Saturday, January 29, 2011

From the Editors' desk: Creative tension between developmental reviews and the culture of rejections

So the conventional status quo goes something like this: the higher a rejection rate at a journal, the more exclusive it will appear.  If more exclusive, the perception of its value will increase.

And the conventional action research logic goes something like: the more developmental a review reviewers give, the better the final manuscript will end up and the more likely it will be to move toward publication.

There is a creative tension here - or at least a conundrum. Action research culture promotes higher lower rejection rates. The action research community wishes to be seen as valuable in the broader discourse on research and wants/needs a journal to given that impetus voice.

How to resolve this tension/conundrum/paradox?!

At least a few issues come immediately to mind:

The more "high value" a journal the more helpful it is to those who publish in it in terms of their careers (especially if they are in academia)

The more high value a journal appears in conventional terms, the better it is in creating a bridge to conventional rsearchers.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why art? with guest blogger Victor Friedman

Why do I feel passionate about art and action research?  I have no  talent.  Drawing and painting never appealed to me.  I love to sing but cannot carry a tune.  My tuba teacher suggested that I join the swim team instead of the marching band.   Visits to art museums were  alienating  because I, quite literally  had no “taste” for art.  The turning point came a number of years ago when Ariane decided to pursue her passion for art into research on artistic interventions in organizations.  We had collaborated for years and wanted to continue working together. But I had no genuine interest in art or aesthetics, which seemed to me my weakest part.  But then I realized it might be a learning opportunity.  Ariane took me to museums and helped me communicate with art for the first time.  Rather than simply looking at pictures, I learned to wander and wait until a picture spoke to me.  And I tried to listen to feelings and thoughts it awakened in me  – to “taste” it.  That was a beginning and has led to many new discoveries.  I also began to realize how, in modern society,  we have taken artistic-creative-aesthetic activity out of our everyday life. So I like to play with bringing it back in.  For example, I put colored modeling clay on the table in my office and encouraged anyone who came to meet to start playing.  At first most people made figures, but then some students they started actually decorating the table. I then invited encouraged everyone to add to the emerging design.  One picture here shows the table in progress, the other shows the table complete.  And check out this website on the work of Jackson Pollock.  Have fun!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

From the Editors' desk: Action research and Community Based Participatory Research

Multiple choice question:

What is the relationship between Action Research and Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)?


A. The terms refer to the same phenomenon

B. CBPR exists only in the healthcare domain

C. Both are forms of participatory research

D. Enough with the definitions already - do something useful with your community stakeholders!

E. All answers are correct and the relationship needs to be unpacked depending on which community you find yourself in.

I'll go with E.
The question posed itself as I was recently invited to bring more about "action research" to audiences in various healthcare communities. I revisited Minkler's and Wallerstein's edited handbook--which is really excellent--called "Community Based Participatory Research for Health" (Jossey Bass, 2003). It therefore seems fair to me to say that CBPR comes under the larger umbrella term “action research,” but that as it is a term used primarily in healthcare settings, a world unto itself, there may be little familiarity with the umbrella term “action research”! The term "participatory research” may, in fact, be more useful when suggesting that there is a bigger family outside healthcare which can inform CBPR. CBPR, like in much AR, maintains strong philosophical links with the liberationist aspirations articulated by thought leaders of old such as Paolo Freire and Orlando Fals-Borda. In this we all share concern for fighting health disparities, both within countries (in the USA, the disparity between races is striking) and globally (that so many still die from preventable illness worldwide is a crying shame). However, like in action research, there is also an uncritical, sometimes wholly technical-practical approach that comes to the fore. We see this in (some) organizational development work that calls itself action research (not in mine I hope!). In healthcare settings we see it when the behavioral aspects of illness (say in treating chronic conditions such as diabetes) make it clear that socio-behavioral change is needed as much, if not more, than medical intervention. It is less about liberating patients to understand the structures that keep them unwell and more about making sure insulin is managed with family support. And that is important too.
In the end then for an action researcher to work productively in a healthcare setting may simply be a matter of becoming acculturated to new vocabulary (e.g., I have learned in my new position as a research professor in healthcare management that “inter-professional teams” is code for doctors and nurses working together. It deserves its own word as its an issue of great importance but without much institutional support to date). But in the end its still about stakeholder needs and moving to action with stakeholders, generating rich locally actionable knowledge that can also inform policy and larger community of action researchers.

Hilary Bradbury-Huang, Ph.D.
Editor, Action Research journal.
Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Arts and Action Research Special Issue Reflection by guest blogger Ariane Berthoin Antal

Doorhandle to the Seeburg of the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz.
Opening the door to work each day with such a joker has to lead to something new, doesn't it? 

I first "met" the authors in the special issue of ARJ on the arts and action research in January 2010 when we had the challenge of selecting a few articles from the many submissions we received to our call for papers, submissions from all around the world. It was exciting and also humbling to discover how many exciting projects colleagues are experimenting in to enable learning and change to happen in organizations and in society.
Ariane at a picnic on Lake Konstanz

Choosing just a few articles to take into the journal was difficult! Then the real pleasure started: working with our authors via emails to develop their ideas even further. Editing this special issue for ARJ turned into a year-long journey of discovery, what happens in societies when we dare to engage issues by drawing on the arts? And what happens to action researchers when participants in their projects engage artists and artistic media? How can we learn to express the multiple forms of knowing--and not knowing--that arise from these engagements? Now in January 2011 I am really looking forward to responses from readers!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

From the editors desk: New Years Resolutions

New Years bring new resolutions. My own vis a vis ARJ is to make more mental space for strategic intuition and action taking.

First and foremost on my mind is therefore to consider how to locate the perfect person/small team to lead the Action Research for healthcare division. We are currently without leadership in that arena. My filling in (someone has to!) has made me more aware of the growing importance of this domain and how much more impact the AR modality deserves to have. Healthcare costs are escalating as the population in the Western world ages. It is the hot topic of hot dispute in the US legislature this week again. A partial vision in this arena is to have the action research (often called “community based participative research”) community become more better known for its significant contributions. This is both difficult – medicine is primed to admire the gold standard double blind tests of validity which action research does not do. However medicine and its practitioners are some of the more pragmatic around. We must understand that the world of healthcare is only partly benefited by validity seeking tests. So many other areas need emphasis on behavior change and behavioral approaches to healthcare. It is with the latter that action research can work most productively.

For now we must “beat the bushes” for nominations including self nominations. We will use snowball methods to generate recommendations. We may ponder:

• what credentials a future associate editor for AR and healthcare should hold – one or a combination of: MPH, PhD? MD?.

• Which communities are best brought together in our efforts here…and how can we bring more attention to the action research work of the Southern Hemisphere.

All of this is on my mind as we start up the year…