Comparative Analysis Of The Research And Publication Patterns In British Journal Of Religious Education And Religious Education
A comparison is made of the contents and contributors to the British Journal of Religious Education (UK) and Religious Education (North America).
A content analysis of each journal was conducted for a 10-year period between 1992-2002. A total of 20 volumes were analyzed, with attention given to types of research published, composition of review boards, authors' gender, affiliation, religious identity, position, geographic location, and number of contributions. The question of what each journal can learn from the other is addressed, and implications for the field are drawn.
The state of the refereed journals in a field is frequently indicative of the status of the research in that field. In this article, we address the condition of the research in religious education in the UK and in North America by comparing their two most significant journals, Religious Education and the British Journal of Religious Education. We have assessed each journal for a 10-year period and now contrast them on the basis of a number of items: types of research published, composition of review boards, authors' gender, affiliation, religious identity, position, geographic location, and number of contributions. The question of what each journal can learn from the other is addressed, and implications for the field are drawn. (For results of our review of RE see English, D'Souza, and Chartrand 2005; for BJRE see English, D'Souza, and Chartrand 2003.) We believe that it is important at the turn of the millennium to look both inward to one's own record and outward to the record of similar publications, in order to learn more about the possibilities for publishing quality journals. There is much to be gained by comparison, especially to journals within the same field. Given globalization and the increasing demand of publishers that journals seek a more international constituency, it seems particularly important for editors and researchers to cast their eyes afield to what they can learn from colleagues in different contexts. Furthermore, these cross-journal comparisons are commonplace in education generally, although religious education has not engaged in them (see, for example, Hayes, 1992; Hayes and Smith 1994; Thompson and Schied 1996).
There are a considerable number of limitations to this analysis. One is that we chose only a 10-year period when, indeed, each journal is much older; Religious Education (RE) was first published in 1906 and the British Journal of Religious Education (BJRE) began as Religion in Education in 1934. second, we realize that BJRE is focused primarily on school-based religious education, and that RE is intended to include research on a wider variety of venues, including religious education in houses of worship and in the community. In the absence of a closer match of journals, we have chosen to compare these two in terms they hold in common. Furthermore, we would like to have done a deeper analysis of themes and topics, but the format of the journals rendered this analysis somewhat problematic. In RE, for instance, the absence of clear statement of methodology and keywords made it difficult to ascertain with any degree of certainty the actual research approach of the article.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON EACH JOURNAL
The British Journal of Religious Education incorporates the earlier journals Religion in Education (1934-961) and Learning/or Living (1961-1978). For 25 years, 1971-1996, Volume 10(4) of Learning for Living until Volume 18(3) of BJRE, the editor was the distinguished professor of religious education, John Hull, from the University of Birmingham (see Bates 2002, 9). The editorship was assumed by Professor Robert Jackson (Warwick University) with Volume 19(1) in 1996. Therefore, during the 10-year period that this research covers, Drs. John Hull and Robert Jackson were editors.
The BJRE is published by Christian Education (formerly the Christian Education Movement) in Britain, an ecumenical education charity that works throughout the UK. The aims of Christian Education are "to support religious and moral education in schools, to increase awareness of the often unstated beliefs and values by which people live, and to articulate Christian perspectives in education" (see inside cover of BJRE). The BJRE is informally linked with the Professional Council for Religious Education, the main professional body for teachers of religious education in England and Wales. BJRE also has informal links with the membership of the Association of University Lecturers in Religions and Education (AULRE, previously known as CULRE). The focus of BJRE is scholarship and research relating to school-level religious education, with an emphasis on religious education as understood in the UK publicly funded school sector (i.e., religious education as education rather than nurture or formation) (personal correspondence with Robert Jackson).
The BJRE is published 3 times per year, with a current average of 4-5 articles appearing in every issue. The submitted article goes through an anonymous review process and is read by two independent referees, who write detailed reports for the editors. If referees disagree, a third referee is consulted. The official records/statistics on the Journal, which were first tabulated in 1998, show that the BJRE has about a 50% rejection rate (personal communication with Robert Jackson).
The review board of the BJRE is comprised of a number of individuals who are chosen solely for their academic ability as scholars and researchers in the field of religious education (or related fields). Referees can be from any religious background or none, and they have a wide variety of personal views. Most are UK academics, but international referees are regularly consulted, especially with regard to contributions from abroad (personal communication with R. Jackson).
Religious Education, which was first published in 1906, has had a range of editors, including Henry F. Cope, Frank G. Ward, Clifford Manshardt, Laird T. Hites, Joseph Artman, Leonard Stidley, Paul H. Vieth, John Westerhoff III, Jack D. Spiro, and Randolph Crump Miller (longest serving editor, term from 1958-1978).2 During the 10-year period that this article covers, Hanan Alexander (then of University of Judaism, Los Angles, CA) was editor for Volumes 88(1), up until Theodore Brelsford (Emory University, Atlanta) became editor in 96(1). So, in some sense, the articles in each journal (BJRE and RE) bear the imprint of the editors. RE is sponsored by the Religious Education Association (REA) and the Association of Professors and Researchers in Religious Education (APRRE), both North American ecumenical and interfaith bodies, which in November 2004, joined to become the Religious Education Association, Inc.
RE has a policy of having all papers reviewed by at least two external anonymous reviewers before the paper is accepted (personal communication with T. Brelsford). The review board of the journal is selected by the editor and is representative of denominational and religious traditions, as well as academic and research strengths. During the 10-year period under review, RE, with few exceptions (in Volume 90, issues 3 and 4 were combined), published 4 times per year, with 1 issue per year being devoted to selected conference papers. Each of the 39 issues had a theme title (for 3 of the 4 issues, the theme was identified by the editor), and the conference theme was used for the issue that contained conference papers (the theme was selected by APRRE's president). This pre-identification of themes makes it difficult to analyze or identify main themes in the research, because the titles and topics often follow the suggestions given, yet some effort was made to do this.
METHODS FOR THE RESEARCH
The usual procedure for conducting a content analysis is to follow the methods used in previous content analyses of that journal. The new results can then be compared with prior results to identify trends and changes. However, we were unable to identify any previous studies of either RE or BJRE.3 For that reason, we chose to devise our own schema or categories of analysis. A graduate student was employed to collect and analyze data.
We narrowed our journal choice to BJRE and RE for several reasons. To begin with, these journals are both ecumenical and interfaith (not single denomination or religion), anonymous peer-reviewed (not editor-reviewed only), and intended to be a vehicle for publishing religious education research only (as distinct from journals that include religious education, theology, and pastoral concerns, or some combination thereof). We were unable to identify other journals in North America or the United Kingdom (or Europe) that met these criteria. We did not include book reviews in our analysis, although BJRE and RE publish reviews.