Reading Professor Gary Rolfe’s work can sometimes be a little challenging but it was fascinating to hear so much sense in the keynote lecture that started Day 2 of the Conference. Just to give you a feel for Gary’s argument, we are all brick makers and we have made so many bricks that we have been forced to make more and more stores in which to keep our many bricks. It could further be argued that we are making so many bricks that we risk burying practice in bricks. Even worse, we are not always making bricks for the right reasons or with a clear direction for how our bricks might be used. For those who stumbled into the hall for the start of Day 2 this will make perfect sense but, for those absent, ‘bricks’ are ‘research’ and brick ‘stores’ are ‘journals’.
Gary went on to demonstrate how this is most evident in changing journal content (using the ‘Journal of Advanced Nursing’ (JAN) as an example) which has evolved over the past four decades with a growth in the publication of research papers and a corresponding decline in the number of scholarly papers. One reason for this might be the demands placed on institutions, on disciplines, on departments and on individuals to perform in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and then the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Another reason could be the ambition of many journals to only publish research in an attempt to maximise their impact factors, leaving little room for scholarly papers. Gary concluded by asserting that we need to think about research differently and not as an end-in-itself. There needs to be a re-establishment of the balance between research and scholarship. I think it is fair to say that this message was well received by delegates.
There are a number of anniversaries being celebrated during this year’s conference; the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is celebrating 100 years, JAN is 40 years old and nursing at the University of Edinburgh is celebrating 60 years. Each is undoubtedly an achievement but on Day 2 it was interesting to learn a little more about the history of nurse education, research and scholarship in Edinburgh from Professor Alison Tierney. There is always a danger that looking backwards might be criticised as an unnecessary luxury but sometimes it can help to consider where nursing has come from so we can contemplate what direction the profession should take in the future. Whilst the challenges might have changed (we no longer need to wait three weeks for copies of journal papers to come by sea from the USA), the nursing profession and those now engaged in research have their own challenges, some of which were earlier highlighted by Professor Gary Rolfe.
The scientific programme ended for the day with a fringe event on publication ethics hosted by professors Graeme Smith, Debra Jackson, Carol Haigh and myself (coincidentally four of the five members of the editorial team at the ‘Journal of Clinical Nursing’). The panel and delegates discussed five of the main issues important to the ethics of publication in nursing journals (authorship, redundant publication, conflict of interest, plagiarism and salami-slicing). It was interesting that the delegates contributing the discussion included experienced editors, clinical researchers, doctoral students, nursing students and others. Publication ethics is clearly of interest to many of us but with the growing requirement to publish, and the huge range to journals available to publish in (again returning to Gary Rolfe’s earlier keynote), ensuring the highest standards of publication ethics is becoming increasingly challenging.
Day 3 of the Conference includes much more interesting content including a keynote from Professor Walter Sermeus, 42 concurrent papers, 8 symposia, 23 posters and a debate. Surely something for everyone.