International[a] Publication’s Philosophy and Trends: the Situation of Knowledge Synthesis in the Arab World Scientific Organizations
Mustafa Shazali Mustafa Ahmed
The study displays the real situation of the Arab universities and scientific organizations (intermediaries) in synthesizing their own research. There are a lot of international research contributions that have been written by the Arab and non- Arab Scholars. Arab universities should draw their attention to these works by synthesizing them and inundate the Arab policy- makers with policy briefs that may help serve their strategic plans. Those Who work in the different Arab universities should be employed to guarantee research quality and inundate the Arab policy-makers with competing research, appropriate synthesis, and policy briefs which may help a country in what is called knowledge management and how this kind of knowledge may serve its plans. The paper has collected its data by generating and grounding in observations, developing tentative general conclusions (hypothesis) that may suggest new types of further observations. The paper also touches lightly on some qualitative and quantitative methods of synthesis and provides some background information about the knowledge of synthesis itself. The paper has contributed by enlightening the issue of synthesis as the most important category to be seriously considered when universities or countries are planning for the future. The paper also arrived at that most of the Arab universities have not yet reached to the right path of synthesizing their own scientific research.
Keywords: international scientific research, knowledge management, scientific organizations, synthesis.
Author: Department of English Language, Al- Jouf University-Faculty of Arts and Sciences-Tabarjal.
All the three levels of epistemology need to be synthesized in order to remove the doubt of the previous findings and to account for the future systematic research. According to (Sheridan, 2008, p.1) the first level of epistemology is empiricism (to observe the facts), the second, is rationalism (think things through), and the third one is constructivism (formulate new ideas). As a researcher, you can draw on these levels so as to get around the solution to your research problem and hypotheses. Epistemology with this sense (how we know about reality) is itself one dimension of the three dimensions of what is called perspectivity whose other two dimensions are ontology (what reality consists of), and kinesiology (how reality changes). The term “synthesis” is an idea with a history, implications, and consequences that should be well shaped. (Sheridan, 1988). For those who do not practice this kind of research synthesis, he gave the analogy sleepwalkers. This appears in the following quotation :
"...Otherwise, you simply sleepwalking through the knowledge society, going through the motions without ever being self-conscious about what you are doing. As a result, your narrower perspective will cognitively disable you from working at the leading edge of creativity and productivity.”
Hess (2008, p.3) showed that there are real benefits to the democratization of education research via the Internet, however, there are still some elements to be considered like sample construction, measurement error, or internal validity. He said that in the conventional approach to dissemination, scholars usually depend on conferences, professional associations, books, and scholarly journals to communicate their findings. For this kind of international publication, he raised a very important question about how research quality can be ensured and provided policymakers with the findings of competing research, synthesis, and policy briefs. What matters in this paper is how the Arab – universities benefit from their scholars’ international publications? As an answer to this question in the USA, Hess showed that there are some intermediary organizations who take this task of distilling, explaining, and promoting and synthesizing research to public officials if it is to be beneficial. Hess went further yet and showed three categories of these intermediaries. The first is that of expert, not- partisan groups, such as Education Commission of the States, Editorial Projects in Education, or regional education research and development laboratories. These groups perceive their impartiality and focus on only synthesizing available scholarship. The second category includes membership groups, such as the National Education Association, Council of the Great City Schools, or the National School Boards Association. These groups promote research findings that commensurable to their interests and to their policy agendas. The third category includes mission-driven or ideological organizations such as the Education Trust, the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Education Reform, and the Center for American Progress (CAP). This third category promotes work that adheres their ideological or philosophical approaches to school improvement. Hess showed that researchers may face informal pressures from funders and allies to soft-pedal their findings if later work shows different policy implications. He concludes that the tension between these intermediary organizations who are seeking to accumulate knowledge and those who are making policy is frustrating but it is a unique feature in a democratic nation of today.
The present paper follows a qualitative approach (field research) to study the situation of the Arab high institutions and universities in synthesizing their scientific research and to see if there are already established academic scientific bodies for that task. In order to undertake that task, the study follows Glazer and Strauss (1967, p. 557) who argued that ‘ theories generated from and grounded in, observations of the empirical world had a better chance to be useful and valid'. The study approaches its objectives by inductively detecting observations and patterns from the available data of research synthesis and the procedures of the international publications. Then, through the use of constant comparisons, (deductive process) the study has developed new concepts and working hypotheses about the situation of these patterns (scientific organizations in the Arab world universities). It is important to mention here that our world is going through phases of development, from technology management to data management, to information management, and most recently to what is called knowledge management. The paper uses the unobtrusive observation (the researcher as a complete observer) to decide about the Arab scientific organizations as essential bodies affiliated to Arab universities. This has been done by reviewing some literature to see if there are Arabic scientific organizations for scientific research synthesis among the many international scientific organizations in the world who serve that purpose.
4.1 Research Synthesis as a Scientific Process
A research synthesis always attempts to create generalizations by integrating different research reports been undertaken by different authors. The synthesists’ aim is to provide statements about evidence that is not to be affected by bias, or by their academic inclinations. Hess(2008, p.1) for example, drew the attention of the relation between education research and policy; and showed the importance of research synthesis in both: scientifically - based research” and “evidence-based practice” in determining this kind of relation by supplying the policymakers with the accurate decisions. The most important element in research synthesis is to avoid subjectivity and propose a rationale statistical integration of findings by extracting information from different research reports. Synthesis as a scientific process also considers much the methodological variations in research to increase the interjudge reliability of the reports understudy. Gene Glass’s (1976, p.3) term “meta-analysis” used as a replacement for “research synthesis”. Meta-analysis according to Gene Glass refers to:
“the statistical analysis of a large collection of analysis results from individual studies for the purpose of integrating the findings”
4.2 Methods of synthesis
There are many methods of knowledge synthesis with different names. It seems important for future reviewers or synthesists to select the appropriate one that fits their purpose. A synthesis of the findings from different studies become a crucial step in our world of today (Thorne (et al.) 2004 a center for Reviews and dissemination). That is, knowledge users including researchers, funders, and journal editors always use Google, relevant discipline-based listservs, and websites of agencies to distill the relevant electronic databases and literature reviews that are most compatible with their specific questions and knowledge synthesis research. Kastner (et al.) (2012, p.5) stated the following quotation when synthesizing literature of previous research.
“The Literature search will be supplemented by scanning the reference lists of included studies, searching author’s personal files, and contracting methodological experts in each field”
Kastner et al. also illustrated (2012, pp.3-5) a list of existing knowledge synthesis methods (quantitative/qualitative or mixed) with a brief description of each one of them. The present paper will, however, be confined to only highlighting the names of some of these methods in the following table. To select the appropriate knowledge synthesis on a specific question, and to summarize all the pertinent studies on that question is something left to the scientific bodies of synthesis around the world.
Table 1: List of Existing knowledge synthesis Methods
Mixed (qualitative and quantitative)
Mixed studies review
Critical interpretive synthesis
Interpretive synthesis/Integrative synthesis
Narrative review/ narrative summary
Qualitative cross-case analysis
Quantitative case review
Textual narrative synthesis
Qualitative systematic review/Qualitative evidence synthesis
It is noticeable, as shown in the table (1), that in recent years there is a considerable number of methods for synthesizing qualitative research. From the above table, the percentage of this kind of synthesis is 56.1%, while the percentage of the combination between qualitative and quantitative research is 44%.
4.2.1 Main characteristics of qualitative methods
The qualitative methods in the table(1) have certain applications and practical illustrations of what exactly is to be synthesized, and how to provide useful research synthesis to policymakers from thousand of questions in a particular topic conducted by different studies. This, however, requires from the synthesists to select the appropriate method that really helps achieve what is required for the synthesis in question. Qualitative methods, in general, have mutual characteristics such as categorizing data, determining frequencies, providing mutual interdependent relationships, reanalyzing texts of published studies, rearranging data into charts, etc. That is, they always combine separate elements to form a coherent whole via logical deduction, or using an inductive approach to extract theory from certain data.
4.2.2 Main characteristics of mixed methods
This is a coding data system which is intended to convert qualitative studies to the quantitative form of statistical analysis. This type of synthesis attempts to produce an account of evidence by using both qualitative and quantitative evidence- based research.
4.3 Models of International Renowned research centers
It is evident that the role of research synthesis in building constructive epistemologies is growing rapidly. It has included many disciplines such as psychology, education and recently it has spread in the medical sciences and social policy analysis (Cooper, and Hedges, 2009, p.10). They indicate two centers in the U.K. for medical sciences’ synthesis, U.K. Cochrane Center which established in 1992, and the other one is the Cochrane Collaboration in 1993. Both Centers are meant to promote an international network of systematic reviews of the effects of interventions across healthcare practices. The Cochrane Collaboration in (2006) reached a level of harnessing 11,000 people from more than ninety countries. It is now considered as one of the most benchmarks for determining the effectiveness of different healthcare interventions.
There are also multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals which provided a scientific consensus that the earth’s climate is warming (http://www.wrsc.org/story/scientific- earth). These journals show that 97 percent of what has been published in this issue claim that climate– warming trends over the past century are often substantially due to human activities. The following table shows partial lists of some of the leading scientific organization who are endorsing this position. There are three types of the organization as identified by Hess(2008) and he called them intermediaries since they stand neutrally between the academic body of research in university and the intended policymakers. It is to be noted that these synthesists are sometimes given other names like societies, associations, union, academies, agencies. The writer of this paper also uses unobtrusive observation as a complete observer to decide an approximate percentage of the participation of Arab scientific bodies’ synthesis in this field of global warming. Having not got scientific bodies of synthesis in a university does mean that the particular university has no research on the topic, but it means that the university should attempt to establish such bodies to promote its scientifically based research to evidence-based practice one.
Table 2: Summary of Statements on Global Climate Change of Some of the Scientific Organizations worldwide
The Scientific Organizations
Statements on Global Climate Change
American scientific societies
It is clear that climate change is occurring and that the greenhouse gases are emitted by human activities. (2009)
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Global climate change caused by human activities is occurring now. (2006)
American Chemical Society (ACS)
Climate change is real, largely attributable to emissions from human activities. (2004)
American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Humanity is the major influence on the global climate change observed over the past 50 years (Adopted 2003, revised and reaffirmed 2007, 2012, 2013)
American Medical Association (AMA)
It supports the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth assessment report that the earth is undergoing adverse global climate change. (2013)
American Meteorological Society
According to evidence-based practice research that the rapid change in the climate of the past half century is human-induced increases in a number of atmospheric greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, methane, and nitrous oxide. (2012)
American Physical Society (APS)
Global warming is [email protected] we must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now (2007)
The Geological Society of America
It concurs with assessments by the National Academies of science (2005), the national research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC, 2007) that climate change is occurring.
International Academies: Joint Statement
It states that climate change is real. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (2005, 11 international science academies)
U.S. Government Academies of Sciences
Climate change is real. Steps should be taken to reduce the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (2005)
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Climate change appears in ocean heat content, precipitation, atmospheric moisture, and Arctic sea ice. (2009, 13 U.S. government departments and agencies).
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC)
This agency confirms also that climate change is real. It is now evident from the observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow.
List of worldwide scientific organizations
All of them (200 worldwide scientific organization) state that the position of climate change has been caused by human action. http://opr.ca.govls_listoforganizatios.php
This site contains information on what federal agencies are now doing to adapt to climate change,
The writer of this paper and by using the complete observer strategy, and by navigating the two sites mentioned in the above table has noticed that most of the scientific leading organization worldwide that mentioned in these sites are American. Also, there is no substantial mentioning of the Arab world organizations who help synthesize for global climate change.
4.4 The Impact Factor and its effects on Knowledge Synthesis
The impact factor is one of the bibliometric indicators that are used to evaluate institutions, scientific research, entire journals, and individual article. Garfield (2002) showed the effect of the impact factor on the following issues : ‘journal and article quality’; ‘ISA journal selection criteria’; ‘acceptance difficulty’; ‘comparison of journal across disciplines’, language of publication, ‘the generalization of a journal’s impact factor to the quality of its individual articles’. Garfield (2002), however, did not discuss the impact factor and its effect on knowledge synthesis. That is, for instance, how can for a country to benefit from its scholars’ international publications? Here, the writer of this paper conducted a survey for two International studies and found that both of them benefited from their scholars’ international publications. The first study was done in Thailand by Hallinger et al(2013) with the title “Synthesis of Findings from 15 years of Educational Reform in Thailand: lessons on Leading Educational Change in East Asia”. The second was conducted in Britain by Thomas and Harden(2008) with title “Methods for Thematic Synthesis of Qualitative Research in Systematic Review”.
What is important when synthesizing international scientific articles is their potential to inform policy and practice with synthesized findings that should be taken from a particular unique context, participants, and time of synthesis. Britton et al (2002) argued against this type of qualitative research synthesis on the grounds that the findings of the individual studies which are put under synthesis are decontextualized and they are triggered from different settings. For example, the first study examined findings from different empirical studies of educational reform and change in Thailand. The second review was Mandated by the Department of Health, England displaying policymakers with some tactics by which to encourage children to eat healthy fruits and vegetables per day. This synthesis is done to confirm the scattered findings of different studies done in Britain which highlighted that British children ‘are eating less than half the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables per day”. In qualitative synthesis, synthesists always focus on interpretive explanation and not predictions and this may be the reason why the reports of the previous two studies had been chosen purposively. Doyle (2003).
The study arrived at that research synthesis in the Arab world is rare and therefore, there is a need to establish scientific bodies of synthesis to meet the cultural potential globalization’s scientific statements. That is, Cooper and Hedges (2009) showed an increasing impact of “research syntheses on knowledge in the sciences and social sciences”. They drew on the Web of Science reference database (2006) to illustrate a figure (1999-2005) which is based on entries in the Science Citation Index and the Social Science Citation. Also, the study found out that most of the Arab international publications are futile because there is no scientific anchorage of synthesis that adopted by the Arab universities to contain and regain this precious scientific production of their scholars.
There is an urgent need for the Arab universities to establish and acculturate its individual researchers on the process of research synthesis as a systematic review that integrates and summarize other studies by bringing together all their findings to be used by the policymakers. Feldman (1971) described four steps in the synthesis process: “sampling topics and studies, developing schemes for indexing and coding materials, integrating the studies, and writing the reports. These four steps and what is mentioned in the table (1) should be thoroughly considered by Arab universities when they plan their future visions.
From the discussion so far, the writer of this paper believes that it is time for the Arab enterprises to establish intermediaries between their academic bodies of research and their policymakers. Arab universities should move from the position of “ scientific- based research” to “ evidence-based research” in order to share their scientific statements with the worldwide, and look at their problems through appropriate contexts, participants and times that are really convenient with research synthesis. That is, the Arab universities should consider in their plans (e.g. Al Jouf University, KSA- 2030) this kind of evidence-based practices and research synthesis. The research to be synthesized should have unique characteristics that completely related to the place and country of the research. The universities scientific bodies( in our case Al-Jouf university in KSA) should place special emphasis on the importance of merging their international publications and local ones for reaching to the effective interpretation and communication of research synthesis that may hopefully help promote the potentialities of the region around the university.
- Britten N, Campbell R, Pope C, Donovan J, Morgan M, Pill R. (2002). Using meta- ethnography to synthesize qualitative research: a worked example. J Health Serv Res Policy., 7: 209-215.
- Cooper, H., and Hedges, L. Valentine, J.C. (2009). The Handbook of Research Synthesis and Meta-Analysis. New York: Russell Sage.
- Doyle LH (2003). Synthesis through meta- ethnography: paradoxes, enhancements, and possibilities. Qual Res 3: 321-344.
- Feldman, Kenneth, A. (1971). Using the work of Others: Some Observations on reviewing and Integrating. Sociology of Education 4, 86-102.
- Glaser, B & Strauss, A (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Chicago: Aldine De Gruyter.
- Glass, Gene V. 1976. “Primary, Secondary, and Meta-Analysis. “Educational Researcher 5(10): 3-8.
- Hess, F. M. (2008). When education research matters. Society, 45(6), 534-539.
- Kastner, M et al (2012). What is the Most Appropriate Knowledge Synthesis Method to Conduct a Review? Protocol for a Scoping review. Retrieved from http://www. biomedcentral.com/1471-2288l12l114.
- Thorne S, Jenson L, Kearney MH, Noblit G, Sandellowski M (2004). Qualitative Metasynthesis: Reflections on methodological Orientation and Ideological Agenda. Qualitative Health Research 14: 1342-1365.
[a]I think everything is okay.