The formative experience of authorship: the Journal of Research Administration review process as an exemplar system of academic and professional mentoring.

Author:Gabriele, Edward F.
Position:Special Feature - Report
 
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Introduction: Historical Backdrop

Over the last 70 or more years, research administration has evolved and matured into a distinct profession. Perhaps at one time, research administration was viewed as a necessary but secondary institutional service in universities, agencies, or institutions. However, the unfolding of the last decades has seen an exponential maturing of the field. Upon analysis, it would seem more than reasonable to assume that research administration's growth and complexity have matured in proportion to the growth and complexity of research itself. Concomitantly, research administrators and leaders have come to see that the profession itself is an art and a science of extraordinary interdisciplinary character. Hence, when Kulakowski and Chronister edited one of the major works dedicated to the very nature of research administration and management, it was no wonder that the depth of their edited text clearly demonstrated the wide expanse of all the arts and sciences that interplay in the theoretical and practical aspects of the profession. (2006).

One of the rich complexities that has become evident about the profession, and which is inherent within the Kulakowski and Chronister work, is the academic and scholarly foundation of research administration. As in any other maturing field of service, there is always a native growth from a "doing" profession to also a "being" profession. Such is the natural progression of human development in persons as well as in professional and public life. As persons mature and develop, there is a growing sense of internal reflection that leads one to consider the meaning of things. Such reflection reaches deep into the human trait of curiosity. It is the fundamentum in re of education, scholarship, and academic inquiry. Interestingly, this is also the very seedbed of research. In other words, research administrators are like all other professional leaders. They seek to know more that they might be more so that they might serve more and bring about the greater good for themselves, others and the world. Therefore, in the spirit of the work of so many developmentalists, research administration as a growing profession with its own art and science is itself always on the quest for self-understanding, as is any individual or any other human corporate entity. (Fowler, 1981).

While research administration is a professional activity, an academic and theoretical base is one of the major energies for the profession and its ongoing development. The scholar or academic foundations of the profession are critical for the profession to remain supple enough to meet future new and unforeseen needs of the research enterprise. Such unforeseen needs are not confined to any one discipline. Research administration must be as ready to serve the leadership and management needs of the humanities as well as the biomedical, physical and socio-behavioral sciences. What then might be a deep and abiding resource to assist the academic or scholarly foundations of research administration as an art, a science, and an ever-expanding profession?

In 2006, the leadership of the Journal of Research Administration began to engage in a series of reflective discussions to ascertain how the Journal itself might serve best the future needs of the profession. The leadership remains ever appreciative of the enormous growth and development of the publication within the expanding international community--not only the Society of Research Administrators International (the publisher) but also the profession itself and its members around the globe. It was clear to the leadership then that the Journal's maturity was entering into a new evolutionary period where members of the profession were increasingly and with greater complexity called upon to serve and promote the cause of research that was itself growing ever more integral, integrated, interdisciplinary, and international. (Gabriele, 2012).

Certainly, the profession was already being enriched by any number of publications, both professional and trade. However, the leadership saw the need for a new level of inquiry that would address and promote the academic and scholarly reflection needs of the profession. In fact, the leadership was enthusiastic about promoting "research on research administration" as a means of expanding and assisting the intense services that members of the profession on all levels provide to their researchers and the communities or institutions they serve. Based upon these reflections, the Journal's executives became committed to developing and expanding the Journal's academic and scholarly profile. They further became committed to founding a new form of publication reviews for authors. The desire in this was to create a form of academic review that ensured the quality maturation of submitted manuscripts while intentionally combatting any sense of "inquisitional judgment" or academic arrogance that many researchers and academics themselves find highly problematic and counterproductive to scholarship. Of particular importance in this effort was a commitment to maintaining and promoting the highest standards of academic and professional excellence within a collegial process of enrichment and quality scholar development. Roberts and Shambrook address this inherent need for an unquestioned commitment to academic excellence as a collegial activity that invites authors into a process of continual deepening. (2012). They expertly reflect on the traditional importance of peer review, but as a positive experience for individuals as well as for the scholar and professional community per se.

In the final analysis, the Journal executives, with all the members of the Journal Executive Board, developed over the next several years a process of publication reviews that would assist the maturing of mission-relevant manuscripts in line with the highest principles of academic and professional development. These processes would also clearly uphold the highest principles of peer review and responsible publication articulated so well in academia. (Kalichman & Plemmons, 1999-2010), and as required by various leading government agencies. (Office of Research Integrity, 2012a; OPal, 2012b). Yet to do all of this well, there was a need to adopt an enriching metaphor that would capture the spirit of author-development as a positive and growthful phenomenon. Ultimately, this was found in the concept of mentoring as it originally developed in history and as it continues to have critical importance today in many fields and professions. The leadership was completely aware that this metaphor of mentoring for authorship would require the immense talents and gifts of generous members of the profession in all of the areas relevant to research administration as well as its allied arts and sciences. It would require the highest level of academic depth as well as editing excellence. And, given the nature of our times, it would require the generosity of such subject matter experts to serve as members of an expanding editorial board on apro bono basis. Six years later, the success of founding such a board is well established. Its work in developing an unprecedented and never before realized process of mentoring for authorship is equally well known and celebrated, and stands now on the threshold of new development and service into the future.

The Journal Editorial Board

Over time, the Journal leadership formed the needed executive board whose members would provide the needed authorship mentoring experience. In the first instance, the leadership gradually articulated a four-stage system of publication reviews. These four stages would provide for initial mission relevance and commitment, academic analysis, editorial quality, and final certification. These four stages are discussed in the section to follow. However, the leadership was well aware that the success of each stage required the generous service of individuals whose subject matter expertise was clear. To this end, the Journal leadership formed over time four bodies that would provide for the Journal's administration needs as well as the expertise needed for the four stages of publication review being discussed.

The first of these bodies was the Journal Executive Leadership itself. This was comprised of the Editor, the Senior Associate Editor, the Chairs of each subject matter expert board, and the administrative arm of the Journal that was responsible for its sound management, including financial stewardship, communications, development, public relations, and relationship within SRA International and its governance. However, all of the executives (including administrative support) were called upon to help in the ongoing maturation of the Journal, its mission, and its success.

Secondly, the Journal leadership shaped the Associate Editors as a distinct leadership board. Chaired by the Senior Associate Editor, the Associate Editors Board is comprised to this day by anywhere from six to twelve or more senior leaders and subject matter experts in the profession and in their area of scholarship. Associate Editors are required to hold a doctorate or the terminal degree in their field of expertise from an accredited institution of higher learning. Each is required to have a record of publication and academic presentations. They also need to be individuals whose senior status in the profession and...

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