Emerging Opportunities for Business Schools

Emphasis on Research Relevance

Overview

Facilitated by new connections between b-schools and management, as well as changing structures in academic publishing, there is a drive to complement research rigor with an increasing emphasis on relevance.

We have experienced a massive change in the way we view intellectual property. As Google’s chief economist said, “Back in the early days of the Web, every document had at the bottom, ‘Copyright 1997. Do not redistribute.’ Now every document has at the bottom, ‘Copyright 2008. Click here to send to your friends.’ . . . So it’s not so much the question of what’s owned or what’s not owned. It’s a question of how can you leverage the assets you have to realize the most value.”

Critics believe that business school research has become less and less relevant to practice, pointing at two potential reasons. First, academic research is communicated and shared in ways not accessible to practitioners. This problem is sometimes referred to as “lost in translation.” Second, academic research is “lost before translation,” as scholars address problems that are not particularly relevant to practitioners in the first place.

New digital platforms are providing opportunities for business schools to create more value from their investment in scholarship. Organizations like Innocentive, Marketing Sciences Institute, and Wharton’s Customer Analytics Initiative are connecting problems to problem solvers—helping researcher address the most relevant problems. Scholars are crowdsourcing funding, participants, and coauthors for their studies.

Today, people are more likely to find research that matters to them though their social media networks. They will access the content through a wide range of sites, including open-access repositories such as the Social Science Research Network or directly from a scholar’s home page or blog. Companies are curating content from multiple sources to include in their learning platforms, while new intermediaries are translating research papers to make them more accessible.

These developments are creating new ways for business schools and scholars to share their research, as well as to track their impact. While some schools have the resources and scale to build their own platforms (e.g., Knowledge@Wharton), others are relying on aggregator platforms that attract readers as well as research content. The tools to capture the impact of research have not changed to reflect this. While the research community still relies on Citation Counts and Journal Impact Factor to judge quality, those measures are becoming less useful, as they are lagging indicators and don’t often provide signals about how impactful research has been beyond shaping basic theory and knowledge. New “altmetrics” have emerged to fill the void. Similarly, accrediting bodies, such as AACSB, have been encouraging a broader set of metrics for schools to use.

Related Resources

Making Business School Research More Relevant, Harvard Business Review
Two b-school faculty members discuss five changes which could initiate a new era of highly relevant b-school research.

Hal Varian on How the Web Challenges Managers, McKinsey & Company
Hal Varian, professor of information sciences, business, and economics at the University of California at Berkeley, says it’s imperative for managers to gain a keener understanding of the potential for technology to reconfigure their industries.

Social Science Research Network
The Social Science Research Network is devoted to the rapid worldwide dissemination of social science research and is composed of a number of specialized research networks in each of the social sciences.


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