Journal of Nursing Education

BRIEFS 

The Scholarly Productivity of Inbred and Noninbred Full-Time Doctorally Prepared Nursing Faculty in the South

JoEllen Dattilo, PhD, RN

Abstract

Academic inbreeding has traditionally been viewed as a detrimental practice of recruitment within higher education. Historically, the perceived consequences of inbreeding first came to the attention of academia in 1908 when Charles Eliot, as president of Harvard University, wrote of the grave dangers of inbreeding for a university (Eells & Cleveland, 1935a).

Since Eliot's original assessment, there has been a moderate amount of research conducted on this phenomenon of faculty selection. These previous studies almost unanimously support a negative view of academic inbreeding. The major controversy revolves around the premise that inbred faculty are less productive or scholarly than their noninbred counterparts (Eells & Cleveland, 1935b). Despite the injunctions against it, the practice of inbreeding still exists.

At one end of the continuum, hiring graduates of an institution for faculty positions is viewed as an irrational and dysfunctional practice. Administrators who support the notion that inbred faculty are "more dependent, derivative and unoriginal scholars" (Wyer & Conrad, 1984, p. 224), perceive that inbreeding results in lowered academic creativity, innovation, and achievement. Research efforts may become narrow and stunted. Educational quality may be lessened and parochialism perpetuated. Ultimately, the institutional image may be threatened.

Regardless of the opposition, several factors may encourage inbreeding as a means of meeting specific institutional needs. First, administrators may perceive inbred faculty as more loyal and committed personnel. Institutional traditions, values, and cultures would remain unchallenged, and a continuity of the norms and roles may be ensured. In times of diverse educational currents, inbred faculty would constitute a powerful barrier against external forces of change.

Additionally, hiring well-known previous students from the parent institution for faculty positions reduces some of the uncertainty in the hiring decision. Chances of an unsatisfactory appointment may be minimized. More philosophically, hiring institutional graduates is seen as a public statement of confidence in the product.

On a more pragmatic level, selection of inbred faculty may be a necessary financial strategy in an effort to utilize limited recruitment funds most effectively. Generally, inbred faculty accept lower salary and rank than noninbred faculty (Hollingshead, 1938; McGee, 1960). As a result, hiring offers for other positions could involve higher salaries to attract more wellknown outside scholars.

Furthermore, because previous studies have reported a high frequency of inbreeding within schools of nursing (Miller, 1977), the question of differences in scholarly productivity between inbred and noninbred nursing faculty becomes critical. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to examine differences of scholarly productivity between the two groups. Specifically, does the scholarly productivity of full-time inbred doctorally prepared nursing faculty differ from their noninbred counterparts?

Methods

Sample

Forty-one deans of accredited southern graduate schools of nursing, as listed in a 1985 National League for Nursing publication, were asked to complete a demographic data sheet about their current full-time doctoral faculty. Names of degree-granting institutions were specifically requested. Demographic data were obtained about 323 faculty or 53% of the known southern region population of doctorally prepared nurse educators. Two hundred thirty-five faculty from the sample did not earn any degrees from the employing institution and were assigned noninbred status. Eighty-seven faculty received one or more degrees from the employing institution and were assigned inbred status.

Measures

The quality of scholarly productivity of inbred and noninbred full-time doctorally prepared nursing faculty was measured by seven selected dependent variables:

* a total 1984 and 1985 Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) publication count,

* total refereed publication count for 1984 and 1985,

* number of citations from refereed journals which are indexed in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) or the Science Citation Index (SCI) for 1984,…

Academic inbreeding has traditionally been viewed as a detrimental practice of recruitment within higher education. Historically, the perceived consequences of inbreeding first came to the attention of academia in 1908 when Charles Eliot, as president of Harvard University, wrote of the grave dangers of inbreeding for a university (Eells & Cleveland, 1935a).

Since Eliot's original assessment, there has been a moderate amount of research conducted on this phenomenon of faculty selection. These previous studies almost unanimously support a negative view of academic inbreeding. The major controversy revolves around the premise that inbred faculty are less productive or scholarly than their noninbred counterparts (Eells & Cleveland, 1935b). Despite the injunctions against it, the practice of inbreeding still exists.

At one end of the continuum, hiring graduates of an institution for faculty positions is viewed as an irrational and dysfunctional practice. Administrators who support the notion that inbred faculty are "more dependent, derivative and unoriginal scholars" (Wyer & Conrad, 1984, p. 224), perceive that inbreeding results in lowered academic creativity, innovation, and achievement. Research efforts may become narrow and stunted. Educational quality may be lessened and parochialism perpetuated. Ultimately, the institutional image may be threatened.

Regardless of the opposition, several factors may encourage inbreeding as a means of meeting specific institutional needs. First, administrators may perceive inbred faculty as more loyal and committed personnel. Institutional traditions, values, and cultures would remain unchallenged, and a continuity of the norms and roles may be ensured. In times of diverse educational currents, inbred faculty would constitute a powerful barrier against external forces of change.

Additionally, hiring well-known previous students from the parent institution for faculty positions reduces some of the uncertainty in the hiring decision. Chances of an unsatisfactory appointment may be minimized. More philosophically, hiring institutional graduates is seen as a public statement of confidence in the product.

On a more pragmatic level, selection of inbred faculty may be a necessary financial strategy in an effort to utilize limited recruitment funds most effectively. Generally, inbred faculty accept lower salary and rank than noninbred faculty (Hollingshead, 1938; McGee, 1960). As a result, hiring offers for other positions could involve higher salaries to attract more wellknown outside scholars.

Furthermore, because previous studies have reported a high frequency of inbreeding within schools of nursing (Miller, 1977), the question of differences in scholarly productivity between inbred and noninbred nursing faculty becomes critical. Therefore, the purpose of the study is to examine differences of scholarly productivity between the two groups. Specifically, does the scholarly productivity of full-time inbred doctorally prepared nursing faculty differ from their noninbred counterparts?

Methods

Sample

Forty-one deans of accredited southern graduate schools of nursing, as listed in a 1985 National League for Nursing publication, were asked to complete a demographic data sheet about their current full-time doctoral faculty. Names of degree-granting institutions were specifically requested. Demographic data were obtained about 323 faculty or 53% of the known southern region population of doctorally prepared nurse educators. Two hundred thirty-five faculty from the sample did not earn any degrees from the employing institution and were assigned noninbred status. Eighty-seven faculty received one or more degrees from the employing institution and were assigned inbred status.

Measures

The quality of scholarly productivity of inbred and noninbred full-time doctorally prepared nursing faculty was measured by seven selected dependent variables:

* a total 1984 and 1985 Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) publication count,

* total refereed publication count for 1984 and 1985,

* number of citations from refereed journals which are indexed in the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) or the Science Citation Index (SCI) for 1984, 1985, and 1986,

* frequency of Southern Region Education Board (SREB !-Southern Council on Collegiate Education for Nursing (SCCEN) presentations for 1983, 1984, and 1985,

* frequency of the American Nurses' Association Council of Nurse Researchers (CNR) paper and poster presentations for 1983 and 1985,

* inclusion of faculty member's name in the 1985 American Academy of Nursing Directory, and

* institutional prestige of the employing institution according to the 1983 Gourman Report of national graduate programs in nursing.

Procedure

After demographic data were collected, each faculty's inbreeding status was determined. Next, each faculty's name was sought in the 1984 and 1985 CINAHL. Total publications were tallied. Then, the source of the publication was compared to the study's list of refereed journals indexed in the CINAHL. The number of refereed publications was determined.

The SSCI and the SCI were then used for data collection. From the list of refereed nursing-related journals that were indexed in these sources, citations (Kroc, 1984) were analyzed by identifying the author's name in the index and tallying the number of citations listed.

Conference participation was assessed by the frequency of paper and/or poster presentations at SCCEN and CNR annual meetings. Conference agendas and bulletins provided the desired information and a tally was done.

Professional recognition was assessed from the inclusion of the faculty's name in the 1985 American Academy of Nursing Directory.

Lastly, the prestige of each member's employing institution was determined. The 1983 Gourman Report survey findings were used to make this assessment. Of the 41 schools included in the study, 17 programs were ranked as leading institutions by Gourman. Of these, 11 schools were represented in the study.

Results

The one-way i test and chi-square test showed no significant differences between inbred and noninbred nursing faculty. The overall scholarly productivity for both groups was low. Specifically, 67% of the inbred group and 63% of the noninbred group did not achieve in any area. Also, the frequency of the academic inbreeding (27%) was less than anticipated.

Discussion

From the analysis, three major characteristics about nurse educators have emerged. First, finding no significant difference in scholarly productivity between inbred and noninbred full-time doctorally prepared nursing faculty challenged the negative perception held about academic inbreeding. Difference of potential worth, based on the relationship between academic origin and scholarly productivity, has not been supported. Therefore, if lesser scholarly productivity from inbred faculty has been the most serious objection to academic inbreeding, it may be time for a reassessment.

Secondly, of major importance was that 64.2% of the total sample had not achieved in any of the designated categories. If the variables assessed gave some valid information about scholarly productivity of nurse educators, then the profession needs to be concerned- Only with increased efforts in multiple areas of scholarly productivity can nurse educators compare to scholars in other disciplines. In the evolution of the nursing profession within higher education, this productivity is essential for recognition within academia. Regardless of academic origin, resources must be mobilized to assist nursing faculty in their efforts to improve their scholarly activity. Continued low scholarly productivity threatens the individual and professional reputation of nurse educators.

The third finding that emerged from the study is a decrease in academic inbreeding in nursing education as compared to previous studies. Factors responsible for decreased academic inbreeding cannot be supported through the findings. However, negative biases about inbreeding, accreditation criteria, and increased mobility may be responsible for this trend.

Although the research hypotheses have not been supported, many questions have been raised. Only through additional research efforts can the questions of difference, based on academic origin, be better answered.

References

  • Eells, W.C., & Cleveland, A.C. (1935a). Faculty inbreeding. Journal of Higher Education, 5, 261-269.
  • Eells, W.C., & Cleveland, A.C. (1935b). The effects of inbreeding. Journal of Higher Education, 6, 323-329.
  • Hollingshead, A.B. (1938). Ingroup membership and academic selection. American Sociological Review, 3, 826-833.
  • Kroc, R.J. (1984). Using citation analysis to assess scholarly productivity. Educational Researcher, June I July, 17-22.
  • McGee, R. (1960). The function of institutional inbreeding. The American Journal of Sociology, 67, 483-489.
  • Miller, M. H. (1977). Academic inbreeding in nursing. Nursing Outlook, 25, 172-177.
  • Wyer, J.C., & Conrad, C.F. (1984). Institutional inbreeding reexaminad . American Educational Research Journal, 2(1), 213-225.

10.3928/0148-4834-19910601-12

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