Reading academic journals

During flights I like to read academic journals cover to cover. Some of those moments of quiet reflection influenced the way I see the world. My interest in the field of public administration was sparked by a stack of Public Administration Review issues (PAR). They were sitting in the University of Kansas public administration department student lounge. My thesis advisor Elaine had told me if I did not enjoy reading journals from the field I may not have enough passion for graduate work. Students these days get so focused on drilling down into specific research areas. They sometimes cannot see the tallest trees in the forest. Mastery of a subject requires general understanding of the entire subject area.

Digital copies of journal articles have become ubiquitous. Some of them include the entire issue, but some of them are piecemeal. Single serving versions of what was a wider journey into the field. Students that only search databases may never venture beyond the edges of a targeted search. A world of knowledge becomes reduced to a limited frame. I think of it like going to an art gallery and only looking at the frames and ignoring the paintings.

Our native capacity to weave concepts together helped us build the intellectual walls of the academy. I fear that modern approaches are degrading our capacity to build new sections of the academy. We stand at a crossroads where derivative work is outpacing innovation. Now is the time to take action. The need for change is real.

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