Survey of Social Workers on Information Sources

Recently my collaborator Ericka Kimball, Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and I surveyed practicing social workers nationwide regarding EBP or research-informed practice, which information sources they use in practice, and library instruction. The article on this study is forthcoming — in the meantime, I wanted to share some of what we learned here on the Open Social Work blog, particularly regarding information sources. If you have any questions about this study, please feel free to contact me, Kimberly Pendell, at kpendell [at] pdx.edu or openswresearch [at] gmail.com.

Survey participants (n = 123) represented a diversity of ages, but the largest age range represented was 35-44 years old, 37%, followed by 45-54, 21%, and 25-34, 20%. Most respondents had a MSW degree, 84%; 10% had a BSW; 5% had doctorate (PhD or DSW). The survey reached participants in twenty-one states, primarily on the East and West coasts, and the Midwest. In regard to their practice area, the largest clusters of participants work in healthcare and community mental health. 

Participants were asked which of the following sources they use for information to inform their practice generally. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (General Practice)Frequency Count
Continuing education events101
Professional conference95
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles78
Supervision65
Webinar55
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)48
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) Webinar25
Blogs7
Wikipedia4
Consult Peers/colleagues3
Other3

Participants were also asked which of the following sources they use for information on specific practice issues. They were allowed to selected as many as they felt applicable.

Information Source (Specific Practice Issue)Frequency Count
Continuing education events79
Peer reviewed/scholarly/research articles73
Professional conference72
Supervision62
Professional/magazine articles (e.g. Psychology Today, The New Social Worker)43
Webinar41
Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter)18
Consult peers/colleagues7
Blogs4
Wikipedia2
Other4

In both categories, we can see that research articles scored in the top three sources of information for social workers. Sixty percent of participants reported that they could access research articles, mostly through an individual or agency subscription. For the remaining participants, 91% cited cost as the primary barrier to accessing the research articles they want to inform their practice both generally and on specific issues.

While access is by no means the only barrier in regards to EBP implementation or research-informed practice, it is a fairly easy barrier to overcome by an increase in OA publishing and archiving in the field of social work.

Share Your SSWR 2020 Conference Paper

Increase the audience of your SSWR 2020 conference paper! 

1. Submit to your conference paper to SocArXiv (visit https://opensocialwork.org/research/submit/ for more information)

2. Email openswresearch@gmail.com and let us know you’ve submitted a paper. Please provide your full name, institutional/organizational affiliation, and title of paper. 

3. Once the paper is approved through SocArXiv moderation, we will promote your paper on our website and twitter accounts, and we will add your name to our drawing for two $25 gift cards. 

4. On February 7th, two individuals will be randomly selected to win and contacted via email. 

Access, Equity, Openness: Opening Social Work Research

What is the view outside the journal paywall? Students, faculty, practitioners, and clients require access to social work research to inform change on behalf of people we support. Our project, Open Social Work, is designed to open the corpus of social work knowledge to the public. Research-informed practice is an ethical mandate that is severely inhibited by current structures and practices of knowledge sharing in our profession. Grant writers, clinicians, and advocates need to understand social science to fight for social justice. Paywalls are obstacles to informed practice and client self-determination. 

Generally, faculty believe that unless they publish in an open access journal, their work will forever be locked behind a paywall. This is false! Our project is dedicated to faculty archiving their print-ready manuscripts in an open, community-owned platform, Socarxiv. Also known as Green Open Access, archiving one’s work can happen prior to submitting to an article to a journal, during the peer review process, or after publication (though embargo periods apply for some journals). If you are curious, you can check a journal’s open access policies in this public interest database or navigate to the open access policy on the journal’s website.

Is this legal? Yes! Commercial publishers’ open access policies explicitly allow faculty to deposit their work into an institutional repository at their university, a personal website, or a disciplinary archive. Because our project reaches across many campuses, we’ve chosen to highlight the disciplinary archive Socarxiv as it is non-profit, requires no log-in for download, does not monetize user data, and is hosted on the Open Science Framework (OSF) platform. Using OSF, faculty can link their paper with the measures, data, and materials from the associated project, facilitating transparency, replicability, and confirmability. Socarxiv is also indexed by Google Scholar, the only database of scholarly knowledge available outside of a library or university. 

We applaud the work of faculty who make their preprints available via commercial platforms such as Academia.edu, SemanticScholar, ResearchGate, SSRN, and other platforms. However, we are concerned with about the monetization of user data on these platforms, and as such, we seek to build practices that encourage the use of open platforms like Socarxiv and OSF. Similarly, although it is legal to share copies of your work for free to people who ask, posting them publicly in a disciplinary archive eliminates barriers to accessing knowledge from those redlined from university or academic library access. 

Open Social Work is about building practice of open sharing of social work scholarship into the workflows of faculty and researchers who create and share knowledge.  So, how can you share your scholarship? First check the journal’s open access policy. Then, follow these instructions to submit your paper to Socarxiv.