advance knowledge in this area.
The findings for this study generally agree with the findings of the USA authors cited earlier, that most authors were nurses, most were involved in nursing education, and that quite a few had postgraduate qualifications. This suggests that the Australian nurse-academics are at a similar point in their scholarly development to that of their American counterparts at the time of the American studies. The present findings also agree with the findings of McConnell and Paech that most authors were nurses and that most of them were involved in nursing education and came from Victoria.
The emergence of Victoria as the leading state in authorship is puzzling. All else being equal, one would have expected New South Wales to have produced the most articles since it has the most schools of nursing and the largest population of health science staff. There may have been different conditions fostering scholarship in the different states. Without knowing more about the submission rates from the different states, and the journal's processes of review, it would be unfair to draw any conclusions about editorial bias.
Although the Australian nursing profession is just beginning to develop a body of scholars, the future is promising. The first decade of the AJAN has promoted the professional growth of Australian nurse-scholars because it has provided opportunities for nurses to publish and has upheld high standards of scholarship. The findings of this part of the study will provide useful benchmark data about authors for comparisons at a time when there are more opportunities for publishing.
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