Title

Realizing the promise of occupational science research in today’s academic climate

Start Time

22-10-2011 3:10 PM

End Time

22-10-2011 3:40 PM

Session Type

Event

Abstract

According to Yerxa et al. (1990), occupational science aims to generate a holistic, interdisciplinary corpus of research on socially relevant topics. However, despite committed effort by both individuals and societies like SSO:USA, scholarship on occupation has not always realized that goal (Clark, 2006). Occupational science research has significantly fostered the discipline’s development (Hocking, 2008), yet the discipline’s efforts to become a recognized interdisciplinary force (cf. Rudman et al., 2008) must reconcile with factors that constrain its research agenda. Of particular significance in the U.S. is the university system’s focus on extramural funding: operating within this system, some occupational scientists may be forced to forego certain strands of research in favor of those outlined in funding priorities.

This paper initiates a discussion about how university scholars might realize the promise of occupational science without narrowing the discipline’s scope of exploration. Using one study—a 10-month collaborative ethnography of rural North Carolinian discouraged workers during the recent “Great Recession” (Douthat, 2010)—this paper will stimulate dialogue about several relevant concerns. Convenience sampling through a ministry and other community sites yielded five diverse discouraged workers and 25 other community members as study participants. Participant observation and interview data from these people were analyzed using open and focused coding via the Atlas.ti software. Occupational Questionnaire data from the five discouraged workers also informed the findings. Findings included a challenge to the government’s definition of discouraged workers; a reconceptualization of occupational science’s approach to routine; and a link between occupational possibilities and societal visibility. These findings contributed to a broader consideration of crisis and the social frameworks built upon it, and they generated future research avenues on interdisciplinary topics and conceptual themes in occupational science.

Using the study as a springboard, this paper presents both promises and pitfalls of addressing occupational science’s aims within the university setting. It will highlight topics that fall outside common funding priorities, illustrate difficulties in realizing occupational science’s goals, and suggest ways in which those difficulties may be overcome while remaining viable in the university setting. The goal of this paper is to promote an ongoing conversation about how occupational science research might thrive within the university system and shape our next 10 years as a community of scholars.

Discussion period objectives:

  1. Open a dialogue about the future of university-based research in occupational science.
  2. Initiate a discussion about promises and obstacles to engaging in research that meets the goals of occupational science.
  3. Generate potential solutions/ways forward for future research in occupational science

References

Clark, F. (2006). One person’s thoughts on the future of occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 13(3), 167-179. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2006.9726513

Douthat, N. (2010, April 2). Discouraged workers and the illusion of the v-shaped jobs recovery. Forbes.com. Retrieved from http://blogs.forbes.com/greatspeculations/2010/04/02/discouraged-workers-and-the-illusion-of-the-v-shaped-jobs-recovery/

Hocking, C. (2008). Occupational science: Trends, issues, and international developments. Presentation at the 8th European Congress of Occupational Therapy and the 53rd German Congress of Occupational Therapy, May 22-25, 2008, Hamburg, Germany.

Rudman, D. L., Dennhardt, S., Fok, D., Huot, S., Molke, D., Park, A., & Zur, B. (2008). A vision for occupational science: Reflecting on our disciplinary culture. Journal of Occupational Science, 15(3), 136-146. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14427591.2008.9686623

Yerxa, E. J., Clark, F., Frank, G., Jackson, J., Parham, D., Pierce, D. et al. (1990). An introduction to occupational science: A foundation for occupational therapy in the 21st century. In J. A. Johnson & E. J. Yerxa (Eds.), Occupational Science: The Foundation for New Models of practice (pp. 1-18). Binghamton: Haworth Press.

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Oct 22nd, 3:10 PM Oct 22nd, 3:40 PM

Realizing the promise of occupational science research in today’s academic climate

According to Yerxa et al. (1990), occupational science aims to generate a holistic, interdisciplinary corpus of research on socially relevant topics. However, despite committed effort by both individuals and societies like SSO:USA, scholarship on occupation has not always realized that goal (Clark, 2006). Occupational science research has significantly fostered the discipline’s development (Hocking, 2008), yet the discipline’s efforts to become a recognized interdisciplinary force (cf. Rudman et al., 2008) must reconcile with factors that constrain its research agenda. Of particular significance in the U.S. is the university system’s focus on extramural funding: operating within this system, some occupational scientists may be forced to forego certain strands of research in favor of those outlined in funding priorities.

This paper initiates a discussion about how university scholars might realize the promise of occupational science without narrowing the discipline’s scope of exploration. Using one study—a 10-month collaborative ethnography of rural North Carolinian discouraged workers during the recent “Great Recession” (Douthat, 2010)—this paper will stimulate dialogue about several relevant concerns. Convenience sampling through a ministry and other community sites yielded five diverse discouraged workers and 25 other community members as study participants. Participant observation and interview data from these people were analyzed using open and focused coding via the Atlas.ti software. Occupational Questionnaire data from the five discouraged workers also informed the findings. Findings included a challenge to the government’s definition of discouraged workers; a reconceptualization of occupational science’s approach to routine; and a link between occupational possibilities and societal visibility. These findings contributed to a broader consideration of crisis and the social frameworks built upon it, and they generated future research avenues on interdisciplinary topics and conceptual themes in occupational science.

Using the study as a springboard, this paper presents both promises and pitfalls of addressing occupational science’s aims within the university setting. It will highlight topics that fall outside common funding priorities, illustrate difficulties in realizing occupational science’s goals, and suggest ways in which those difficulties may be overcome while remaining viable in the university setting. The goal of this paper is to promote an ongoing conversation about how occupational science research might thrive within the university system and shape our next 10 years as a community of scholars.

Discussion period objectives:

  1. Open a dialogue about the future of university-based research in occupational science.
  2. Initiate a discussion about promises and obstacles to engaging in research that meets the goals of occupational science.
  3. Generate potential solutions/ways forward for future research in occupational science