While the relevance of research in business schools is now widely recognized, two criticisms resurface from time to time and cast doubt on this faculty activity.
The first criticism concerns the synergy between research and teaching. Detractors state that business schools, under the pressure of accreditations and rankings, pay consequent amounts to resident professors whose sole activity is to conduct research. The task of teaching is therefore left to non-research teachers, which implies that students don’t benefit from the skills of the most expert professors in their discipline.
The second criticism deals with the very nature of research. Academic journals select articles based on academic rigor. They don’t take into account their interest for practitioners. Students have no interest in joining a school whose research will be of no use to them.
In an article published last October 25th in News Tank, I show that these criticisms erroneously depict the state of research in business schools for at least three reasons.
First, rankings and accreditations don’t only take into consideration research performance, far from it. Consequently, business schools do not base their entire policy on this sole component: they evaluate teachers using many other criteria such as quality of teaching, innovation, engagement, institutional involvement, managerial responsibilities ….
Second, if the most active researchers have indeed lighter course loads (which is a common practice in higher education), it is wrong to say that students do not benefit from their skills. Many business schools have defined a minimum threshold for teaching hours, which cannot be crossed by any teacher, regardless of his/her research activity.
Finally, most of the research articles published in the best-ranked scientific journals have managerial implications and are selected with this criterion in mind. In addition, schools are increasingly aware of the impact of their professors’ research on stakeholders.
All in all, questioning research in business schools on the grounds that researchers do not teach and that research is not relevant does not hold up to serious scrutiny. On the contrary, over the past fifteen years, research in business schools has made remarkable progress both in terms of quantity and quality, and fully contributes to the schools’ success with students and companies !