The Craft of Scholarship and Research in a Changing University and Civic Context

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Human Service Organizations Management Leadership & Governance

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This editorial describes a January 2023 initiative by the Human Service Organizations Journal to identify elements informing the future craft of scholarship and research in a changing university and civic context. The initiative is couched in the need for more diverse approaches to scholarship and research in university and community-based practice settings. Fundamentally, the initiative seeks to be attentive to the context, content, and consequences of knowledge development and sharing. Contextually, it acknowledges that the number of faculty positions may be declining, and the scholarly and research demands being placed onto academics may be growing; while the number of non-faculty positions in public and private research institutions, and their scholarly and research interests and needs, may be rising. The initiative also recognizes the content-based need for a more responsive and inclusive scholarship and research that seeks to address longstanding and new practical dilemmas in the human services. Finally, it seeks to identify consequential opportunities to support future contributors who are drawn from academic and non-academic settings, and more diverse types of contributions. The initiative is couched in the overarching question of “What should and can academic journal editors do?” Our assertion is that editors should anticipate and address the emerging needs of future contributors, whose scholarship and research should be attentive to changing societal, institutional, and local demands and interests. Our stance also reflects a belief and a value that academic journal editors and their boards need to be both reactive (in reflecting upon past and current scholarship and research) and proactive (in envisioning and investing in future scholarship and research). The orientation reflects a basic approach to the development of organizational initiatives and the support of the managers and leaders within them, in order to be responsive to changing needs and times. For example, in the human service sector, consideration is given to the identification and development of an inclusive and responsive workforce, in order to sustain the design, development, and delivery of effective human services. Analogously, in academic scholarship and research, attention is paid to the cultivation of current and future contributors, and to the support and advancement of their craftspersonship. We recognize that from the traditional vantage point of academic journals, this orientation may seem unusual if not radical. However, this journal has on occasion identified the need to break from historical precedents in an effort to acknowledge current realities and anticipated future growth needs. A current example can be seen in the rebranding of the journal from Administration in Social Work to Human Service Organizations: Management, Leadership, & Governance. The effort acknowledged the need to be responsive to changing understandings of the mission of the journal (from its original focus upon U.S. social work organizational practice, to a broader emphasis on international perspectives on human service delivery at multiple levels of interprofessional practice) and its contributors and readers (including academic scholar-researchers as well as leading practitioners engaged in human service work). Yet amidst these developments, the core goal of the journal in reflecting upon major scholarly and practice contributions, and identifying future opportunities, has remained. Our January 2023 initiative therefore engaged with established contributors to this journal, in order to support the future efforts of scholar-researchers in university and community-based settings. The initiative took the form of a qualitative needs assessment that involved the sharing of open-ended survey questions with our journal’s Editorial Advisory Board concerning the following research questions: How should academic faculty and community-based scholar-researchers prepare themselves to be successful in the new university and civic environment?; What strategies do scholar-researchers use in starting or changing research projects in response to new opportunities and challenges?; and What practical suggestions can be offered to help faculty and community-based investigators carry out scholarly and research projects? Qualitative analyses of the open-ended responses have led to the development of three editorials across Issues 3 through 5 of this current volume. The editorials on the three research questions lay out an array of reflections and strategies that many have found to be useful in organizing their research and scholarship in response to the challenges of collaborating with agency-based partners amidst increased grant-seeking and publication pressures. These editorials are designed to provide inclusive and practical perspectives for early-career and more experienced investigators, as they are framing their scholarship and research from their bases in academia, and as community-based collaborators focused upon human service settings. In the next section, we provide a basic rationale for the initiative that focuses upon the need for academic journals to be attentive to the changing craft of scholarship and research. We then describe the implementation of the initiative and identify the survey questions asked; these survey questions support forthcoming editorials in this volume. We conclude by proposing ways for the future editorials to support current and future scholar-researchers and those leaders who are responsible for knowledge development and sharing in academia and community settings.


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