Among the most effective ways an Institution of Higher Education can advance in national and international rankings is to support their faculty and students in developing their capacity to publish. However, research suggests that most academics have no formal training in writing for publication. Only 15% of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows report having been required to take a course or workshop on academic writing or publishing skills, and over 60% of both groups report that they feel unprepared for publishing. That said, survey and interview research has established that graduate students and post-doctoral fellows are motivated to enhance their writing skills via participation in programs like Publication Academy, especially because being published before applying for tenure track positions increases visibility and improves the likelihood of international faculty collaborations. In fact, participation in an academic writing and publishing program has been found to not only increase manuscript quality and rates of publication but also to promote career advancement, with a previous study having found that half of program participants go onto higher-level academic positions within two years of program completion.
The pursuit of scholarly productivity has been found to evoke stress and frustration not only in students but also in a majority of faculty members, whose career advancement is closely linked to their publication portfolios. A seminal survey by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute of more than 40,000 US faculty members revealed that 26% of professors spent 0 hours per week writing and that 27% had never published a peer-reviewed journal article. In the two years before the survey, 43% of faculty members had not published a single paper. These low rates of publication output have been confirmed in additional surveys conducted throughout the past 20 years.
It is important for Institutions of Higher Education to encourage publication, as there is a strong association between research output and university reputation, impacting enrollment rates, faculty and graduate student retention, and external funding opportunities. Many countries use ratings assigned by a panel of assessors – based on an Institute of Higher Education’s number of new publications (scored on originality, significance, and rigor), whether they were journal articles or other forms of publication, the impact factor of journals in which publications appeared, and overall citation counts – to inform the allocation of future government funding. Examples of countries with such national assessments of research excellence include Australia, Denmark, England, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and South Africa among others. Economic analyses in such countries have shown that the cost of academic writing and publishing skills programs such as Publication Academy are marginal, given that the incremental government funding received as a result of the increased publication rate can amount to over $3 million USD per institution.