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Meet the editors of... Journal of Advances in Management Research

An interview with: Professor Surendra S. Yadav and Professor Ravi Shankar
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Photo: Professor Surendra S. Yadav.Professor Surendra S. Yadav is editor-in-chief, and head of the Department of Management Studies at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. His research and teaching interests lie in the areas of corporate finance, international finance, international business, security analysis, portfolio management, and general management.

He received a PhD in management from University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne, and has been a visiting professor at universities in Paris, France and Tampa, Florida. He has published nine books, including one on India in French, around 80 research papers, and numerous conference papers and articles in the financial press. He has consulted for many organizations and carried out several sponsored research projects. He has been managing an online executive development programme.

Photo: Professor Ravi Shankar. Professor Ravi Shankar is executive editor and professor of supply chain and operations management at the IIT Delhi. He holds a PhD in operations management and his current research interests are in the fields of supply chain management, operations management, strategic technology management, quantitative modelling, and knowledge management.

Professor Shankar has written books in these areas as well as 260 research articles in refereed international journals and conferences. He has rich, consulting experience with organizations such as Xerox India, PDIL, India Today Group, NISG, LML Kanpur, CK Birla Group, the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the National Highway Authority of India.

About the Journal of Advances in Management Research

The Journal of Advances in Management Research (JAMR) provides a dynamic international forum for the exchange of ideas and dissemination of research in all functional areas of management, in both the service and the manufacturing sectors. Publishing empirical research, case studies, teaching notes and book reviews, JAMR combines sound methodology with concern for applicability and the improvement of management practice.

Launched in 2003, JAMR became part of the Emerald portfolio in 2008 and is published in association with the IIT Delhi. The IIT Delhi is an institution of excellence for higher training, research and development. It has received priority funding from the Indian Government as part of the latter's policy of building excellence in education, and is ranked among the top 200 universities by the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings.


Indian management research

India has a long tradition of learning and a love for knowledge. It currently plays a key role in the global knowledge economy, and has recently boosted its scientific research: Thomson Reuters reported an 80 per cent increase in Indian scientific research papers over the years 2001-2008 (Adams et al., 2009). Can you describe the current state of Indian management research?

Indian management research resembles a pyramid. At the top you have the 15 IITs, of which seven have been in existence for quite some time, while the other eight have been set up in the last two to three years. There are also other specialist institutes, such as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). Then there are the universities, which have research scholars, but the number varies from one university to another. Besides, there are a large number of private management schools, some of which undertake research, but their main objective is to prepare their students for corporate life.

The IITs, and particularly the one in Delhi, focus heavily on research. The Department of Management Studies, as its constituent part, focuses on business research. We have highly research-oriented faculty and at the induction stage we ensure that faculty have the capability to undertake independent research. In terms of output, we publish in international journals, including those of Emerald, and colleagues in the Department of Management Studies have won several outstanding paper awards.

A major source of research in India is that undertaken by PhD students. These students are supported by government funding which covers their tuition fees as well as support for themselves and their families.

Another source of funding is sponsorship from various (non-governmental) sources. This varies very much and some people may be funded over a long period, others over a shorter period of, say, a year, with an expectation of a publication at the end of it.

At the top end of management research, in the IITs and the IIMs, both the growth of the faculty, and individual career advancement, are heavily weighted towards publication. On the other hand, the private business schools are not funded by the Government for research. They contribute towards producing the right manpower for the corporate world.

Private business schools are doing very well because there is a large demand in the corporate world. In India, the economy is growing very, very fast as the downturn we have seen over the last couple of years is reversed, and the corporate world needs a lot of first-line managers.

Journal mission

JAMR is informed by an Asian perspective on management; would you see this as continuing to be the case?

We would like JAMR to represent a truly global perspective, in terms of content, readership and authors. We regularly receive contributions from different parts of the world – for example, the UK, the US, France, Thailand, etc. – and reflecting many different points of view. We do not intend to focus only on the Asian perspective or on the problems of the Indian business world.

We believe that the partnership with Emerald will ensure a more global perspective and we are already seeing an increase in the number of non-Asian research papers.

How do you differentiate yourselves in terms of market position from other general management journals, such as British Journal of Management, European Management Review, European Business Review?

We look for articles with a strong methodological basis. We also welcome research papers, which are not strictly within the functional domain of management, but utilize its techniques to examine societal problems. For example, in Volume 6 Issue 2, we published an article about technology transfer for rural housing (Kumar et al., 2009) and we intend to publish further articles which use management research methodologies and approaches in a way that contributes towards our understanding of society.

What are the main changes you have experienced during the transition from publication by IIT to publication by Emerald, and how do you see the continuing role of IIT in JAMR's development?

Before Emerald took over the publication, JAMR was in physical form only; the addition of the electronic version means that JAMR has a far wider reach. Added to this is the fact that the Emerald database is available in universities all over the world. So this is bound to be an advantage for us.

With regard to the continuing role of IIT Delhi, this institution is known internationally for its excellence in teaching and research, so its association with Emerald demonstrates a commitment to quality.

What is your vision for JAMR, and how do you see it developing over the next couple of years?

We want to make JAMR a global platform for disseminating the best research, and ensure that research reaches a wider public.

At the moment we publish two issues a year; as we receive more quality submissions we would like, on a gradual basis, to increase the number of issues.

Editorial objectives

You are very keen to maintain the quality of JAMR. How would you describe the key quality indicators you are looking for?

As for any good research journal, the articles are to have a clearly enunciated research objective; a sound methodology; an in-depth analysis both of the ways of using the methodology and of the research findings; and finally a separate section towards the end of the paper about implications for further research, and for practice. A paper should also highlight gaps in the research, indicate a solution to some economic or societal problem, or provide some insight to a practitioner into how to solve a practical problem.

How does the research published in JAMR percolate through to practitioners?

It's not the case that research we publish in JAMR today will be applied by working managers tomorrow. However, there are various ways in which the research percolates down to practice. One is through management development programmes, which bring managers face-to-face with academics in the classroom, where the research gets immersed in the teaching process. Another way is through those responsible for in-company training, who keep up with the research and disseminate findings to colleagues.

Finally, there is a very strong system of interaction between academia and industry through consultancy: this is worldwide, but especially strong in India. Business and industry will often select an academic according to the type of research he has done.

Consultancy is also a two-way process: as academics, we gain further insights which we may try and develop into a research problem, perhaps involving students or colleagues, which can result in a research paper.

In a recent editorial (Yadav and Shankar, 2009) you argue that much management research adds little to our total knowledge, and needs to be improved. You intend to solicit papers on research design and methodology: can you say a bit more about what you are looking for?

As already said, we are keen to publish papers which look at variants of methodologies and different ways in which they can be used. We would also like to publish papers which take a particular research methodology as their subject, and explore how it can be used in different areas of management.

Why we seek such papers is because we find that while young researchers, through their literature review, often have a good idea of a gap in the research, they may struggle with finding the right methodology. They need help from experienced researchers who have tried a methodology under different conditions and understand the variants and their appropriateness to different types of management problems.

So, our audience for these types of papers would be young researchers and the authors would be experienced researchers. To give a simple example, what happens when the data you collect are fuzzy and difficult to quantify? How a methodology can cope with these sorts of fuzzy data and still come up with meaningful findings is challenging for the young researcher. So an experienced researcher could author articles about how raw data could be collected from the field or a company in such a way as to fit in with the limitations of the methodology.

In the same editorial, you talk about the difficulties of writing case studies: what are the qualities that make a good case study, and one that, at the same time, contributes to the body of knowledge, and provides insights for teaching and practice?

Case study articles should have a number of attributes. They should lend support to some theory and secondly they should look at a particular situation and come up with findings related to an extreme scenario. For example, how people made a decision in a very special situation and turned things round, or vice versa. Often the best and worst performing case studies can be put together to look at what was done in both situations: we call these "polar-case studies".

It is very difficult to conduct a case study meticulously. Especially in India, data collection is a real problem. Industry is reluctant to share critical information about financial data, corporate structure or any corporate re-engineering that is going on.

Another difficulty is finding time with managers who are generally very busy, and can give no more than a few minutes, which may not be sufficient for the in-depth analysis required in a case study: a case needs a lot of background and insights on decisions and their implications for various stakeholders.

So getting the right type of information is very difficult, compared with, say, that from a survey which has very structured questions that don't take long to answer. In a case study, you need more intense involvement from the practitioners.

But the strength of the case study is that it provides in-depth analysis, as opposed to the more generalized view of a survey. That's why most of us use case studies in our teaching: they go deeper into a situation and can supplement the generalized findings of a survey, providing important points of learning.

When we get a real quality case study which can be used as a teaching aid, we publish it as a "teaching case study", as we did with that authored by Adivar and Yurt (2009) in Volume 6 Issue 2. Such a case study is quite unique in terms of its strong research methodology and the insights that can be derived, and the authors also provide some questions with detailed answers. We can tell you from our research experience that to produce a case such as this is very difficult. It's not just a matter of providing a few questions and short answers without any analysis. But, it should lead to skill development for taking decisions in similar situations.

How do you split the work of editing JAMR between you?

We work as a team and have regular meetings, almost on a daily basis. As we are sitting here talking to you, each one of us is nodding his head in agreement as the other speaks. In terms of division of labour, Prof. Ravi is generally the first person to look at articles. Supported by colleagues from the editorial advisory board, he will carry out the initial screening to see whether the paper fits with our philosophy. Once a paper gets through the initial screening, we work together.

One of the problems you have identified is that peer reviewers may comment adversely on research methodology, when it is too late to do anything about it. Do you see yourselves as having a role in mentoring young researchers who may be new to publishing in an international journal?

I think we are both very conscious of our wider role. For example, when a young or inexperienced author sends us a paper, we don't reject it right away even if it may fail the first screening. We will put our heads together and try and come up with some suggestions for improvement or suggest another journal to send it to.

Then reviewers occasionally come up with comments that lack detail or are not very helpful. In such a case, we will either invite another reviewer to comment or put our heads together to provide the details ourselves. The more specific the comment is, the greater the chance of the author providing an acceptable revised version.

In some cases, the reviewers will ask the author(s) to do additional work that may not be possible. For example, the author(s) may have conducted a survey, and the reviewers ask for more data, which would involve going back to respondents. In some cases this is just not practical as it would involve repeating the survey. We recognize this and might suggest just doing a bit more analysis of the existing data as a way of meeting the reviewer's concerns.

How can international publishers such as Emerald best support Indian management researchers?

Emerald is already doing a lot in terms of promoting research in India. For example, the Emerald Literati Network Outstanding Paper Awards and the annual Indian Management Research Fund Awards (whereby Emerald and a co-sponsor award a research grant to fund an Indian project in the field of management research) are great motivators.

It would also be useful to provide some additional help for a researcher, who was relatively underprivileged in terms of resources, at the point of undertaking the research. You would need to be sure that, if the person came from an institution that was poorly equipped, there was some sort of mentoring system in place with a professor in a well established institution. I'm not sure how this could be implemented, but it would really help the research community.

Faculty and researchers at IIT are very conscious of their obligations to smaller or newer institutions to help them with mentorship and guidance.

One thing we recall from our early research days is that it was not always easy to get hold of journal articles that were urgently needed. Now with electronic access, it's much easier. And, it's worth noting that, if a researcher's institution does not have a subscription to a particular journal or database, articles can still be obtained via the various inter-library loans (ILL) systems that are in operation, such as DELNET and INFLIBNET. There is also an informal network of ILL systems that functions quite well among various libraries across the country.

References

Adams, J., King, C. and Singh, V. (2009), Global Research Report – India, Thomson Reuters, London, available at: http://science.thomsonreuters.com/m/pdfs/grr-India-oct09_ag0908174.pdf [accessed November 23 2009].

Adivar, B.O. and Yurt, O. (2009), "Line-haul optimization of OFLT Inc.: A teaching case study", Journal of Advances in Management Research, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 206-219.

Kumar, N., Prasad, R., Shankar, R. and Iyer, K.C. (2009), "Technology transfer for rural housing: An interpretive structural modeling approach", Journal of Advances in Management Research, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 188-205.

Yadav, S. and Shankar, R. (2009), "Management research: a few challenges" (Editorial), Journal of Advances in Management Research, Vol. 6 No. 2.

Publisher's note

Professors Yadav and Shankar were interviewed in March 2010.

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