John Saunders (Brisbane, Australia)International Sports Studies 41 No. 2 (2019)
https://doi.org/10.30819/iss.41-2.01 pp: 1-4 2020-02-12
As I write this editorial it seems that once again, we stand on the threshold of yet another significant date. The fortieth anniversary of ISCPES and also that of this journal, that has been the voice of the society’s contribution over that period, has been and gone. This time it is 2020 that looms on the near horizon. It is a date that has long been synonymous with perfect vision. Many may perhaps see this as somewhat ironic, given the themes surrounding change and the directions it has taken, that have been addressed previously in these pages. Perfect vision and the clarity it can bring seem a far cry away from the turbulent world to which we seem to be becoming accustomed. So many of the divisions that we are facing today seem to be internal in nature and far different from the largely: nation against nation; system against system strife, we can remember from the cold war era. The US, for example, seems to be a nation perpetually at war with itself. Democrats v Republicans, deplorables v elites - however you want to label the warring sides - we can construct a number of divisions which seem to put 50% of Americans implacably opposed to the other 50%. In the UK, it has been the divide around the referendum to leave the European Union – the so-called Brexit debate. Nationally the division was 52% to 48% in favour of leaving. Yet the data can be reanalysed in, it seems, countless ways to show the splits within a supposedly ‘United’ Kingdom. Scotland v England, London and the South East v the English regions, young v old are just some of the examples. Similar splits seem to be increasing within many societies. Hong Kong has recently been the focus of world interest We have watched this erstwhile model of an apparently successful and dynamic compromise between two ‘diverse’ systems, appear to tear itself apart on our television screens. Iran, Brazil, Venezuela are just three further examples of longstanding national communities where internal divisions have bubbled to the surface in recent times. These internal divisions frequently have no simple and single fault line. In bygone times, social class, poverty, religion and ethnicity were simple universal indicators of division. Today ways of dividing people have become far more complex and often multi-dimensional. Social media has become a means to amplify and repeat messages that have originated from those who have a ‘gripe’ based in identity politics or who wish to signal to all and sundry how extremely ‘virtuous’ and progressive they are. The new technologies have proved effective for the distribution of information but remarkably unsuccessful in the promotion of communication. This has been exemplified by the emergence and exploitation of Greta Thunberg a sixteen-year-old from Sweden as a spokesperson for the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ climate change lobby. It is a movement that has consciously eschewed debate and discussion in favour of action. Consequently, by excluding learning from its operation, it is cutting itself off from the possibility of finding out what beneficial change will look like and therefore finding a way by which to achieve it. Put simply, it has predetermined its desired goal and defined the problem in inflexible terms. It has ignored a basic tenet of effective problem solving, namely that the key lies in the way you actually frame the problem. Unfortunately, the movement has adopted the polarised labelling strategies that place all humans into the category of either ‘believers’ or ‘deniers’. This fails to acknowledge and deal with the depth and complexity of the problem and the range of our possible responses to it. We are all the losers when problems, particularly given their potential significance, become addressed in such a way.
How and where can human behaviour learn to rise above the limits of the processes we see being followed all around us? If leadership is to come, it must surely come from and through a process of education. All of us must assume some responsibility here – and certainly not abdicate it to elite and powerful groups. In other words, we all have a moral duty to educate ourselves to the best of our ability. An important part of the process we follow should be to remain sceptical of the limits of human knowledge. In addition, we need to be committed to applying tests of truth and integrity to the information we access and manage. This is why we form and support learned societies such as ISCPES. Their duty is to test, debate and promote ideas and concepts so that truth and understanding might emerge from sharing and exploring information, while at the same time applying the criteria developed by the wisdom and experience of those who have gone before.
And so, we come to the processes of change and disruption as we are currently experiencing them at International Sports Studies. Throughout our history we have followed the traditional model of a scholarly journal. That is, our reason for existence is to provide a scholarly forum for colleagues who wish to contribute to and develop understanding within the professional and academic field of Comparative Physical Education and Sport. As the means of doing this, we encourage academics and professionals in our field to submit articles which are blind reviewed by experts. They then advise the editor on their quality and suitability for publication. As part of our responsibility we particularly encourage qualified authors from non-English speaking backgrounds to publish with us, as a means of providing a truly international forum for ideas and development. Where possible the editorial team works with contributors to assist them with this process. We have now taken a step further by publishing the abstracts in Portuguese, Spanish and Chinese on the website, in order to spread the work of our contributors more widely.
Consistent with international changes in labelling and focus over the years, the title of the society’s journal was changed from the Journal of Comparative Physical Education and Sport to International Sports Studies in 1989. However, our aim has remained to advance understanding and communication between members of the global community who share a professional, personal or scholarly interest in the state and development of physical education and sport around the world. In line with the traditional model, the services of our editorial and reviewing teams are provided ex gratia and the costs of publication are met by reader and library subscriptions. We have always offered a traditional printed version but have, in recent years, developed an online version - also as a subscription. Over the last few years we have moved to online editorial support. From 2020 will be adopting the practice of making articles available online immediately following their acceptance. This will reduce the wait time experienced by authors in their work becoming generally available to the academic community.
Readers will no doubt be aware of the current and recent turbulence within academic publishing generally. There has been a massive increase in the university sector globally. As a result, there has been an increasing number of academics who both want to and need to publish, for the sake of advancement in their careers. A number of organisations have seen this as providing a business opportunity. Consequently, many academics now receive daily emails soliciting their contributions to various journals and books. University libraries are finding their budgets stretched and while they have been, up until now, the major funders of scholarly journals through their subscriptions, they have been forced to limit their lists and become much more selective in their choices. For these reasons, open access has provided a different and attractive funding model. In this model, the costs of publication are effectively transferred to the authors rather than the readers. This works well for those authors who may have the financial support to pursue this option, as well as for readers. However, it does raise a question as to the processes of quality control. The question arises because when the writer becomes the paying customer in the transaction, then the interests of the merchant (the publisher) can become more aligned to ensuring the author gets published rather than guaranteeing the reader some degree of quality control over the product they are receiving.
A further confounding factor in the scenario we face, is the issue of how quality is judged. Universities have today become businesses and are being run with philosophies similar to those of any business in the commercial world. Thus, they have ‘bought into’ a series of key performance indicators which are used to compare institutions one with another. These are then added up together to produce summative scores by which universities can be compared and ranked. There are those of us that believe that such a process belittles and diminishes the institutions and the role they play in our societies. Nonetheless it has become a game with which the majority appear to have fallen in line, seeing it as a necessary part of the need to market themselves. As a result, very many institutions now pay their chief executives (formerly Vice-Chancellors) very highly, in order to for them to optimise the chosen metrics. It is a similar process of course with academic journals. So it is, that various measures are used to categorise and rank journals and provide some simplistic measure of ‘quality’. Certain fields and methodologies are inherently privileged in these processes, for example the medical and natural sciences. As far as we are concerned, we address a very significant element in our society – physical education and sport - and we address it from a critical but eclectic perspective. We believe that this provides a significant service to our global community. However, we need to be realistic in acknowledging the limited and restricted nature of that community. Sport Science has become dominated by physiology, data analytics, injury and rehabilitation. Courses and staff studying the phenomenon of sport and physical education through the humanities and social sciences, seem to be rarer and rarer. This is to the great detriment of the wellbeing and development of the phenomenon itself. We would like to believe that we can make an important difference in this space. So how do we address the question of quality? Primarily through following our advertised processes and the integrity and competence of those involved. We believe in these and will stick with them. However, we appreciate that burying our heads in the sand and remaining ‘king of the dinosaurs’ does not provide a viable way forward. Therefore, in our search for continuing strategy and clear vision in 2020, we will be exploring ways of signalling our quality better, while at the same time remaining true to our principles and beliefs.
In conclusion we are advising you, as our readers, that changes may be expected as we, of necessity, adapt to our changing environment while seeking sustainability. Exactly what they will be, we are not certain at the time of going to press. We believe that there is a place, even a demand for our contribution and we are committed to both maintaining its standard and improving its accessibility. Comments and advice from within and outside of our community are welcome and we remain appreciative, as always, of the immense contribution of our international review board members and our supportive and innovative publisher.
So, to the contributors to our current volume. Once again, we would point with some pride to the range of articles and topics provided. Together, they provide an interesting and relevant overview of some pertinent current issues in sport and physical education, addressed from the perspectives of different areas across the globe. Firstly, Pill and Agnew provide an update to current pedagogical practices in physical education and sport, through their scoping review of findings related to the use of small-sided games in teaching and coaching. They provide an overview of the empirical research, available between 2006 and 2016, and conclude that the strategy provides a useful means of achieving a number of specific objectives. From Belgium, Van Gestel explores the recent development of elite Thai boxing in that country. He draws on Elias’ (1986) notion of ‘sportization’ which describes the processes by which various play like activities have become transformed into modern sport. Thai boxing provides an interesting example as one of a number of high-risk combat sports, which inhabit an ambiguous area between the international sports community and more marginalised combat activities which can be brutal in nature. Van Gestel expertly draws out some of the complexities involved in concluding that the sport has experienced some of the processes of sportization, but in this particular case they have been ‘slight’ in impact rather than full-blown.
Abdolmaleki, Heidari, Zakizadeh XXABSTRACT De Bosscher look at a topic of considerable contemporary interest – the management of a high-performance sport system. In this case their example is the Iranian national system and their focus is on the management of some of the resources involved. Given that the key to success in high performance sport systems would appear to lie in the ability to access and implement some of the latest and most effective technological information intellectual capital would seem to be a critical component of the total value of a competitive high performance sport system Using a model developed by a Swedish capital services company Skandia to model intangible assets in a service based organisation, Abdolmaleki and his associates have argued for the contribution of human, relational and structural capital to provide an understanding of the current place of intellectual capital in the operations of the Iranian Ministry of Sport and Youth. An understanding of the factors contributing to the development of these assets, contributes to the successful operation of any organisation in such a highly competitive and fast changing environment. Finally, from Singapore, Chung, Sufri and Wang report on some of the exciting developments in school based physical education that have occurred over the last decade. In particular they identify the increase in the placement of qualified physical education teachers as indicative of the progress that has been made. They draw on Foucault’s strategy of ‘archaeological analysis’ for an explanation of how these developments came to be successfully put in place. Their arguments strongly reinforce the importance of understanding the social and political context in order to achieve successful innovation and development.
May I commend the work of our colleagues to you and wish you all the best in the attempt to achieve greater clarity of vision for 2020!
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