1. Pickler, Rita H.

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Welcome to the new year and to another opportunity to shape and develop nursing science. A few considerations require our attention as we move into the future. They are big considerations about matters that involve what we study, how we study it, how we know our evidence is strong, and how we communicate that evidence to our colleagues and to the public. Nursing science depends on its scientists to engage in discussion about these matters. Over time, these "philosophy of science" questions have occurred in classrooms, at scientific meetings, and in various other places where nurse scientists gather. Unfortunately, events of the last 3 years have curtailed these discussions because of distance from each other as well as concern about pandemic-related phenomenon.


Unfortunately, in the void created by the lack of discussion opportunities, scientific work that had been progressing slowed, and ideas for moving forward in those areas important to the profession and, thus, the discipline of nursing lost their priority position, particularly at some of our long-standing, preferred funding agencies. Science, however, is not about funding. Yes, we often need funding for the more complex research we do to understand the effects of various biological, psychological, and sociopolitical factors on holistic health outcomes. However, the support for rigorous and important science is not relegated to a few funding agencies. Rather, research important to the practice of nursing, the primary goal of nursing science necessary to achieve the mission of improving health and well-being for all, is supported in many different ways and by many different funders. What is crucial now, as we contemplate our scientific future, is that we, nursing scientists, regain control over what the important questions are for nursing science. On more than one occasion during the past 2 years, nursing scientists have been called upon to come together to discuss the priorities-the important research questions-that need to be addressed in order to provide the evidence so greatly needed for our practice. It is time for nursing science to have a futures strategy.


In the financial world, futures are contracts that require persons or entities to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined future date and price. The buyer must purchase or the seller must sell at the set price, regardless of the current market value. There are some positive aspects to futures: Although speculative, they can be profitable; they can protect against adverse price movement; and they may only require a small deposit at the time of venture. At the same time, futures can be risky: Investors can risk losing more than they anticipate; investment in the futures contract might result in hedges that miss other opportunities; and although gains are possible, so too are losses.


As scientists, we might learn something from those who trade in futures. For example, futures investors rarely put 100% of their assets into a single futures contract. Rather, they leverage their investment, committing only a fraction of their worth in any specific futures. At the same time, investors do not stop investing in other opportunities that have proven effective to their goals. In nursing science, over the last 20-30 years, we have invested in research priorities that have been effective in advancing science and practice. We may wish to keep most of our investment where we have known benefit-in the science that improves health outcomes because of its holistic and comprehensive nature.


At the same time, it is important that nursing scientists continue to discuss continuing and future research priorities. We have not had these conversations in any meaningful way in the last few years. Borrowing from the advice of futures investors, there are several suggestions for these important conversations. First, nursing science needs an overall plan. A plan for nursing science may include discussion of paradigmatic constructs (i.e., person, health, environment, and nursing), areas of more mature science needing further work (symptom science, self-management of chronic health conditions, use and effectiveness of palliative care, and genetic/genomic and other biological mechanisms or outcomes to care), phenomena for which we need more scientific study because of the importance to the mission and goals of the profession and discipline, and designs and other methods necessary to continue developing nursing science. Nursing has historically been reluctant to declare some areas of study as "not nursing" science. However, most mature sciences do set parameters around what "counts" as disciplinary phenomena and what does not. Thus, the second suggestion is that nursing agree on a more focused set of research priorities that can still encompass the breadth and depth of our professional and disciplinary work. Third, nursing scientists need to take both long and short views of the scientific progress. That is, we cannot chase money or ideas that are "hot" at the expense of science that is necessary for professional and scientific growth. At the same time, important discussions could help clarify when it is time to stop pursuing some areas of science in favor of studying emerging phenomena. Finally, a reminder to all of us who wish we could resolve many of the troubling health problems that nursing encounters on a daily basis-science requires patience. Science is not a sprint; it is a marathon.


Although nursing scientists cannot follow completely the guidelines of futures investment, our future, its direction, and our priorities are ours to decide and are critical to the survival of the profession and discipline. These much needed discussions are an investment in our future and, more importantly, in the future health and well-being of those we are committed to serve. At Nursing Research, we are committed to publishing nursing science that is of the highest quality, addressing the most urgent health needs, and providing continued foundation for future scientific growth and professional practice.




Rita H. Pickler