Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hilary Bradbury-Huang. Participative death and mourning.

Perhaps more personal a blog than usual. I am convening family members for the funeral-memorial of my brother who died in a tragic accident 44 years ago. I see how the spirit of participation, which arises from the philosophy that we live in a participative universe, has shaped this experience. In holding the funeral memorial we remember my brother (Bill) and we also hold in our hearts all whose tragic deaths marked loved ones left behind. I have been curious to note how many of my close friends have had siblings die young and I wonder if we somehow smell that from one another and the huge toll it takes on a family. And as we understand that about one another, not much needs to be said about it. Of course we wonder how can our parents get over such a thing? And yet death and suffering is a natural part of life. Without it all would be fixed, solid, stolid - another form of frozen death. In my eyes the memorial will be held here in Portland, for my parents it will be in Dublin, for my sister in Boston, for my friend in Tel Aviv ... others will light candles around these many masses and chantings of the heart sutra.  We have coordinated our internationally attunded clocks for "participating together" at 10AM/18.00 GMT on Saturday October 1st. This is a 21st Century memorial. By default I love ritual and by practice I have come to love participative ritual. I read a lovely poem today by Wislawa Szymborska - too long to include but called “On death, without exaggeration.” I will, however, include some lines from Emerson - which evoke for me gentle but intense curiosity about the nature of this participative/recycling universe we get to call home for a while.  Wow aren’t we lucky indeed! It's called "All return again."  Please participate!

“It is the secret of the world that all things subsist and do not die, but only retire a little from sight and afterwards return again. Nothing is dead; men feign themselves dead, and endure mock funerals and mournful obituaries, and there they stand looking out of the window, sound and well, in some new strange disguise. Jesus is not dead; he is very well alive; nor John, nor Paul, nor Mahomet, nor Aristotle; at times we believe we have seen them all, and could easily tell the names under which they go.”  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Editor's open letter to all ARJ friends and advisers

Dear ARJ friends & thinking partners:

I write 1) to share some highlights of our annual publication report (Hilary can send an e-copy in addition, if you send her an email), 2) to update you on a couple of important items and 3) to invite your input on a next round of strategy design.

1.       The ARJ associate editor board is renewing/adding to itself.  Our process has been to have a nominations committee who speaks with candidates and then brings names forward for formal selection by the associate editor board. Svante Lifvergren MD joined us most recently to lead the healthcare domain. Additionally we will vote to at the next associate editor board meeting to bring two new associate editors for the domains of organizations and education respectively. Though obvious, it bears stating: those actively “driving” the journal define its contribution for at least a few years out.  We welcome any names you’d offer to the nominations committee.
With regard to the publication report: Clearly the journal is progressing well when measured against conventional performance targets. The trajectory of “numbers/performance measures” in the report support my sense that our ranking will continue to increase, that our citations will increase and that number of downloads will increase. In my view we will likely always be a “niche” journal, but one that clearly has a significant and growing readership, one that is respected. In sum I envisage a dynamic future for our field and for our journal. All this bodes well for “getting the work out there” and for offering tangible credit to scholar colleagues whose promotion is assisted by having journal articles in ranked journals.  

3.       The positive spirit of rejection: Overall we are seeing higher quality work come to us and in higher volume which means we have maintained a relatively high rejection rate (75%).  This is a tricky thing to manage as the spirit of AR is collegial and developmental.  But to the degree possible we offer useful reviews and I have seen enough positive responses from “rejectees” to suggest that our process successfully communicates concern for developing (especially) younger members of the field while also developing quality.
.       What’s next for us strategically?
The associate editor board has weighed in on this topic.  The list of actionable ideas includes:
1.       Inviting all “schools” of action research to create a special issue – thereby using the journal to bridge among various schools/approaches,
  • 2.       To create a variety of special issues on topics that cut across domains,
  • 3.       To create an executive advisory board whose primary role is engage with strategy issues,
  • 4.       To have a face to face meeting as a community,
  • 5.       Invite a series  of interviews with retiring leaders of our field,
  • 6.       Create an alternate publication report around metrics to be determined as part of strategic conversation.

Please add to/comment on this list. What do you want the future of ARJ to be? 

RSVP to Hilary at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hilary Bradbury-Huang on post conventional mindsets that support action research?

I've been thinking that someone ought to name the degree and strength of post conventional mindsets that influence our field.  That someone may as well be me.  First I better define my terms:

Conventional science is what cures cancer and investigates questions such as “how old is the universe?”  In its more social scientific cast, it asks questions such as …these are questions that leads to understanding what causes what.  Action research addresses an entirely different class of inquiry – e.g., “how do we generate collectively positive outcomes” is a question that may be informed by conventional science but is not going to be answered by it. We might go further and say that the questions of real urgency – how do we act on our understanding of climate change, how to we bring our evolutionarily attuned brains to act wisely in the face of heretofore systemic problems we have never confronted as a species. As much as though we draw on conventional science, there is simply no new fact or research protocol that makes these behaviorally and dynamically complex problems solvable. But the post conventional research mind stops looking to the external world alone to find answers. the post conventional research mind uses the capacity for reflexivity, Janus-like ability to look both at the mind that has created the problem as well as the conditions that form the context for action.  The post conventional mind is one that builds on conventional scientific talents (after all most of us were trained with conventional methods) but transcends those to include a greater repertoire of stakeholder engagement.  ... more anon.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

From the editors' desk...Hilary Bradbury-Huang on what's happened this summer...

Back from the summer break and what is top of mind is the newly calculated impact factor for the journal.  The calculation essentially answers the question: “if I publish with ARJ what are the chances that my paper will be cited?” Note that this is a separate question from “will it be read”?  The calculation of  impact factor 0.846 suggests that, on average, each paper we publish is cited almost once.  That may sound rather meager perhaps unless you know that the large journals have an average of 4 citations per paper. Because many have been around a very long time they naturally attract a higher readership. We also looked at how it performs relative to “similar” journals. As you know the journal is highly interdisciplinary and its is hard to know which is the best peer set.  However I was very pleased to find it among the top 100 organization & management journals, set of peer journals that is reasonably meaningful and that I – as an organizational scholar by discipline, know well.  So in a nutshell, not bad for ARJ, by publication standards, very much a “new kid on the block,” who, against all the odds, seeks to offer a platform for counter-conventional inquiry.    As to the easier to determine question of “are we read?”  The answer to this is readily seen on our own website with the download counts for popular articles.  Yes we’re read!  I hear we are very popular with those studying qualitative research because we give adequate space to descriptions of methods and processes. Onward and upward then to the important question of "what's next for us?" Given that the world probably doesn't need a periodical, yet we have a good one getting better, what is important for us in meeting what the world (or the international community of action researchers) does need?  To be continued...