Scholarship: More Than Just ‘Publish or Perish’

Bookshelf displaying a variety of books

The area of Scholarship has been defined in a somewhat narrow sense.  This is reflected in an article by Plume and van Weijen (2014), where they noted “publish or perish,” or frequent publication as the more commonly recognized method scholars demonstrate academic talent. Since it is easy to measure, it is often used to support advancement in academic rank and tenure. Even the common definition of Scholarship includes knowledge which results from research and studying in the researcher’s field. Other areas of Scholarship seem to be ignored, lacking, or not recognized as important.

In 2012, a Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) proposal was passed with the intent to halt the practice of correlating the journal impact factor to the merits of a specific scientist’s contributions-reinforcing the “Publish or Perish” view of Scholarship. Recently (Alberts, 2013) a signatory to the agreement, ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, apologized for a job posting that required publishing in a “high-impact journal.”

In as early as 1990 Boyer expressed concern regarding the over emphasis on research and publication for academic recognition and advancement rather than teaching and service. He offered a new and broader view of Scholarship to include four overlapping areas; Discovery, Integration, Application, and Teaching. Glassick (2000) expanded on Boyer with a proposed method of assessing the quality of Scholarship by asking whether the activity has; clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results effective presentation, and reflective critique.

Boyer, Glassick, and others have noted the need for change; with administrators and committees charged with rank advancement and tenure, the two most contentious. Combining the writings of the noted scholars; Lee Shulman, PhD, President Emeritus, Carnegie Foundation; Derek W. M. Barker, Kettering Foundation; and Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, PhD, and Dale Lackeyram University of Guelph provides a more expansive discussion which would include the Scholarships of Engagement and Learning.  Combining both areas provides an easy to remember anagram, “DETAIL.”

Discovery (Original research) – Research where new and unique knowledge is generated. This could include the additional area of evaluation; observational research, correlational research, true experiments, and quasi-experiments.  The research results in sharing at conferences or in publications.

  • Asks the question, “What is to be known, what is yet to be found?”

Engagement (Public Scholarship) – This area may include a distinct set of practices toward civic renewal and addresses social and environmental issues.

  • Asks the question, “What can academic institutions bring to use on pressing social, civic, and ethical problems present in communities?”

Teaching (Innovation, evaluation and sharing) – The teacher creatively builds bridges between his or her own understanding and the students’ learning. It centers on the systematic study of pedagogical issues within the discipline.

  • Asks the question, “What builds bridges between understanding and learning by transmitting, transforming, and extending knowledge”

Application (Practice and engagement) – The emphasis is on the use of new knowledge in solving society’s problems. Application takes already existing theories and applies them to problems within the field to extend disciplinary knowledge. 

  • Asks the questions, “How can knowledge be responsibly applied to consequential problems, and how can it be helpful to individuals as well as institutions?”

Integration (Cross discipline) – Integration involves synthesis of information across disciplines.  New relationships among disciplines are discovered.  These can include trans, multi, inter, and cross disciplinary research. This gives meaning to the Scholarship of Discovery by answering the question, “What is to be known, what is yet to be found?” “What do the findings mean beyond the researcher’s own discipline?”

  • Asks the questions, “What we are doing well and identify areas where we might like/need more training or guidance.”

Learning (Professional development) – This area can involve three elements: self-assessment of one’s own learning style; modification or improvement which can take advantage of various professional development opportunities. It is also part of the professional identity of the scholar. In order to develop our knowledge further, we must be able to reflect on our current practice.

  • Asks the questions, “What we are doing well and identify areas where we might like/need more training or guidance.”

The California Community College system has taken the lead in promoting Scholarship among the 115 Colleges by implementing a Flex Calendar Program.  Due to a rapid growth and hiring of new faculty in the late 60s, the need for a comprehensive faculty development program became apparent.  The purpose of the flexible calendar program is to provide time for faculty to participate in development activities that are related to “staff, student, and instructional improvement” (Title 5, section 55720).

The flexible calendar provides for the time to work individually or with groups to achieve improvement in three distinct areas: 1) Staff improvement, 2) Student improvement, and 3) Instructional improvement. 

The flexibility in meeting Scholarship is evidenced by FLEX activities which “…can be, but are not limited to, training programs, group retreats, field experiences, and workshops in activities such as course and program development and revision, staff development activities, development of new instructional materials, and other instruction-related activities” (CCR, title 5, division 6, chapter 6, sub-chapter 8, article 2, section 55724, item a-4). For a comprehensive review of the Flex Calendar Program, “Guidelines for the Implementation of the Flexible Calendar Program” (Summer, ed, n.d.). 

Table 1. Recommended Evaluation of Flexible Calendar Program Activities

Type Description
Level 1: Reaction Determines what participants think about the
program or activity.
Level 2: Achievement Measures participants’ achievement. Determine whether facts, skills, or knowledge were attained
Level 3: Behavior Determines if participants have modified their
on-the-job behavior and are using the information obtained through the program or activities.
Level 4: Impact Measures whether training has had a positive impact on the organization including student outcomes, improved morale, etc.


Alberts, Bruce (May 17, 2013). “Impact Factor Distortions”. Science. 340 (6134): 787. doi:10.1126/science.1240319. PMID 23687012.

Barker, Derek. “The scholarship of engagement: A taxonomy of five emerging practices.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 9, no. 2 (2004): 123-137.

Boyer, Ernest L. Scholarship reconsidered: Priorities of the professoriate. Princeton University Press, 3175 Princeton Pike, Lawrenceville, NJ 08648., 1990.

Glassick, Charles E. “Boyer’s expanded definitions of scholarship, the standards for assessing scholarship, and the elusiveness of the scholarship of teaching.” Academic Medicine 75, no. 9 (2000): 877-880.

Plume, Andrew, and Daphne Van Weijen. “Publish or perish? The rise of the fractional author.” Research Trends 38, no. 3 (2014): 16-18.

Shulman, Lee S. “Visions of the possible: Models for campus support of the scholarship of teaching and learning.” The scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education: Contributions of research universities (2004): 9-23.

Summer, Jo (Ed.). (n.d.). Guidelines for the Implementation of the Flexible Calendar Program. Retrieved June 26, 2019, from

Willox, Ashlee Cunsolo, and Dale Lackeyram. “(Re) considering the scholarship of learning: Inviting the elephant in the room to tea.” International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning 3, no. 1 (2009): 27.

Additional resources

Barker, Derek. “The scholarship of engagement: A taxonomy of five emerging practices.” Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 9, no. 2 (2004): 123-137. Boyer, Ernest L. “The scholarship of engagement.” Bulletin of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 49, no. 7 (1996): 18-33.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Defining scholarship for the discipline of nursing.” Journal of Professional Nursing 15, no. 6 (1999): 372-376.

Shapiro, Eugene D., and David L. Coleman. “The scholarship of application.” Academic Medicine 75, no. 9 (2000): 895-898.

David E. Balch, PhD, holds an earned Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Human Behavior and Leadership from Alliant International University and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from Pepperdine University. He has been teaching college-level courses since 1964 and currently serves as Professor of Public Service at Rio Hondo College, where he teaches a course in the Public Service field.