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Publish or Perish: The State of Academic Publishing in Science Education

As I am going through my tenure and promotion process, I have a chance to think of the value of my own publications and my own contributions to the field of science education. What is the impact of my own studies? Do they truly matter? Do they have any impact on science education or on how we educate future teachers? How should my colleagues who consider my promotion and most of whom are NOT science educators decide if what I have done has any value… What should matter in academic publishing in the field of science education? These thoughts came to mind after I was asked to describe the journals I published in and to explain why my papers are relatively short. Compared to my colleagues who publish in the field of curriculum studies or other fields of social sciences, the papers I publish are much shorter but they also are written differently… Science education is a child of natural and social sciences and the journals we publish in tend to sway to the science side of the spectrum (and look more like a science journal – for example, see Journal of Chemical Education, Journal of college Science Teaching) or journals that lean towards the humanities side of our field (Journal of Research in Science Teaching). In addition, we have journals that are aimed at practitioners – The Physics Teacher, The Science Teacher, etc. The latter are aimed at improving the practice of science teaching via bringing theĀ  results of science education research to our classrooms.

As I was pondering these questions, I decided to take a closer look at how papers are evaluated in the field of science education. As soon as I wrote this word “evaluated”, I realized that I had to qualify – by whom? By teachers? By scientists? By science education researchers? While in the field of science, the impact factor would be the major criterion, in science education, not all journals belong to the Web of Science, thus not all of them will have impact factor. Moreover, what about the papers that are published in teaching journals. Teachers who read them might not publish their own papers and cite the papers we publish, but they can implement the ideas described in the papers in their practice… Then I realized that my graduate students, who are taking my grad course (EDCP 559) – Research in Science Teaching and Learning might have the same questions as I do… So I thought to try and figure it out and then put what I know in a short PowerPoint Presentation for my students. Luckily, my friend, Jo-Anne Naslund, who is a Chief Librarian here in the Faculty of Education helped me out… So here what we found: EDCP 559_L6_October 10 2012. I strongly recommend you to read the paper published in the Journal of Chemical Education: Towns, M. H., & Kraft, A. (2012). The 2010 Rankings of Chemical Education and Science Education Journals by Faculty Engaged in Chemical Education Research. Journal of Chemical Education, 89, 16-20. This paper addressed some of my concerns. I also think that the TED talk by BenĀ  Goldacre is to the point here as well.

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