A Personal Academic Journal

By Neuroskeptic | June 7, 2013 4:30 pm

Why is a major academic publisher printing a journal that seems a lot like the newsletter of the editor’s fan club?

Nursing Science Quarterly (NSQ) is published by SAGE, one of the big publishers in science and the humanities. Even I’m a SAGE contributor, having published in their Perspectives on Psychological Science.

But NSQ may be their most interesting of their publications. I came across it when I was searching for research on ‘elation’ (don’t ask) and have been exploring the rabbit hole I found thereby for a while.

The NSQ was established 25 years ago under founding editor Rosemarie Rizzo Parse. She’s still there. What’s unusual is that as well as editing it, Parse seems to be the main topic of the NSQ.

Take for instance the term ‘humanbecoming’, which was coined by Parse in 2007 in reference to her central theory (of which more later). In the 7 years since, there have been 103 PubMed-indexed academic papers mentioning this concept – and a full 98 of those were in the NSQ. That’s more than three ‘humanbecoming’ articles per quarterly issue. Similarly, of the 36 papers dealing with the “Parse research method”, 34 appeared in the NSQ.

There are quite a few journals whose stance and scope is under the control of a dominant editor. But this is the first case I’ve come across where a large portion of the papers are explicitly about the Editor’s theories.

What are they? Well, here’s one paper in the latest issue: Feeling Grateful: A Parse Research Method Study.

The humanbecoming school of thought was the theoretical foundation that guided this study. This theory is comprised of three principles that are underpinned by four postulates: illimitability, paradox, freedom, and mystery.

Parse defined illimitability as “indivisible unbounded knowing extended to infinity, the all-at-once remembering and prospecting with the moment”…

Taking up the theme of gratitude, the author writes:

Feeling grateful is a freely chosen way to value something of importance with speech, silence, movement, and stillness. It is experienced explicitly-tacitly, reflectively-prereflectively and arises with cherished ideas, projects, and persons while moving on with hopes and dreams.

In light of the second principle [of humanbecoming] “configuring rhythmical patterns is the revealing-concealing and enabling-limiting of connecting-separating” (Parse, 2010, p. 258), feeling grateful surfaces with the intimacy of affiliations as pattern preferences are disclosed-not disclosed, potentiating-restricting while attending-distancing with connections.

Following interviews with ten people, the author ascertained that they each had a unique concept of gratitude:

Charles – Feeling grateful is revered elation with the unsureness-sureness of risking with tribulation surfacing with wonder, as quiescent unburdening arises with assuring familial endeavouring.

Dale – Feeling grateful is unburdening elation with impelling cherished endowments surfacing with assurance in venturing onward, as quiescent tranquillity amid hardship arises with benevolent alliances.

And it goes on in this heavily-hyphenated vein. Roughly half of the NSQ is composed of Parse-based articles written in this curious style. The other half is more standard academic fare.

So far as I can see, Parse’s theories are fairly sensible, albeit hardly groundbreaking; her philosophy of nursing underlines the importance of (in a nutshell) nurses listening to patients. This is common sense, albeit the kind of common sense that tends to get forgotten within large organizations, and that bears repeating clearly. Given which I’m not sure why Parse chooses to use such obtuse language.

NSQ is not the only journal devoted to Parse. There also is (or was) an “Illuminations: Newsletter of the International Consortium of Parse Scholars (ICPS)”; from the references to articles published there, it seems rather like the NSQ, hence the first line of this post.

This brings us on to the ICPS, a fully-fledged scholarly society complete with prizes and a week-long conference which costs $2200 if you attend the whole program, or $550 per module. This year’s one is taking place in Pittsburg right now.

If any more proof were needed that Nursing Science Quarterly is very much Parse’s creature, just take a look at the cover art. The twisted ring logo is very similar to the logo of her eponymous ICPS, and you can even buy a silver pin with the same design.

I can’t think of many journals with an associated jewellery range. SAGE have a right to publish what they like, but this is a bit weird.

ResearchBlogging.orgHart, J. (2013). Feeling Grateful: A Parse Research Method Study Nursing Science Quarterly, 26 (2), 156-166 DOI: 10.1177/0894318413477137

  • Dustin Salzedo

    Having been at one point a nursing theory student, may I offer up Martha Rogers and her theory of unitary man for further head scratching.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Well… Parse lists Rogers as one of her major inspirations.

  • Neo

    Hmm, this got me thinking. It may be a strange thought in some way, but I wonder if, in an academic system where publication quantity rather then quality would be given priority, people could (would?) actually set up a journal just to ‘market’ their own ‘scientific publications’ ?

    I wonder if this could also work when you work in little groups of people, that way it would almost look real. You could come up with some “research paradigm” and work in little groups of people, but never really critically test any theoretical underpinnings of your research. I think that would be the trick: you need to come up with some ingenious “research paradigm”, and basically milk it for as long as you can. I think the best way to do this, is to only have students as participants (these are freely available, which just comes in handy), and it would also be easy if this “research paradigm” is performed by use of a computer in a lab (that way you don’t even have to do anything or be present, and you could have some 3rd year student lead the participants to the room where the computers are located). The whole thing would sort of resemble a “scientific-research/ article-producing factory”.

    Now, if you could also have a few editors of journals on board, keep peer-review limited to your friends, block every replication attempt from being published, do not allow for post-publication comments (this one is really important, because that way nobody can bypass possible editorial policies or point out obvious flaws in the article itself), you could maybe milk it for a few years, and spew out a lots of publications.

    For this plan to work though, you would also need to have scientifically incompetent leaders of institutions who hire these scientists, and promotion-committees, and the lot. Otherwise, I don’t think such a plan would be possible. Basically, you need to make sure that the people who run these institutions (and therefore hire, and promote these scientists) have as little scientific knowledge, -ability, or – integrity as possible. They should only look at the no. of publications a scientist has, and obviously: the higher this no. the better and most useful this scientist must be !!!!!.

    It would of course be crazy, from a scientific standpoint, if things would work this way. I hope that would (could?) never really be the case. That would then just be pretty sad and pathetic. In some way though, it would also be extremely funny. Seriously, think about it: if a scientist would have done things like this in her/his career, eventually they must become aware of how pointless this has been. They basically would have been some sort of slave of a flawed and fake system, like in ‘the matrix’. Maybe you could even relate their position to that of the students-as-freely available-participants in the “article producing factories”, only on a slightly different level. The allure of having ‘scored a publication’ in a ‘high-impact journal’, and hereby being hired and promoted and receiving ‘tenure’ and feeling all ‘important and sophisticated’, would eventually all fade away. It was all fake, pointless, and useless. I wonder what would be left then…

    • Zachary Stansfield

      I’m pretty sure there are already a few journals which consist predominantly of the lead editor’s vapid musings.

  • David_Colquhoun

    Sounds like the sort of thing that makes on ashamed to be called “academic”. Vacuous pretentious verbiage is the opposite of scholarship

    • Buddy199

      But they sell jewelry and cool t-shirts.

  • Buddy199


    Sounds like one of Oprah’s profundities. Thanks for the quick tour through the world of modern psycho-babble.

  • Thom Baguley

    BTW it got removed from the Thompson ISI database for excessive self-citations in the 2010 round:


    Its 2009 figures were IF = 1.215 with 96 qualifying citations of which 71% were to itself and hence IF without self-cites was 0.34.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      Ooh, well spotted. That makes sense. And many of the citations from other journals are just NSQ regulars who occasionally publish elsewhere (as far as I can see).

  • Eoin Travers

    As a case study in largely the same thing, I offer up the bizarre world of Applied Behavioural Analysis, and the Psychological Record.
    Who know radical behaviourism could be so incestuous?

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Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.


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