Research Matters Blog
In an age of self publishing – including blogs, videos, and other Web-based media – why do we still seek to publish in traditional academic peer-reviewed journals? Vanity.
ResearchImpact-York published two academic papers in 2009. In 2010 we had one in press, two submitted, and one just rejected for a second time, from the same journal. Since our first post on May 30, 2008, ResearchImpact has published 206 blogs on Mobilize This!, an average of 6 or 7 each month.
Here’s a comparison of blogging and peer-reviewed publishing:
TIME: I started drafting our paper on ResearchSnapshot clear language summaries in July 2009. I submitted with revisions in September. It just got rejected. I can write a blog in about one hour and get it posted in 20 minutes.
ACCESS: We published our first paper on York’s KMb Unit in Evidence & Policy [Phipps, D.J. and Shapson, S. 2009. Knowledge mobilisation builds local research collaboration for social innovation. Evidence & Policy. 5(3): 211-227]. I have no idea who, apart from my mother, has read this paper. Mobilize This! has received 55,171 page views as of December 28, 2010 and has a subscriber list of over 1200. Blogs are accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Except for Open Access journals, most journals limit access to those who can afford a subscription.
RESPONSIVENESS: Blogging also has the added feature of allowing readers to respond by leaving comments. Try the comment feature below to leave your thoughts and let everyone know what you’re thinking. Now, try to do the same with a peer-reviewed paper you’ve printed out.
PAYBACK: I am not an academic. Unlike scholars seeing tenure and promotion based on their publications, my publications do not have an impact on how my performance is measured.
If it takes less time to reach more people in a two-way fashion, why do I take the trouble to publish in peer-reviewed journals if it doesn’t benefit me in any way?
Peer review provides a level of quality control; however, so does blogging. If you don’t find our writing valuable you won’t return to this blog or you’ll tell us so. And even though I believe peer-reviewed publishing and blogging are complementary, both take time. So why do we continue to take the time to pursue both forms of dissemination when blogging seems to meet our needs?
In practical terms, publishing in peer-reviewed journals gives us credibility in the eyes of one of our key constituents: faculty. Faculty’s currency is peer review. We gain credibility when faculty peers approve our work and find it worthy of publication. But the real truth is, publishing in peer-reviewed journals provides a sense of personal satisfaction that boarders on vanity. I enjoy the sense of satisfaction when faculty peers (finally) approve our publications. At the end of the day my ego is stroked when our work is accepted for peer-reviewed publication as well as when I receive comments on Mobilize This! Together, these two forms allow you, the KMb stakeholder, to know that our work is not only immediate, accessible and engaging (thank you, blogging!) but it also has the peer reviewed seal of approval (even if the seal is delayed by 12-18 months).
As Web 2.0 and open access move into the academy I predict we will increasingly see a blend of peer-reviewed and online media. To get to there from here all we need to do is change tenure and promotion, peer review, and the academic publishing industry. I’ll get right on that….after my next blog…
ResearchImpact is a service-oriented program designed to connect university research with research users across Canada to ensure that research helps to inform decision-making. This article was originally published in ResearchImpact's blog, Mobilize This!.
Housing first is a crucially important model for addressing homelessness. As mentioned recently by Stephen Gaetz, we need to shift the resources from managing homelessness to focusing on prevention and rapid rehousing. It has been said before, and I say it again, homelessness is a housing problem.
However, although I have previously argued for the importance of focusing on politics and policy, that should not be the full extent of our work on addressing homelessness. So, although the model is ‘housing first’ we also need to think about what is second, and third. In this vein, I have found a 3-level model to be helpful: Policy, Public Perceptions, and Personal Engagement.
I will say little about policy, as there are many amazing resources already available (for example this and this), other than to suggest that each service provider or researcher has many opportunities to become involved in policy development, if only at the municipal committee level to start with. For example, myself and other members of the London Homelessness Outreach Network sit on local committees around homelessness and housing, and community advisory boards for service agencies.
As for public perceptions, this is of key importance as political will follows public will. If there is no will in our communities, provinces, and nations to proactively address homelessness, then politicians will have no incentive to move resources towards this issue. A large part of this in Canada is confronting perceptions that homelessness is a personal problem based on bad choices. We need to find ways to creatively engage with the general population to outline the challenges in our society that make homelessness an inevitability. I had an opportunity to do this at a TED talks style event in London, addressing some of the popular misconceptions (see the video below). For me this highlights the value of arts-informed research as a means of interacting with those who would not be reached by traditional methods of knowledge translation.
Personal engagement has proven to be the most difficult, and yet the simplest, component of addressing homelessness. Social disaffiliation and strong class systems are major barriers to altering homelessness and poverty in general. Ask yourself, do I have any friends who live in absolute poverty? People experiencing homelessness have long pointed out that a move out of homelessness is often just a move to being a second-class citizen, one living in poverty. Our social systems, such as our neighbourhoods, are structured to divide people by socio-economic status, so it takes will and intention to break this down. And yet, it is so very simple. Personal engagement with homelessness can be as simple as volunteering at a local soup kitchen, spending time at a drop-in centre, or hanging out regularly at a downtown library. I have found the homeless community to be incredibly friendly, the barriers are all ours to break.
Abe Oudshoorn is a Registered Nurse and faculty member at the School of Nursing, The University of Western Ontario. Abe’s clinical experience and academic research focus on health and homelessness, and Abe has recently founded the London Homelessness Outreach Network (www.londonhon.ca). Abe blogs at www.abeoudshoorn.com/blog, would be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org, or can be followed on twitter @abeoudshoorn.
How to make friends using social media
Twitter – What a concept!
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Let's not forget about e-mail
Stephanie Szakall is the Homeless Hub Coordinator. She's been working in the social justice field for over 5 years as a multimedia/web and graphic designer. She has an HonBA from McMaster University. Upon graduation, she spent 2 years working in the Communications department for a human rights NGO in Geneva, Switzerland.
By Stephen Hwang & Emily Holton
For the first time in Canada, we have the numbers to show that people who are vulnerably housed face the same severe health problems - and danger of assault - as people who are homeless. This means that the number of people experiencing the devastating health outcomes associated with inadequate housing could be staggering. There are about 17,000 shelter beds available across Canada every night, but almost 400,000 Canadians are vulnerably housed. This means that for each person who is homeless in Canada, there are more than 20 other low-income individuals who are vulnerably housed - paying more than half of their monthly income for rent, and living with substantial risk of becoming homeless. We’ve shed light on a hidden emergency.
For the Health and Housing in Transition (HHiT) study, we interviewed 1200 vulnerably housed and homeless single adults in Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. The results were disturbing. People who don’t have a healthy place to live - regardless of whether they’re vulnerably housed or homeless - are at high risk of serious physical and mental health problems and major problems accessing the health care they need. Many end up hospitalized or in the emergency department. Almost half (40%) of people who don’t have a healthy place to live have been assaulted at least once in the past year, and 1 in 3 (33%) have trouble getting enough to eat.
Check out the report on our early findings here: Housing Vulnerability and Health: Canada’s Hidden Emergency. We’re presenting it today at National Housing Day in Ottawa. Over the next two years, the HHiT study will continue to track the health and housing status of our participants. The results will help us better understand how changes in housing status can affect health. They will also help us to identify factors that help people achieve stable, healthy housing.
Having a roof over one’s head is not enough. The HHiT results showed us that the real gulf in health outcomes doesn’t lie between people who are homeless and people who aren’t homeless. It’s between those who have continued access to healthy housing, and those who don’t. To support health, housing must be decent (i.e. good quality), stable (i.e. affordable), and appropriate to its residents’ needs. We’re calling for the federal government to respond by setting national housing standards that ensure universal, timely access to healthyhousing. The need is overwhelming.
Stephen Hwang's primary appointment is in the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto, with cross-appointments in the Departments of Public Health Sciences and Health Policy, Management and Evaluation. His research focuses on deepening our understanding of the relationship between homelessness, housing, and health through epidemiologic studies, health services research, and longitudinal cohort studies. His current research projects include a study of predictors of health care utilization in a representative sample of 1,200 homeless men, women, and families in Toronto, a study of the barriers to the management of chronic pain among homeless people, and an evaluation of the effects of a supportive housing program on health and health care utilization among homeless and hard-to-house individuals.
Emily Holton is a research writer and knowledge transfer specialist at the Centre for Research on Inner City Health, St. Michael's Hospital.
When we talk about the Canadian response to homelessness, we usually refer to things like emergency shelters, charitable food programs, drop ins and other supports. One of the things we don’t talk about enough is the relationship between homelessness and criminal justice. That is, one of the central features of our response is the use of policing, courts and jails as a way of dealing with homelessness.
A recently released report by the John Howard society presents a powerful indictment (if I can use court language) of this situation. In their study, Homeless and Jailed, Jailed and Homeless, the JHS research team interviewed 363 sentenced prisoners, and they uncovered some disturbing findings. For instance, I think that many Canadians would be surprised to learn that roughly one in every five prisoners was homeless immediately prior to winding up in jail.
What about when they are to be released? What these reseachers found was that 85.5% of those who were formerly homeless anticipated being homeless upon release. Worse still, 16.4% of those who were housed before serving jail time anticipated being homeless upon release. In other words, incarceration is likely producing homelessness.
The writers argue: "Homeless prisoners are a vulnerable group – they tend to be older, 22.3 percent are 50 years of age or older. A high proportion of them, 43.3 percent, have severe health impairments. Most of them rely on income support programs, whose benefits they lose while in jail; in many cases, they must re-apply for these benefits after they are discharged."
So what can we learn from all this? Here are some key things to think about:
First, our reliance on using "emergency services" as our key response to homelessness in Canada (as opposed to preventing people from becoming homeless, or rapidly rehousing them) puts homeless people in harms way, and leads to a cycle of homelessness / prison / homelessness.
Second, we need to acknowledge that a central feature of our response to homelessness is the criminalization of the homeless. Whether through ticketing, special laws like the Safe Streets Act, or local efforts to ‘clean up the streets’, we use the justice system as a central strategy to deal with homelessness and extreme poverty. We need to ask, ‘why are we putting so many homeless people in jail?” This is a pretty expensive way to deal with the problem.
Finally, we need to some serious reforms in corrections if we want to address the problem of homelessness. One of the outcomes of the ‘get tough on crime’ movement has been a set of reforms that reduce in-prison rehabilitation programs, and undermine effective discharge planning. Discharge planning helps prepare prisoners for release from prision (and the vast majority do get released!) and should include ensuring people have a safe place to stay.
We know from other research (here, here and here) that inadequate discharge planning often leads to homelessness, and that ex-prisoners who become homeless do less well than those who are able to secure housing. In a sense, the lack of effective discharge planning becomes a ‘crime production’ policy and practice.
The cycle between prison and jail is one that we must address, and can stop.
For additional reading, see the Homeless Hub's Legal and Justice Issues topic:
Also see the Safe Streets Act, 1999, of Ontario.
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The analysis and interpretations contained in the blog posts are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness.