Background

The Nursing Editors History Project is an initiative developed and implemented by Leslie H. Nicoll and Peggy L. Chinn. We are both nurse researchers, authors, and editors of scholarly nursing journals–several different journals between us. In the course of working on another project, we had an “Aha!” moment when we realized there is no archive or complete listing of the women and men who have served as editors of scholarly nursing journals over the years.

Modern nursing, as we know it today, is a relatively young profession. The first schools of nursing in the United States started in the 1870s. The first professional nursing journal in the the US, the American Journal of Nursing, published its inaugural issue in 1900. It has been published continuously ever since. Nursing knowledge has been developed and disseminated through the published literature since that first issue of the AJN. For many decades in the 20th century, the number of scholarly nursing journals that were published could be counted on two hands. Now there are hundreds.

As nurses with many years of experience in academia and practice, we realize the critical need to share practice innovations and research findings in scholarly journals. As editors, we realize the very important role that we have as gatekeepers to provide a venue to make that information available to others. We both take our editor responsibilities very seriously and acknowledge that through our work, we have an impact on corpus of nursing knowledge. We also know, based on our personal interactions with editor colleagues, that others share this view and make their editorial role and integrity a priority in their journal responsibilities.

Given this, we found it surprising–and dismaying–to realize that no database of nursing editors exists. While one might assume that it is easy to find information on current and past editors of journals, this is not true. Many publishers have taken on the task of digitizing their journal collections with a goal to make all articles available online to current and future researchers and readers. This is a wonderful step forward, but we have discovered that many of these archives are incomplete and the front matter, which includes the page that lists the editor and associated editorial staff, is generally not included. The archives include articles and may include editorials, letters, reviews, and other materials–but not always. As a result, the archives only represent one dimension of nursing knowledge–the actual published papers. What is missing is the knowledge of the people were were in charge, in particular, the editor–whose voice was important, influential, and must be heard.

While it would be possible to go to the library and search past issues of a journal, in paper or microfilm, there is no guarantee that this process would yield complete information. As a result, we feel some urgency to capture this information before it is lost completely.

It was from this realization that we became determined to create this project. As we started, we realized that there has been a long-standing desire among many members of the International Academy of Nursing Journal Editors (INANE) to document our editorial history.  Shirley Smoyak wrote a history of the first 10 years of INANE, which is now archived on the INANE web site, and for many years the INANE web site included a listing of then-current nursing journal editors with a few interesting details about who they were.  We abandoned that listing because of the difficulty of keeping it current, and attempted to start a “memories” project, spear-headed by the late Suzanne Smith.  Suzanne’s vision grew from the wonderful stories nursing editors share with one another at our annual conference, and she hoped to prompt journal editors to document stories related to INANE as well as their experience as editors. Again, that project never materialized, but the “itch” to find a way to document the editorial history of nursing journals never went away. Prompted by our renewed realization of the importance of such a project, we conceived of this project, which is focused specifically on the editorial histories of nursing journals.

While we are only in the very beginning stages, we take our inspiration from Virginia Henderson, who created the Nursing Studies Index, published in 1971. That project sought to catalog all nursing research that existed for a 60 year period. Similarly, we believe it is possible to document those who have served as editors of scholarly nursing journals over the past century, and create a database that can be maintained and continually updated moving forward. At a minimum, we will identify editors for journals, past and present, for those journals actively being published as well as those that no longer exist, but were influential in their time. Thinking more broadly, we hope to interview editors and create oral histories that will inform others of their role, their journals, and the knowledge they helped to impart through their work. We also hope to create a database that can be accessed, searched, and used by a variety of scholars to who seek to understand the important role that editors have in disseminating the knowledge that is used every day by nurses in practice, academia, research, and leadership.

We must note that we have been personally impacted by several recent deaths of editor colleagues and friends, including Suzanne Smith (Nurse Educator and Journal of Nursing Administration), Donna Diers (Image, now the Journal of Nursing Scholarship), and Rheba deTornyay (Journal of Nursing Education). Their voices are lost to us forever. Thus we feel an imperative to move forward with this project and capture this essential information before it becomes too difficult or even impossible to access.

This is a grassroots effort that is in its gestational phase. Our vision is broad but incomplete. We will rely on the collaboration and assistance of colleagues to help us create this resource that we believe will be valuable and useful in ways that we cannot even imagine. We invite you to join us and help us turn this “big idea” into a documented reality. Please take some time to peruse this website. If you are the editor of a journal, we hope you will share your editorial history with us through our online submission form. If you are a publisher or other producer of nursing knowledge, we welcome your input. Students may find opportunities here for scholarly projects–we want to hear your ideas!

Again, thank you for your interest. Please share your thoughts and comments through our Feedback Form. If you have editor information for a journal to share, please use this online form. If you would like to make a donation to support this project, we welcome your support! Bookmark the site and visit often as we hope to have exponential growth in the coming months.

With gratitude,

Leslie H. Nicoll, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN
Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN

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