Contributing to a better world through better research
A majority of scholars, academics and deans of business schools agree that it’s vital to create a new research ecosystem centred on credible and useful research. But so far, achievements have been scarce. That’s now changing. The discussion moved from the theoretical to the actual in July 2019, when 62 senior scholars, deans, journal editors, university and association leaders from 46 institutions across five business disciplines, 13 countries and four continents attended the first Global Responsible Research Summit (RRS19) in Rotterdam. In the first conference of its kind, hosted and co-chaired by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), delegates debated their common vision for changing the research ecosystem.
This two-day conference was put together by an organising committee chaired by Prof. Anne Tsui from Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame in the USA, and RSM’s Prof. Pursey Heugens and Wilfred Mijnhardt. The summit was organised in co-operation with the Responsible Research in Business and Management organisation (RRBM) and was sponsored by the global accreditation agencies AACSB, EFMD and the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM). RRBM is dedicated to inspiring, encouraging, and supporting credible and useful research in the business and management disciplines.
The RRBM movement started through RRBM in 2015, when 30 global scholars published a vision 2030 white paper to start the transition. During RRS19, it was decided to make this an annual event to bring together leaders from the research ecosystem, senior scholars, deans, journal editors, university leaders, association leaders and accreditation agencies to debate impactful and responsible research in business and management.
RRS19 was launched at the Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture (Het Nieuwe Instituut) in Rotterdam with a networking dinner for the first discussion about research ecosystems and the advancement of the prosperity of all stakeholders: for-profit businesses, non-profit, and government organisations.
Human and non-human elements
The museum is recognised as a world leader in ecological design. According to Het Nieuwe Instituut, no structure exists in isolation of its setting – it’s an ecosystem comprising human and non-human stakeholders, notably air, water, vegetation, soil, and micro-organisms. The design of a structure – its building and the space it occupies – shapes the interaction of human and non-human elements within and surrounding the structure. This dovetailed with the delegates’ mission to identify the design components necessary to create an ecosystem of business and management research that inspires business and society to be better and do better, through business research practices and co-creation of knowledge that will yield economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable societies.
Contributing to a better world through research
For the first half of the summit, delegates worked together in multi-stakeholder groups. Delegates were encouraged to look ahead 11 years and to describe their visions of how business research would be in 2030 as well as their ambitions for responsible research while highlighting goals and priorities as well as feasibility and limitations. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be considered a road map for cross-disciplinary research, and the delegates explored research transparency, institutional independence and identity, and access to data in a complex discussion that concluded with the prediction that diversity in research will increase over time.
Ten working groups, carefully composed to represent and combine a diversity of leadership roles from the research ecosystem, tackled responsible research from every perspective during the sessions. They included aspirational and high-level perspectives but also addressed more granular, thornier issues. The main issue discussed was ‘how to create responsible metrics that measure the actual short- and long-term impact of research on business, and society at large, more accurately than the current citation system, which is outdated, increasingly irrelevant and innovation-stifling’.
The working groups explored opportunities for change in business research and identified where there might be obstacles or resistance. Recommendations from the delegates for making impactful research a priority in business research and education included conducting more multi-disciplinary research with faculties outside of the field of business to increase readability and relevance of journal articles. Anticipated obstacles to this ideal were identified – such as navigating the complex demands of publishers, universities, and accreditation institutions.
Specific, concrete actions
The Summit concluded with a brainstorming session: what immediate actions would create a culture of responsible and impactful research? Workgroups discussed incentives for researchers, building criteria for rigour and relevance in journal articles, creating multi-media supplements for articles to underline real-world applicability, and even exploring the possibility of creating a responsibility-focused accreditation body. The working groups identified specific, concrete actions that each delegate can use to achieve wins in their own individual spheres of influence.
These actions include:
- Introducing journal policies to emphasise the societal impact of research;
- Developing journals’ special issues on topics of societal importance;
- Adding societal impact assessment in tenure and promotion decisions;
- Allocating substantial resources to support responsible research;
- Training doctoral students to choose and conduct research with an eye to its potential impact on business and society, rather than focusing only on its novelty;
- Revisiting accreditation standards; and
- Developing awards to recognise scholars who are at the forefront of the Responsible Research movement.
The next Responsible Research Summit, to be held in June 2020 at Imperial College, London, will focus on external stakeholders of the research ecosystem, such as funders and business and society representatives, a critical and necessary step in realising RRBM’s Vision 2030 – when societal relevance will be a defining feature of business research.
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.
For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten[at]rsm.nl.
Photo credit goes to Chris Gorzeman from Capital Images.