Professor Bill Glick is the former Chair of the board of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB), the global association of business schools. He is a Founding Member of the Community for Responsible Research in Business and Management. At an ABCD Deans’ Meeting, Professor Glick chaired a roundtable discussion on Responsible Business School Research.
TAKING NEW ROADS
Business school research is at a crossroads, Professor Glick says, because output is determined largely in a closed loop system of academics, journal publishers, university leaders, business school associations and ranking agencies.
With citation metrics as the standard by which business schools and their academics are judged, researchers and their institutions are tethered to a performance measurement system that does not necessarily highlight the real-world impact of their work.
‘An awful lot of the rewards are good for the academics, but not necessarily good for everybody else, and the pressure to conform is very intense,’ Professor Glick says.
The result? Both within and outside academia, there are mounting calls to encourage research that results in quantitative and qualitative benefits to society. The current Engagement and Impact Assessment by the Australian Research Council is an example of that.
Professor Glick asks: ‘What can we do that will really drive us all in the right direction? How can we change this intertwined closed loop system in a positive way?’
One answer, he says, is to ensure that business school research achieve credibility. ‘So, there’s a certain responsibility we have back to the scientific community to produce credible research… [It’s] about the responsibility we have back to the broader society, the people who give us money that allow us to do these wonderful fun things in our research,’ he says.
Funding bodies worldwide, and in particular federal governments, are seeking better social, economic and environmental returns on their investments. This means that doing more research that achieves measurable impact is becoming an imperative for business schools.
For Professor Glick, there is reason for optimism as research issues are being addressed head on. Many esteemed academics, business school associations and even academic publishers are seeking consensus about the way forward.
GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR RESPONSIBLE RESEARCH
In 2014, 24 academics from five business disciplines joined forces to define the problem and study possible answers. Now the global network has more than 1,000 members.
The Community for Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) position paper, A Vision of Responsible Research in Business and Management: Striving for Useful and Credible Knowledge acknowledges that change must be incremental because the engine must be reconditioned, so to speak, while it’s running.
RRBM’s vision is to have ‘business and management schools worldwide…widely admired for their contributions to societal well-being by 2030.’ However, Professor Glick says, it will be very difficult to make that a reality.
‘We’re talking about is systemic cultural change, and that requires really a shift in values, a shift in what we reward…A single academic is not going to make this happen. It really has to be a broad-based type of movement.
‘It really requires getting a lot of people engaged in the conversation. And, fortunately, we’ve been finding that when we talk to people, we’re highlighting issues, concerns … conflicts that are broadly shared but not fully appreciated. And as people start talking about it, I think there is much greater motivation and willingness to stand up and do something about it,’ Professor Glick says.
Business schools and other actors in the business school research ecosystem are most likely to make changes that best suit their local environments but, he says, each should adhere to a set of broad principles like the seven established by RRBM:
- Service to Society: Development of knowledge that benefits business and the broader society, locally and globally, for the ultimate purpose of creating a better world
- Stakeholder Involvement
- Impact on Stakeholders
- Valuing Both Basic and Applied Contributions
- Valuing Plurality and Multidisciplinary Collaboration
- Sound Methodology
- Broad Dissemination.
Professor Glick says influential organisations like AACSB can help by drawing the connection between business school research standards and AACSB accreditation. In time, he says, similar ranking and accreditation agencies will follow suit but there won’t be a single set of rules.
‘There are some out there that are developed very thoughtfully. Most notably, the United Nations SDGs [sustainable development goals] are being used by a variety of schools… but I would say, I’m pretty broad and open to people defining through their own value structure what they think is most important, and encouraging them to have that positive impact on society,’
There are also other ways to encourage business school research that address real and apparent problems. Possible advances in the RRBM’s position paper include:
- Judges who confer research awards can take the explicit value of the research into account even as all concerned agree that measuring such value won’t be easy
- Journal publishers deciding to ‘publish problem-centred research oriented toward critical social and business questions’
- Business school associations like ABDC, being able to ‘reinforce professional commitment, among current and new members, to a higher aim of service to society and humanity in addition to contributions to the business field.’
However, Professor Glick’s positive outlook is tempered by his assessment of the amount of time available.
‘We may not have until 2030,’ he says.