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Meet the editor of... American Journal of Business

 

An interview with: Ashok Gupta
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Image: Dr Ashok K. Gupta.Dr Ashok K. Gupta is professor of marketing in the College of Business, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. He joined Ohio University in 1984 and was marketing department chair from 1989-1995.

Dr Gupta received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India, and MBA and PhD degrees in marketing and innovation management from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.

Prior to starting his teaching career, he held executive and shop floor positions in industry in India for eight years. His research, teaching and consulting interests focus on management of innovation and the new product development process. He has published extensively on R&D management, management of R&D/marketing interface, and accelerating the new product development process in leading national and international journals.

In addition to his teaching posts at Ohio, he has also taught in Germany and consulted on management education in India.

About the journal

The American Journal of Business (AJB) was established in 1985 as an outlet for applied business research, its mission to be at the intersection of theory and practice. Originally managed from Ball State University College, it is sponsored by a number of AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited institutions. Its editorial board comprises academics from these schools, each selected by their dean.

AJB has been acquired by Emerald, with the first Emerald issue published in April 2011 (Vol. 26 No. 1).

From accounting to marketing, management to finance, the AJB covers the full range of business disciplines while remaining a general business journal intended for academic scholars, research students, and business executives.

Its intent is to publish articles aimed at improving business practices or enhancing instructional efforts through application, transfer and interpretation of knowledge.


Journal mission and editorial objectives

What was the impetus behind the founding of AJB?

The journal was founded in 1986 with a mission to provide an outlet to publish research that can be applied to solve business problems and would be of interest to academicians as well as practitioners. Manuscripts mainly dealing with theoretical issues were outside the scope of the journal. Initially the mission also included publishing on topics related to improving pedagogy.

You have always positioned yourselves at the intersection of theory and practice. Has your mission changed during your 25-year life, and has that point of intersection, applied business research, changed, if so how?

Yes, our mission has changed in the last quarter of century to de-emphasize publication of manuscripts related to business education. This mainly happened due to the growth of journals in business education area. We have also become more global in terms of our author base.

According to Doane et al. (2010) there are now 2,000 applied business journals, whereas in 1985 there were only 245. What is the exact market position of the AJB, and how does it differentiate itself from the competition?

You are right in pointing out the growth in number of applied journals since the first issue of AJB and the concern for differentiation and positioning has become critical. We differentiate ourselves is in several ways:

  1. AJB considers that rigour and relevance are not two conflicting dimensions of research. Therefore, each manuscript goes through a serious review process to ensure rigour in analysis and methodology.
  2. AJB considers the manuscript review process as developmental rather than evaluative. Those who have published in AJB feel that they have benefited from the review process and have perhaps become better researchers as a result.
  3. AJB's features such as "Executive viewpoint" and "Dean's forum" also have helped to position it as a journal that encourages dialogue among readers and students rather than an item to be shelved.

Now that you are being published by an international publisher, how do you see the journal developing in the next five years? For example, number of issues per year, special issues, content, readership etc.? Will a higher percentage of your authors come from outside the USA?

With the wide reach of Emerald, we believe we will receive a much larger number of submissions from around the globe, our authors will have greater exposure to their research, and readers will have more diverse material to read from. We don't think we want to increase the number of issues per year. However, we will plan on more special issues and global authorship beyond our current mix. Some special issues that we are planning include: "Business impact of immigration" and "Business impact of social media".

Why did you decide, when you were seeking a publisher to publish, market and distribute AJB, on Emerald?

As you know, the current AJB, which was called Mid-American Journal of Business till 2007, had a very regional positioning even though about 70 per cent of authors came from outside the sponsoring schools of the journal. After 25 years of successfully publishing the journal, we were looking to explore new horizons and expand its focus and reach. In Emerald we found a publisher that not only has global presence, but more importantly whose philosophy of "research you can use" resonated with our own philosophy of "applying research to practice".

You have had the "Dean's forum" for some time; do you have other ideas for non-article content, such as, for example, a "Young researcher's" section?

Besides "Dean's forum" and "Executive viewpoint", we are thinking of "Point & counter point" as invited non-article content to provide discussion on two opposing points of view on the same issue. We have not thought of "Young researcher's" section, but that is another idea that we could look into.

How is AJB used in teaching business?

Several of our articles, "Executive viewpoints" and interviews with business executives continue to be used in classrooms and included in readings books.

Research into practice

You aim to appeal equally to practitioners and academics. Yet as Doane et al. (2010) point out, "For most business disciplines, the act of reading a top-tier journal is an empirical odyssey closed to nearly all business practitioners". How do you actually reach practitioners, and how do you persuade them to read your articles?

"Executive viewpoint" has been a great medium for reaching practitioners. Often, those who submit an executive viewpoint ask for reprints of their articles which they distribute to others. We also actively send references to selected articles to executives we think would be interested in the topic. Each sponsoring school has its own executive advisory board. Each member of the board receives a copy of the journal. We are hoping that Emerald will alert executives through its various forums about articles of interest to practitioners.

What sorts of factors in a paper (e.g. easy-to-read writing style, asking relevant research questions, etc.) make it suitable (and likely) to be read by a practitioner?

Besides readability and practical implications of articles, the most important factor is the relevance, importance and timeliness of topics of articles.

Publishing processes

Can you describe how your editorial board contributes to editorial content, and to processes (I am thinking particularly of your associate editor system, whereby each board member assumes responsibility for a particular subject area, thereby helping to reduce the time lag between receiving a piece and submitting comments)?

Associate editors contribute to the journal in several ways, they:

  • control the quality of the journal through rigorous and timely review process;
  • encourage quality submissions by encouraging their peers to submit manuscripts; and
  • promote the journal at conferences they attend and increase its visibility among peers.

You are keen on developmental reviews as opposed to critical reviews. How does this work in practice, and how can reviewers help authors improve their articles?

If we see a potential in a manuscript, the editorial team works very hard with the authors to develop it. We suggest literature authors may have missed; methodology or analysis they could do which would provide more appropriate data; further questions authors may want to address in their manuscripts which the reader would be most interested in, but they did not address; additional tables or charts they could add in their manuscripts.

Of course, each manuscript still goes through the double-blind peer-review process. If authors make suggested changes, chances of their success improve. Authors generally find the process very healthy and helpful.

Impact

You were recently designated as a "commendable journal" by Cabell's Directory of Journals. How else are you seeking to increase your impact?

Besides promoting the journal so that more people are aware of its contents and cite relevant articles in their work, we believe that the single most important factor in increasing the impact is publishing articles that address important topics that readers want to read. We also need to reach more authors, and develop more special issues. We need to convince authors that AJB is the right outlet for their scholarly activity. I know it is a catch-22 situation. We are hoping that with Emerald's global reach we should be able to improve the impact factor of AJB.

Your editorial role

How did you become editor, and how long have you held the post?

I was elected to the position of editor-in-chief in 2001 by the editorial board, when the then editor completed his three-year tenure and did not want to pursue a second term. I am happy to report that during my tenure we made some significant changes in the journal, but maintained our focus on publishing applied research articles.

I believe you are shortly to retire as editor. What message would you like to pass on to your successor?

Owing to the proliferation of journals, both in the print and online media, maintaining consistent quality flow of manuscripts that have impact on the field has become challenging. The task of differentiation, positioning, promoting, and timely reviewing has become critical for the success of the journal. The challenge is even more daunting for a general business type journal such as AJB which is not discipline specific. The task for the new editor would be how to get manuscripts from the authors for AJB who may be more interested in sending their manuscripts to more discipline-specific journals. We need to work on expanding the editorial advisory board to include globally recognized names/schools and expand our playing field to help think outside the box – new authors, new topics, new markets, new ideas.

Publisher's note:

Dr Ashok K. Gupta was interviewed in June 2011.

Visit the information page for: American Journal of Business