23 September 2014

At 'Oxbridge' and other seats of learning

GENOA, Italy—Despite the location of this entry, I have been mainly in the United Kingdom since my last post, which was from Australia. I made one brief visit to Dublin, Ireland, but otherwise have been in Cambridge and Oxford—two major seats of learning known collectively as “Oxbridge”—and Birmingham, the UK’s second-largest city and, arguably, also a major seat of learning. If you are not familiar with the very British TV comedy “Blackadder,” this YouTube clip will provide a sample and explain, at the expense of my own University of Hull, where Oxbridge is positioned in the UK educational hierarchy.

My visit to Cambridge was to attend part of the NET2014 conference and to present with Karen Holland, editor of Nurse Education in Practice, a workshop on writing for publication. The NET conference, formerly named the Nurse Education Tomorrow conference, evolved out of the journal Nurse Education Today. The conference was the idea of Jean Walker, a former colleague of mine from the University of Edinburgh, and one of its earliest proponents was Elisabeth ‘Liz’ Clarke, PhD, formerly of the Royal College of Nursing of the United Kingdom and now of the Open University. In her keynote address, Clarke, who is not a nurse but a psychologist by background, reflected on the conference’s 25 years and challenged nurse educationists with these questions:
  • What are the greatest achievements in health care education of the past 25 years?
  • What are the big issues we must tackle?
  • What do we need to do to demonstrate our positive contribution to health care services, higher education, and society as a whole?
  • What are the priorities for our future scholarship agenda?
The conference was held in Churchill College, named after our great Second World War prime minister, whose papers are lodged there in a special archive. The college is relatively modern, built in the 1960s, and accommodations seem to have changed little since those days. I must be getting old and soft, but an unsprung student bed with a thin mattress is not what I am used to.

The purpose of my visit to Oxford was to meet with fellow Journal of Advanced Nursing (JAN) editors and the management team from Wiley headquarters. This time, I can report excellent accommodation in a large hotel that incorporates a former Knights Templar hospital. I concluded these knights were not very tall, as I bumped my head several times on massive ceiling beams upon entering—and usually when leaving—the bathroom.

The JAN management-team meetings are one of the most enjoyable events of the year for me. Wiley looks after us very well, and the JAN editors are the best team in the world to work with. During two intensive days, every aspect of the journal is analysed, and our performance in terms of impact factor, downloads, and international outreach is scrutinised. Change always follows these meetings, but this is always positive and agreed to by the whole team. Our vision for the journal is ambitious, and we hope that this becomes obvious in the year ahead. Amongst other things, we hope to increase traffic to our blog, which has been renamed JAN interactive.

Birmingham was the venue for the penultimate meeting of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) subpanel for dentistry, allied health professions, nursing, and pharmacy, to which I have referred previously. I love working with this team, too, but I don’t think many of us will miss these events, as membership on these panels involves very hard work. The eyes of the UK academic community are on the REF panels and subpanels with the outcome—scores awarded to UK universities for excellence in research—eagerly awaited. The world is also watching and waiting, because this exercise was the first to include research impact. There will be international scrutiny to see how we did it and what we found, and it is my expectation that research impact will form part of research assessment in several of the countries I visit regularly.

I’m in Genoa—also known as Genova—for the usual reasons (blog passim): to meet research students at the University of Genoa and to collaborate with colleagues here. In the middle of the week, my dean, Steven Ersser, PhD, RN, makes a visit. I had better be on my best behavior.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. Comments are moderated. Those that promote products or services will not be posted.

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