PUBLIC IMPACT SCHOLARSHIP & WHY WE DO IT: SSWN Open Access 2020
To all the people reading this, whether you work as a researcher or as a practitioner, I want to share something that all of us in academia know but don’t say in public very often: we often have very little idea about what impact our work has. For some of us (like me), this is a big deal; we aren’t doing research and writing articles or books just for the sake of doing them (or just for the sake of putting them on our CV and seeking tenure or the next prize). We actually want our work to be useful to the people and topics we’re focused on, and we aren’t always sure if it is.
Sounds like it should be simple to be able to find out the impact of our work, right? At least it should be, especially in applied fields like social work, school mental health, and education? Well, not really. We have a lot of barriers to creating public impact work within academic fields like social work.
For too long our fields have been content to let impact be based primarily around the deeply flawed and problematic “impact factor” of the journals we submit to, and failing that, to be mostly based on the subjective evaluation by our peers in academia about whether what we do measures up to get us tenure and promotion. And that’s fine (I guess) for what it is, but it tells us very little to nothing about what impact our work has had on the schools, families, youth, and school social workers we wrote about. In fact, very few tenure review processes (including the one at my own school) put a premium on what has come to be known as “public impact scholarship,” the work that is shown to make a difference with practitioners, policymakers, and the youth and families we serve. A recent article by Silva and colleagues (2019) for the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research (JSSWR) defined public impact scholarship in this way (and thankfully made their intro article OA to share, as I’ve done below, and also gave us a nice shout-out in one of their tables that is the featured image for this post):
Public impact scholarship in social work is characterized by intentional efforts to create social change through the translation and dissemination of research to nonacademic audiences. (Silva et al., 2019, p. 531)
For the rest of 2020, we are going to take the free open-access (OA) articles from the just-published 2nd issue of the International Journal of School Social Work (published by SSWAA and where I serve as editor-in-chief) and offer them to you as our SSWN readers, with added commentary by the authors themselves, as well as some further ideas that I have about the potential public impact of their findings. But this will be more than a one-way conversation. We’re going to invite you to join us (the authors and myself) over at SSWNetwork for more conversation, including the chance to apply the research you read in IJSSW to your school setting. And after you apply it, we’ll ask you to tell us what was new and/or helpful about this research to your own practice, as well as what further questions you have for us. Join us and as always, feel free to send us ideas you have to write for SSWN, maybe even about how you’re engaged in your own public impact scholarship.