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Business School Research Is Broken – Here’s How to Fix It

Business School Research Is Broken - Here's How to Fix It

Stefan Stremersch, Russell S. Winer and Nuno Camacho

Listen to the authors present their findings (source: April 2021 JM Webinar for Scholars)

In February 2020, an article in the Financial Times stated that business schools’ research model is “ill,” with faculty increasingly focusing on “abstract, abstruse and overly academic topics with little resonance beyond the higher education sector.” A new study in the Journal of Marketing examines what business schools do wrong when conducting academic research and what changes they can make so that research contributes to improving society.
 
Our research team demonstrates that business schools use the wrong research metrics and incentives with research faculty. For instance, we show that business schools focus excessively on the quantity of research and insufficiently on other critical aspects such as the quality, rigor, relevance, and creativity of such research. To gauge whether research incentives in business schools are indeed badly designed, we surveyed 234 marketing professors in business schools across 20 countries and completed 22 interviews with 14 (associate) deans and eight external institution stakeholders. 
 
Our results show that business schools’ research incentives are badly designed for three main reasons. First, business schools use the wrong research metrics to monitor their faculty’s research, often harming the quality (rigor and relevance) of the research produced by their research faculty. Second, research with lower-than-desired practical importance may hurt teaching quality, which negatively impacts business school health. Third, we show that while research faculty feel undercompensated for the research they do, (associate) deans feel that the current compensation levels for faculty are not sustainable. 
 
We conclude that business schools need to recalibrate their faculty research incentives. To do so, business schools can start with three concrete actions. First, business schools need to develop better research metrics. Specifically, schools need to reduce the weight they place in low-effort metrics (such as the mere number of publications or citations) and increase the weight they place in effortful metrics such as awards, research creativity, literacy, and relevance to non-academic audiences. 
 
Second, business schools need to develop a high commitment working environment where research faculty internalize and actively contribute to the health of the business school. Such high commitment environments should improve alignment between schools and their research faculty in terms of compensation. 
 
Third, business schools need to improve the practical importance of their faculty’s research. Several (associate) deans at top business schools whom we interviewed report that the business schools they lead have made more progress on rigor than on practical importance and that they are concerned about a further decline in such practical importance in recent years.
 
In sum, business schools need to revise their faculty research incentives to ensure their faculty produce research that lives up to society’s expectations and improves managers and firms’ decision making. 

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From: Stefan Stremersch, Russell Winer, and Nuno Camacho, “Faculty Research Incentives and Business School Health: A New Perspective from and for Marketing,” Journal of Marketing.

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Stefan Stremersch is Chaired Professor of Marketing and Desiderius Erasmus Distinguished Chair of Economics, Erasmus University, the Netherlands; and Professor of Marketing, Universidad de Navarra, Spain.

Russell S. Winer is William Joyce Professor of Marketing, New York University, USA.

Nuno Camacho is Associate Professor of Marketing, Erasmus University, the Netherlands.