The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Faculty Members' Scholarly Productivity: A Controlled Comparison of Citation Impact Using the H-Index

Saturday, January 18, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
John Barner, PhD, Lecturer, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Michael J. Holosko, PhD, MSW, Pauline M. Berger Professor of Family and Child Welfare, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Bruce Thyer, PhD, LCSW, Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL
Social work researchers usually focus their attention on practice-related issues such as descriptive studies of common client problems and issues, surveys of clients or targeted groups, case studies, explanatory investigations aimed at coming closer to a clearer understanding of the causes of psychosocial work problems or, to a lesser extent, the sources of clients' strengths or resilience, and on the outcomes of social work services and policies.  Occasionally, we direct our attention to the discipline itself, as in studies of social work education and teaching effectiveness, or to issues of professional concern to social workers, such as licensure, ethics, working conditions, and so forth.  There is a small research literature devoted to examining aspects of social work scholarship itself.  This takes many forms, as in an examination of the content of our journals, the types of designs and methods we use, issues related to scholarly criteria for promotion and tenure among the professoriate, etc. Purpose: The present study has a fairly narrow focus, to examine the scholarly productivity of social work faculty located in highly ranked academic programs, and to compare them to their colleagues in psychology programs at the same university. Methods: The h-index for all social work and psychology tenured or tenure-track faculty housed in the top 25 social work programs as ranked by U.S. News and World Report in 2008 was obtained, permitting an overall comparison of the scholarly influence between members (N=2030) of the two fields.  This involved N=950 social work faculty and N=1080 psychology faculty. Results: The average h-index for social work and psychology faculty was 6.34 and 11.32 respectively, representing no significant difference. These results are an improvement over prior related research which showed social work faculty to be disadvantaged in terms of scholarly impact.  These results are discussed in terms of the higher scholarly standards expected of academic social worker in recent years.   Our data also display the average h-index for 25 highly ranked social work programs, appropriately recognizing those program's whose faculty are being the widely cited in the academic literature. Implications: In general, if social work programs are to successfully compete for scarce academic resources, they must adhere to the same scholarly standards as the other university-based practicing professions such as nursing, clinical and counseling psychology, and public health.  On balance our analysis conveys good news to social work academics.  Social work and psychology faculty located at the universities hosting the top-25 social work programs are exerting equivalent scholarly influence, as measured by the h-index over a recent ten-year period.  We posit that this is due to faculty responding to an increased emphasis on scholarship within academic social work, rather than any decline in scholarly influence within psychology.  This study also further illustrates the use of the relatively new h-index as a measure of intellectual impact in our field, and as a platform to conduct such analyses for the betterment of our academic knowledge-base and contributions to the discipline-at-large.