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Meet the editor of... European Business Review

An interview with: Göran Svensson
Interview by: Margaret Adolphus

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Image: Göran SvenssonGöran Svensson is a professor at the Oslo School of Management. He has previously held positions in Sweden. He is widely involved in the international research community.

He has published in areas such as business ethics, business logistics, supply chain management, services marketing, industrial marketing, leadership, quality management, public sector management, human resource management, history of management, academic publishing and general management.

More details may be found at:

European Business Review (EBR) publishes in the field of general management, and aims to be thought-provoking, insightful, accessible and relevant to a wide readership which includes both business and academia. Its articles span the key disciplines – management, leadership, marketing, logistics, strategy, quality management, entrepreneurship, business ethics, international business, operations management, manufacturing, accounting and finance – and are on topics of broad appeal and international business.

It provides past and current insights, discipline reviews, and predictions, as well as coverage of issues of relevance to the management education community.

Journal mission and focus

The journal’s title is European Business Review. Why "European"?

European Business Review (EBR) has its home base at Emerald in Europe and its history goes back to having an emphasis on the economy of the continent. Nowadays, EBR strives to address topics of interest to the worldwide readership of scholars and practitioners based on an open-minded and reflective European perspective, where different views are represented in order to avoid myopia.

How would you characterize the journal’s mission and what makes it different from other journals in the field?

EBR aims to publish innovative, straightforward, challenging, thought-provoking articles in the field of general management. We strive to provide journal content that provides both insight and foresight, is relevant and interesting to a wide readership, and adds to business understanding in both the practitioner and academic communities.

You cover all the key business disciplines, but with an international focus. However, many more disciplinary specific journals would make a similar claim for their material. So, why would an author of a marketing article submit to EBR rather than, say, to International Marketing Review?

EBR encourages thought-provoking and challenging topics that may be filtered in other more conservative journals. EBR provides a forum for debate – there is not enough debate in many areas of research, and predominant views tend to silence alternative ones. We need to remember that business is dynamic and dependent on the behaviour and perceptions of humans and the phenomena they create. There are always alternative views...

Can you define your international stance in terms of geographical spread of authors and readers?

In 2009 just over one-third of our authors came from Europe, after that we had quite a few from Asia, followed by North America and Australia. In 2010, we will have special issues with authors from Latin America and the Middle East. So we really are international in that respect!

Nearly half our readership comes from Western Europe with the biggest majority in that category from the UK. After that, the biggest group is from Australasia, with 5 per cent from the USA.

Special issues (series) are obviously of great importance to you. Can you describe your approach here, for example do you intend to make the "Views from global thought leaders" an annual feature?

I believe in making the effort of putting together special issues as it may increase the readership of EBR. In addition, they create more interest in the journal and help it to gain more recognition in the long-run.

Basically, this special issue series of "Views from global thought leaders" consists of academics and practitioners who have had a lifetime of experiences and whose perceptions in their field of expertise are therefore very interesting and relevant.

The contributors are distinguished and well-known members of academia and business. The purpose is to document and share parts of their accumulated lifetime knowledge, and provide an unusual source of their thoughts concerning past and present and their beliefs concerning the future. Their insights and reflections are valuable to the research community worldwide as well as possibly also of great importance to business.

We believe their thoughts may inspire current and forthcoming generations in academia and business to unprecedented achievements in research and practice.

What future plans do you have for special issues?

We have a wide variety, for example:

  • "Business research in Taiwan" (Issue 6/2009).
  • "Business ethics – through time and across context" (Issue 2/2010).
  • "Managing Middle Eastern management" (Issue 4/2010).
  • "Anatomy of value and value-driven processes in business organizations (Issue 5/2010).
  • "Views from global thought leaders V" (Issue 6/2010).
  • "Business research in Brazil and Latin America" (Issue 6/2010).

Editorial coverage and audience

A consistent theme for the journal is communication about management, via education and publishing – you have had special issues on academic journals, business education pioneers and the link between theory and practice. Why is it important to cover these issues?

I believe that these topics have not been explored and debated sufficiently. Also, see below!

You deliberately aim at a broad audience. How does your journal help bridge theory and practice?

Hopefully by addressing some topics that keep them apart, such as debates on business schools, academic journals and the theory-practice debate. In addition, EBR provides an outlet for topics that may support it. For example, there is a forthcoming special issue from Asia, South America and the Middle East that implicitly addresses this gap.

Your background and relationship with the journal

When and how did you come to be editor of the journal, and how do you see yourself shaping it?

I have been the editor since July 2005 and consciously re-positioned it in order to broaden and increase its readership worldwide. I also changed the editorial board and the editorial review board to help us get a readership across continents. So we now have authors, reviewers and members of the editorial board from all continents although we need to do more work to make the representation really equal. The emphasis on special issues is another change.

Can you say a bit about your current position in the Oslo School of Management?

I am professor dedicated to support their faculty to perform publishable research, organizing seminar series and research conferences on an international level, contributing to place the school in the worldwide arena of academia.

General publishing issues

In your special issue, "Academic journals & academic publishing" (Vol. 18 No. 6), there are articles which argue that "top" journals are in fact quite US dominated in terms of their authorship, editorial boards, and the data used in their research (see Rosenstreich & Wooliscroft and Polonsky et al.).  What are your views on this, and would you also agree with the statement that: what American journals typically want is theoretical innovation, rigorously designed empirical studies that are designed to address a specific theoretical question and which attempt to reach closure on the issue?

Well in fields other than marketing and based on American research values it may be true, but on the bottom line it means that the authors in marketing should apply quantitative methods, American research data, cite American journals and have American co-authors in order to gain the acceptance from the American editors and their editorial boards of reviewers and ad hoc reviewers. We are talking about a plus Pareto syndrome, where 90 per cent in the top marketing journals are based on these characteristics. Furthermore, the use of student samples is problematic and the low response rates do not permit any closure on the issues addressed, i.e. there is low (if any) validity, reliability and the generalization is low over time and across contexts.

In the same issue, you argue that the "top journals in marketing tend to be governed by narrow concerns of research rather than broad ones" (Svensson and Wood), i.e. citations, pro-empirical research, North American data and authorship, quantitative design, etc. Can you elaborate on this?

I was in charge of a research study the purpose of which was to identify the top marketing journals according to scholarly perceptions. We found that both journal and research criteria nurtured and fortified the inertia of the marketing discipline and encouraged a homogenous North American focused view of research. For example, their editors were invariably American, as for the most part were authors and editorial board members. Views as to what constitutes appropriate research were conservative and even myopic in the formats, topics, and methods that were encouraged. The journals were far too general in their focus, whereas the growth of the discipline necessitated greater segmentation. You can see this research in an article "Top versus leading journals in marketing: some challenging thoughts" (EJM, Vol. 42 No. 3/4).

Moving, as it were, from the sublime to the simple, you pride yourself on the simplicity of style and approach in your articles. How do you persuade academics to write in a simple and clear style?

I encourage them to make their papers readable for both scholars and practitioners. For example, statistical and methodological technicalities should support the topic of the paper, not be a window-dressing where there are no sound implications, conclusions and contributions. In addition, the editorial review board assist in pushing the authors to write simple and clearly.

And finally

Globalization is often seen as coming from the outside, particularly for poorer countries. How can countries make globalization work for them?

By requiring a genuine global approach from those companies which operate globally, where the global and local issues are addressed and respected. It has to be a win-win situation, which is not necessarily the case today where large profit-driven organizations tend to work ruthlessly and abuse the situation of these poorer countries. In fact, they tend to move on to other countries as soon as the salaries and conditions become reasonable for the workforce. In other words, the poorer countries should not accept whatever terms in order to receive just a minor and temporary benefit from it. They may forfeit the national resource without any realistic payback to be used in the future. It is a kind of modern imperialism.

Publisher's note

Professor Svensson was originally interviewed in July 2007. The interview was revised in August 2009.

Visit the information page for: European Business Review