Business schools must step up and engage in intellectual activism – here’s how

By Alessia Contu.

A professor of politics in an elite US liberal art college recently remarked to me:  “I must confess my stereotype of someone working in a business school is of one who serves the one per cent.”

Noting our shared political and intellectual persuasions, she questioned: “how can you work in a business school?”

My colleague is right, of course.  Business schools are not perceived as intellectual ‘hotbeds’, and even less crucibles of critical and progressive thinking.

Business schools are often portrayed as universities’ ‘cash cows’, something former minister of universities and science David Willetts acknowledged in 2013.  A Chartered Association of Business Schools Report in March confirmed that business schools are big business worth more than £2.4 billion annually.

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Challenges of balancing scholarly engagement and critique: A reflection on social studies of finance

By Suhaib Riaz. *

Is finance socializing us.jpg

“Socializing finance” has become shorthand to describe the research that several scholars (including me) are engaged in related to social studies of finance. This stream of work involves: bringing finance into the realm of social studies; but also making the industry aware of other ways of thinking and doing, beyond their current status quo; this also often has an element of (social) interaction with the industry thrown in. All these are consistent with various meanings of ‘socializing’ and are much needed efforts.

But there is a flip side to this aspect. How critically aware are we that finance is also on a mission to socialize us – in the sense of influencing our thinking – even as we may attempt to ‘socialize’ it?

In my work (in collaboration most prominently with Sean Buchanan, Trish Ruebottom, Madeline Toubiana) and that of a few other scholars, this seems to be a theme too powerful and important to ignore.

Finance is indeed at work to socialize us – to influence our ways of thinking about it through various means. At the peak of the financial crisis, various categories of elite actors seemed bounded by these ways of thinking about the financial industry resulting in configurations of positions often in favor of status quo (see Riaz et al., 2011). More specifically, financial industry leadership may well see it as their task to defend the institutional framework in which the current version of their industry thrives; and accordingly work to ‘socialize’ the rest of us – all stakeholders- to accept their view of finance and its role in society as the ultimate one by claiming epistemic authority in this domain (see Riaz et al., 2016). Continue reading

Africa Research: Role Model for Engaged Scholarship?

By Keshav Krishnamurty and Stephan Manning.

In professional academia, where you either publish or perish, finding examples of engaged scholarship is rare. By ‘engaged’ we mean experience-driven, problem-oriented, impactful. Last Friday, we had the privilege – as members of the OSC research group – to meet a community of scholars in Cambridge, MA, who care deeply about their work and impact – at the workshop “Africa in the 21st Century: Prospects for Secure Sustainable Development”. This event was organized by African PhD students of the UMB Global Governance and Human Security Program, and co-sponsored by Educational Divide Reform and the Academy of International Business US-Northeast Chapter.* This one-day workshop brought together PhD students and senior scholars of political science, business, sociology, health and environment to discuss pressing questions of peace and conflict, extraction of natural resources, and the future of business and development partnerships in Africa. Aside from showcasing the importance of research perspectives from Africa and the Global South, we were intrigued by the high level of involvement of presenters with their own research. Many experienced in their own lives the very conditions – poverty, discrimination, corruption – they are now studying and trying to change. What can we – scholars and students of organizations and business – learn from them and to what extent can their research be a role model for us? Let us give some individual thoughts and raise some questions going forward…

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Do Academic Conferences Exclude the Global South?

By Stephan Manning.

Many scholars around the world are getting ready for the 2016 conference season. In our digital age, where email, texting and video chat have become the primary means of communication, conferences remain an important nexus for face-to-face scholarly exchange, networking, career-making and innovation. Being located in Boston, but having important networks in Europe (and being a passionate traveler), I typically attend at least three conferences in the U.S., Europe or elsewhere every year. Whereas I take frequent conferencing for granted, I know that many of my colleagues, especially from the Southern Hemisphere, for example Brazil and South Africa, barely make it to one conference per year and often skip the conference season entirely. By comparison, Indian and Chinese scholars for example increasingly participate in the global conference circuit. What explains this divide? And what can be done to counter it?

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Gathering String – Academic Conferences and Serendipity

By Keshav Krishnamurty.

Conferences are funny things. I was at the Eastern Sociological Society conference at the Boston Park Plaza this year, which proved to be fairly informal, friendly, and with a substantial number of undergrads presenting interesting new work. I have been to multiple management conferences before and although I am not quite a “conference junkie”, I can already see how each conference has its own “flavor”. Even relatively boring conferences sometimes tend to have rather interesting people turn up, and getting to meet them is an experience worth remembering.

Being the organizations nerd that I am, I’m also familiar with what the literature says about the benefits of conferences. More papers and articles than I can possibly list talk about how the networking opportunities provided by a conference help students – as the answers to this question at ResearchGate demonstrate – whether it’s in terms of finding future job opportunities, in terms of knowing future colleagues and superiors to recommend you and your work, or how meeting colleagues from different universities and therefore being exposed to new knowledge, new perspectives and new collaborations, leads to greater creativity. There is advice on how to network more easily at conferences, tips on conference productivity and for those who don’t like conferences much, there is even advice on how to make conference networking feel less ‘icky’. Overall, I do know, more or less, what to expect from a conference when I go into one. However, the Eastern Sociological Society conference resulted in something that I had not expected….  Continue reading

To All Academics: Let’s Boycott Commercial Publishers!

By Stephan Manning and Keshav Krishnamurty.

In his new article “Putting the ‘Public’ Back into ‘Publication’”, Mike Valente uncovers the outrageous profit-making model of commercial publishers of academic journals. Publishing houses like Elsevier and Springer generate enormous profits without actually contributing anything to knowledge production. They neither produce content nor pay the ones who do. They do not even review papers, but instead delegate this task to voluntary academic editors and reviewers. Yet, publishers continue to charge $30 or more per paper download and $4,000 to $20,000 for annual journal subscriptions. Thanks to online distribution and reduced printing costs, publishers can turn 40% of their revenues into profit. Commercial publishing has not only hindered public access to academic knowledge, but has created high costs for university libraries and justified high student fees. So, why does nobody care to change this profit-making model, and what would it take to change it?

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Lost in Translation: How Relevant is the Relevance Debate in Academia?

By Stephan Manning.

Management scholars have the habit of regularly questioning the relevance of their own research for society. For example, Jerry Davis and Steve Barley recently debated in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly whether management research should aim for novelty or truth in order to be more meaningful. Mats Alvesson and Andre Spicer discuss in their recent article whether academic rigor and compliance with norms of high-status journals, or creative autonomy and variety can make management research more interesting and relevant. On the surface these questions are justified: management research is meant to be useful or have social impact, yet very little management research has any significance for practice. This is partly because practitioners do not read academic journals, and because our research agendas and methods have little to do with how managers or policy-makers make decisions. But do shifts from novelty to truth, or from rigor to variety, make any difference? In fact, is this whole debate about relevance relevant at all?

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