Title

The Persistence of Partition and the Danger of Epistemic Closure in Occupational Science

Location

Room D

Start Time

18-10-2013 11:00 AM

End Time

18-10-2013 11:30 AM

Session Type

Theoretical Paper

Abstract

In its debut, occupational science incorporated a deep epistemological schism that offers two futures. Epistemic closure could narrow occupational science to a long campaign for recognition as a social science. Or, occupational science could exert an enviable degree of social relevance through an epistemology that includes both the products of science and their wide applications in therapy. The intent of this paper is to highlight intertwined threats to the potential of occupational science: the persistence of partition and the danger of epistemic closure.

The partition of occupational science from occupational therapy was produced at its debut. Its launch in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (Clark et al., 1991) was immediately met with a call for partition and a denial of resources to the new science (Mosey, 1992), based on the logic that there were two types of knowledge, basic and applied. Partition may have also been sustained by organizational and theoretical resistance, inter-university and inter-researcher competition, or the profession’s inability to respect a discipline sprung from such humble roots.

Due to diverging perspectives on the intent of occupational science at its two origins, California and Australia, partition has increased. Although launched in California as an effort to strengthen occupational therapy, subsequent leadership in Australia envisioned occupational science as a social science divorced from occupational therapy

Partition has been further exacerbated by the editorial differences in two key journals. The Journal of Occupational Science has maintained an editorial policy excluding research on occupational therapy since its inception in 1993. Open in the past to a wealth of occupational science research, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy has narrowed its mission to occupational therapy outcomes research. This chills the publication of research that contributes occupational science perspectives on practice.

Most recently, pressures toward partition have been expressed in a call for epistemological closure at a level that is poorly fit to the knowledge needs of occupational therapy. That is, it is being argued that studying occupation as an individual experience is inappropriate (Dickie, Cutchin, & Humphrey, 2006). Understanding occupation solely at a transactional, critical, or cultural level is being hailed as a “paradigm shift.” This epistemological forced choice is dangerous. Rather than further polarization, the science requires an epistemology that negotiates between levels, in a match to the field from which it was birthed (Pierce, 2001; Rudman, 2012).

Occupational science displays the markers of a maturing discipline. It was launched with the specific intent to inform occupational therapy and is producing research on a core concept. Degrees are being awarded at the baccalaureate and doctoral levels. Organizations support the science and its disciplinary journal has published for twenty years. The growth of occupational science has been remarkable. Let us recognize the polarization produced by partition and resist the narrowing that would result from epistemic closure, in order to protect the potential of our young science.

References

Clark, F. A., Parham, D., Carlson, M. E., Frank, G., Jackson, J., Pierce, D., Wolfe, R., & Zemke, R. (1991). Occupational science: Academic innovation in the service of occupational therapy's future. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45, 300-310. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.4.300

Dickie, V., Cutchin, M., & Humphry, R. (2006). Occupation as a transactional experience: A critique of individualism in occupational science. Journal of Occupational Science, 13, 83-93. doi: 10.1080/14427591.2006.9686573

Mosey, A. C. (1992). The issue is: Partition of occupational science and occupational therapy. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 46, 851-853. doi:10.5014/ajot.46.9.851

Pierce, D. (2001). Untangling occupation and activity. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 138-146. doi:10.5014/ajot.55.2.138

Rudman, D. (2012). Governing through occupation: Shaping expectations and possibilities. In G. Whiteford and C, Hocking (Eds.), Occupational science: Society, inclusion, participation (pp. 100-116). Oxford, United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

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Oct 18th, 11:00 AM Oct 18th, 11:30 AM

The Persistence of Partition and the Danger of Epistemic Closure in Occupational Science

Room D

In its debut, occupational science incorporated a deep epistemological schism that offers two futures. Epistemic closure could narrow occupational science to a long campaign for recognition as a social science. Or, occupational science could exert an enviable degree of social relevance through an epistemology that includes both the products of science and their wide applications in therapy. The intent of this paper is to highlight intertwined threats to the potential of occupational science: the persistence of partition and the danger of epistemic closure.

The partition of occupational science from occupational therapy was produced at its debut. Its launch in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (Clark et al., 1991) was immediately met with a call for partition and a denial of resources to the new science (Mosey, 1992), based on the logic that there were two types of knowledge, basic and applied. Partition may have also been sustained by organizational and theoretical resistance, inter-university and inter-researcher competition, or the profession’s inability to respect a discipline sprung from such humble roots.

Due to diverging perspectives on the intent of occupational science at its two origins, California and Australia, partition has increased. Although launched in California as an effort to strengthen occupational therapy, subsequent leadership in Australia envisioned occupational science as a social science divorced from occupational therapy

Partition has been further exacerbated by the editorial differences in two key journals. The Journal of Occupational Science has maintained an editorial policy excluding research on occupational therapy since its inception in 1993. Open in the past to a wealth of occupational science research, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy has narrowed its mission to occupational therapy outcomes research. This chills the publication of research that contributes occupational science perspectives on practice.

Most recently, pressures toward partition have been expressed in a call for epistemological closure at a level that is poorly fit to the knowledge needs of occupational therapy. That is, it is being argued that studying occupation as an individual experience is inappropriate (Dickie, Cutchin, & Humphrey, 2006). Understanding occupation solely at a transactional, critical, or cultural level is being hailed as a “paradigm shift.” This epistemological forced choice is dangerous. Rather than further polarization, the science requires an epistemology that negotiates between levels, in a match to the field from which it was birthed (Pierce, 2001; Rudman, 2012).

Occupational science displays the markers of a maturing discipline. It was launched with the specific intent to inform occupational therapy and is producing research on a core concept. Degrees are being awarded at the baccalaureate and doctoral levels. Organizations support the science and its disciplinary journal has published for twenty years. The growth of occupational science has been remarkable. Let us recognize the polarization produced by partition and resist the narrowing that would result from epistemic closure, in order to protect the potential of our young science.