Publishing Pressures & the Job Demands-Resources Model… Demands Overload/Resources Shortfall in Academia

Some musings while I am working on a paper involving the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) model… Discussions in academic institutions, at least among peers at the lower-to-mid hierarchical levels, centre on the increasing academic workloads - growing class sizes, burgeoning administrative duties – facing academics. Meanwhile, pressure (self-imposed and/or institutionally required) to consistently publish quality research in good quality journals is mounting higher and higher. Indeed, when it comes to promotion panels, generally more kudos is given to your publication record than to any other task performed.

What is generally meant by ‘good quality journals’ are those that are ranked 3 or 4 star in the ABS peer journal ranking (for Business academics at least). For the non-academic readers, to get an academic article published in a good quality peer-reviewed journal can take several years – with time required to conduct research, literature review, write, frame, edit, submit, revise the document, etc. If you are fortunate enough to be in the position to focus full-time on publication only, you should manage, over time, to attain a pipeline of papers at any given time (that is, have one paper in draft, one submitted, one under review, one under revision, one publication pending). However, for the general academic, who has never been afforded that opportunity to focus only on research, the publication game is a very difficult challenge to master.

With shrinking ‘company’ time left over (pardon the ‘business’ talk, but I hope you gather what I mean – time left over after working for the academic institution performing the everyday requirements of the academic role, be that teaching, teaching preparation, student meetings, assessment setting, correcting and feedback, programme promotion and marketing, membership on research clusters and university boards, reviewing journal articles, presenting at other institutions, meeting editors etc.), trying to find the quality time that is needed to undertake quality research (which requires research, reading, understanding, analysis, writing, framing, collaborating, submitting, revising, editing, etc.) in order to meet the rigours required of top journals is becoming more and more difficult.

While the demands are there in terms of the academic role to research and to publish the research, the outputs of which may prove fruitful (or not! Note the rejection rate is very high in academic journals!) in the long term (it can take several years to get a paper published, never mind published in a quality journal), these demands are often superseded by the short-term goals and demands that need to be achieved everyday: to teach the ever increasing classes, to ensure learning outcomes are achieved by setting during-semester assignments that need to be corrected and fed-back to students to stimulate improvement and learning, to take on roles of programme managers replacing positions which may have previously been dedicated to specific individuals as full-time roles. The resources proffered to academics to aid in the achievement of their jobs (with research supposedly a main component of the full academic role) remains elusive. With increasing short-term targets to complete, where to find the time (resources) to actually concentrate the substantial intellectual effort required to write quality material for peer reviewed publication?

Demerouti et al. (2001) and Bakker et al. (2003) developed the Job Demands-Resources model (JD-R) to present the balancing act required to ensure employee engagement, wellbeing and motivation. They found that jobs with high demands (a lot needing to be attained in the job) and high resources (e.g. organisational supports, such as dedicated time for writing and paper development; rewards for publications) resulted in positive motivation outcomes for employees. However, jobs with high demands and low resources resulted in disengagement, lack of wellbeing, and general demotivation, leading to stress and burnout. This model of well-being seems most apt in presenting the wide gulf between job demands and job resources for research-interested academics. Most important, what are and will be the implications of this for long term research output, relevant for managers, organisations, communities, government policy and countries?