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30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on: Robinson J. (2000) Editorial. Journal of Advanced Nursing 31(3), 497–499

  1. Top of page
  2. 30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on: Robinson J. (2000) Editorial. Journal of Advanced Nursing 31(3), 497–499
  3. Acknowledgements
  4. References

Jane Robinson's 2000 JAN Editorial shows that bibliometric data, with all its limitations, can be a useful tool in a broad inquiry into the state of a discipline and its publishing trends. In relation to nursing, the research she discussed is the work that we carried out at the United Kingdom's (UK) Centre for Policy in Nursing Research (CPNR). The bibliometric work that we undertook in collaboration with the Science Policy Unit at the Wellcome Trust was the first of its kind in nursing, although it has been repeated by nurses in Australia and other countries. In an era of increased concern for measuring the payback from research funding, the Wellcome Trust launched the Research Outputs Database of biomedical publications in order to track publications and citations of the work that they had funded. It quickly became clear that the detailed information that they collected was of interest to a far wider constituency that the Trust itself, and other funders as well as particular biomedical sub-disciplines, joined up to use its resources.

In CPNR, we realized that information about publication patterns, authorship, funding sources and citation could reveal important information about the extent and character of nursing scholarship. Nursing also could be compared with other biomedical sub-disciplines, and different time periods could be compared, thus revealing apparent trends in outputs and funding sources, and in the character of the publications themselves. Jane Robinson's original Editorial summarizes the main findings from our initial report, published under the title of ‘Mapping Published Nursing Research’ (Rafferty et al. 2000).

Positive trends in quality improvement in nursing research were identified in the wake of this CPNR study through the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the UK. This demonstrated a clear increase in both the volume and quality of the research being conducted in university schools of nursing around the UK, as reflected in higher ratings, as well an increase in the number of higher degrees completed and the number of nursing research students registered, adding to the national research capacity. Some examples of high-quality cross-disciplinary research were also highlighted in RAE 2001 and areas of particular strength in British nursing research included mental health, care of older people, cancer care, palliative care, pain management and maternity care. These were areas reflected in national priorities, and so it seemed that nursing research was now contributing to the knowledge base of nursing and health care in substantive ways (Bond 2001).

In our CPNR analysis of published research over the period 1988–1995, we had designated the terms ‘endogenous’ and ‘exogenous’ research to refer, respectively, to research focussed on internal nursing issues (e.g. nursing education) as opposed to those with an outward focus (i.e. clinical activity), and each of these types of publication exhibited a strikingly different set of characteristics. Endogenous papers had a rapid growth trajectory, fewer authors per paper, were published in more highly esteemed journals, but less frequently had external funding. Exogenous papers, on the other hand, had a lower rate of growth in output; more authors per paper; published in lower-rated journals, but with a higher rate of being externally funded. We concluded that the exogenous studies were more typical of biomedical research. In a recently published synthesis of abstracts of the published outputs that were assessed in RAE 2001, Cecil et al. (2006) conclude that the publications submitted by those from those schools/departments that achieved higher ratings demonstrated a tendency to report on primary data; to be multi-authored; to use either qualitative methodology or randomized controlled trial (RCT); and to focus on clinical issues and have patients as the subjects of the research. In other words, they shared more of the features of ‘exogenous’ research. Cecil et al. suggest that their study's differentiation between the higher- and lower-rated departments, assuming broadly similar criteria for assessment in RAE 2008, points towards improved outcomes from the outputs of nursing research. This reflects topics investigated, the nature and degree of collaboration, and the location chosen for the publication of the main research results relating to clinical issues and patient care.

Since RAE 2001, a number of significant funding initiatives have helped to boost research in the nursing field. In England, the Higher Education Funding Council set up a Taskgroup and various initiatives ensued from its report (HEFCE 2001). And, working in collaboration with various organizations, in CPNR we produced a research report –‘Promoting Research in Nursing and Allied Health Professions’ (CPNR et al. 2001) – that endeavoured to provide a comprehensive survey of research activity and significant indicators of research progress in nursing and allied health professions (AHPs) over the period 1996–2000. We reviewed academic activity through published sources, case studies, available data sets (e.g. medical charities, research councils, National Health Service R&D sources) and professional networks and associations. We went beyond the familiar boundaries of examining (and lamenting) the supply of researchers to examining the demand for research and some of the ‘near-misses’ for funding (putative beneficiaries from funding). On this basis, we set out the business case for future investment in nursing and AHP research in terms of a series of models, and also the likely ‘payback’ from such investment were it to be made. We noted that significant gains and improvements had been achieved in several domains and that investment in capability funding would be well rewarded. We identified several potential funding models and what the consequences and trade-off might be of choosing one over the other (http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2001/01).

Since that report was published, a number of research capacity-building schemes and awards have been inaugurated. The Department of Health's National Co-ordinating Centre for Research Capacity Development established a scheme in 2001 to build capacity for research in nursing, midwifery and AHPs. The scheme changed in 2004 to a generic scheme, but preliminary analysis suggests that there are grounds for optimism: success rates have been rising, although not in a linear manner and with some tailing off of applications in the later years (Jackson 2006).

The Health Foundation has provided fellowships (9 over 3 years), both self-standing and consortium based, to nurses, midwives and AHPs since 2001 in England. A parallel capacity-building scheme has been established in Scotland, and similar initiatives are planned for Wales and Northern Ireland. The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), as part of its commitment to implementing the findings from the Taskgroup3 report, also provided capability funding to nursing/schools departments that achieved middle rankings in RAE 2001. This has enabled these departments to develop innovative schemes to support and sustain research, ranging from sabbaticals for staff to research assistantships for newly qualified nurses to facilitate early progress onto PhD studentships; and fellowships and action learning sets for peer review and quality auditing processes have been introduced. A review of the scheme is currently being undertaken by HEFCE and due to be published in September (Wilson 2006). Data gathered for the above review and cited in the forthcoming draft report on clinical academic careers in nursing commissioned by UK Clinical Research Collaboration demonstrate encouraging signs of rise in research income for nursing departments, notably from the Research Councils (Jackson 2006). Early signs are, therefore, that the return on investment is yielding benefits and capacity and capability gains for nursing and allied fields.

All of these developments of recent years – not only in the UK, but also in other countries around the world where serious investment is now being put into nursing research – are bound to be reflected over time in more (and better) outputs from nursing research. In turn, this will be reflected in bibliometric data. In her 2000 JAN Editorial, Jane Robinson predicted that, in the future, ‘nursing research publications will occupy a growing proportion of the biomedical field in general’ (p. 498). If so, will it be accompanied, she asked, by a demonstrated increase in acknowledged funding support? Will there also be an increase in the co-authorship of papers, reflecting the collaboration that is deemed essential if UK nurses wish to be successful contenders for government funding of research? The answer to both these questions, on the basis of the indicators we have so far, would suggest a tentative and encouraging ‘yes’.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. 30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on: Robinson J. (2000) Editorial. Journal of Advanced Nursing 31(3), 497–499
  3. Acknowledgements
  4. References

The authors wish to thank Christine Jackson and Susan Wilson for permission to cite data from recent policy papers and draft reports.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. 30th Anniversary Invited Editorial reflecting on: Robinson J. (2000) Editorial. Journal of Advanced Nursing 31(3), 497–499
  3. Acknowledgements
  4. References
  • Bond S. (2001) UoA 10 – Nursing Overall Assessment of the Sector. Retrieved from http://195.194.167.103/overview/docs/UoA10.doc on 7 September 2006.
  • Cecil R., Thompson K. & Parahoo K. (2006) The research assessment exercise in nursing: learning from the past, looking to the future. Journal of Clinical Nursing 15(4), 395402.
  • CPNR, CHEMS, Higher Education Consultancy Group, Research Forum for Allied Health Professions (2001) Promoting Research in Nursing and the Allied Health Professions. Retrieved from http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2001/01_64.pdf on 7 September 2006.
  • HEFCE (2001) Research in Nursing and Allied Health Professions: Report of the Task Group 3 to HEFCE and the Department of Health. Higher Education Funding Council for England, Bristol. Retrieved from http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2001/01_63.htm
  • Jackson C. (2006) UKCRC Workforce and Careers (Nurses in Clinical Research): a background report prepared for the UKCRC Workforce Careers (Nursing) Group. UK Clinical Research Collaboration, UK.
  • Rafferty A.M., Traynor M. & Lewison G. (2000) Mapping Published Nursing Research: a third Working Paper. Centre for Policy in Nursing Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London.
  • Wilson S. (2006) Update on Quantitative Indicators of Research Capacity in Nursing and Allied Health Professions. Paper submitted to Hefce Nursing and Allied Health Professions Policy Committee Meeting, 19 May 2006.