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letter Scholarship in nursing: what really counts?

Scholarship in nursing is a concept that supposedly defines and captures the nature and scope of nursing contributions to knowledge generation and knowledge testing. So what does scholarship in nursing really mean? How do we quantify it? What are the indicators of scholarship?

Until recently, few nursing scholars would disagree that, by virtue of its literal meaning, scholarship is about intellectual contributions to a given profession or discipline. However, in recent years, we have noted disconcerting opinions suggesting that research funding is the primary criterion for defining scholarship. Although research funding plays a pivotal role in facilitating the development of new knowledge, we should not lose sight of what constitutes scholarship. Both the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) adopted Boyer’s model (Boyer 1990) as the framework that defines

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letter Scholarship in nursing: what really counts?

Scholarship in nursing is a concept that supposedly defines and captures the nature and scope of nursing contributions to knowledge generation and knowledge testing. So what does scholarship in nursing really mean? How do we quantify it? What are the indicators of scholarship?

Until recently, few nursing scholars would disagree that, by virtue of its literal meaning, scholarship is about intellectual contributions to a given profession or discipline. However, in recent years, we have noted disconcerting opinions suggesting that research funding is the primary criterion for defining scholarship. Although research funding plays a pivotal role in facilitating the development of new knowledge, we should not lose sight of what constitutes scholarship. Both the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing (CASN) adopted Boyer’s model (Boyer 1990) as the framework that defines scholarship in nursing academia. The model defines scholarship within the context four dimensions: discovery, teaching, application, and integration.

Scholarship was more specifically defined by the AACN and CASN as the set of activities that systematically advance the teaching, research, and practice of nursing through rigorous inquiry that is significant to the profession, creative, documented, can be replicated or elaborated, and can be peer-reviewed through various methods. This view of scholarship prescribes advancement of teaching, research and practice as the outcome measure of scholarship. It does not in any way suggest that research funding or other types of funding should define scholarship.

While successful research funding, especially peer-reviewed funding, is reflective of scholarship, it is not, and should not become an end in and of itself. Let us be reminded that we seek funding to support our research and other scientific inquiries. Thus, our scholarship should be judged primarily by what we contribute to theoretical and clinical knowledge, and not by how much money we bring to an institution. This is not to suggest that we should not seek research funding or that research funding is not important. On the contrary, our scholarly advancements are largely dependent on whether or not they can be financially supported by research grants. However, we should be clear that the dissemination of knowledge is the goal of conducting research and seeking grant funding.

In conclusion, we suggest that research funding and other types of academic funding are extremely important and should be aggressively sought. Grants, particularly peer-reviewed grants, are important indicators of scholarship and should be used as part of the criteria on which individuals’ scholarship is judged. However, judgement of scholarship should not be heavily based on dollar figures. Indeed, highly significant contributions to nursing knowledge can be, and have been, generated from studies that require small or moderate financial support.

In addition, some researchers are able to secure corporate funding that requires little or no scientific review. These few examples serve as reminders that research scholarship is best measured in terms of its scientific rigor, significance, and its ability to generate, test, and disseminate knowledge. Thus, let us keep focused on research funding as means to and end, as opposed to an end in and of itself. Let us also continue to compete for research funding without becoming obsessed with dollar figures. Despite the importance of research grants, we must not transform the pursuit of knowledge into a corporate competition. Let us get back on track to value the product more than the means. It is the quality and significance of our publications and knowledge dissemination that ultimately defines scholarship.

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