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Special Issue: Journal Rankings and the Notion of “Relevance” within Business Research

Special issue call for papers from European Business Review


Guest Editors
Professor Jan Stentoft, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
Professor Per Vagn Freytag, University of Southern Denmark, Denmark
New Public Management has now entered the academic scene. In general, governmental supported research funds are becoming more dependent on the number of publications in peer-reviewed academic journals. The individual researchers, research departments, faculties, and universities as a whole, have become more performance driven in terms of output measures of disseminating research in acknowledged ranked peer-reviewed academic journals. This development has led to debate concerning the pros and cons with the ranking systems (Piercy, 2002), and the metrics, such as different types of rankings (Adler and Harzing, 2009), and the moderately close process for composing rankings, citation indexes and other impact measures. Another trend is the ranking of MBA programs with different types of accreditation levels. MBA rankings also exist where the ranks are based on where the faculty has published their research. However, how much of this research is relevant for MBA students? This evolution has started a debate whether such MBA competiveness is more business than school (Gioia and Corley, 2002).
These performance measures are important instruments for Deans in evaluating their staff for career advancement and to assess their performance in relation to other research institutions. However, there is also another important stakeholder that needs to benefit from the resources invested in research; namely the society, in terms of public, private enterprises and citizens. The current development of performance measures seems to neglect such impact areas, with one way to classify research is to divide the research into basic and applied. Each day our society benefits from many resources that have been spent in basic research in sciences such as physics, chemistry and healthcare. However, how much basic research does really exist in social sciences; and more specific in business management research? Is most of the latter not applied in nature in terms of covering different aspects of the human nature in socially, economically and political relationships? If one accepts this premise we also need to discuss theoretical versus practical relevance. Many efforts are spent on disseminating research in ranked journals, but how much of this is read? Biswas and Kirchherr (2015) indicate that only few articles are cited and those that are cited might even not been read. Pfeffer and Fong (2002) argue that there is little evidence that business school research is influential on management practice. Fendt et al. (2008) demand more pragmatic research in order to close the theory-praxis gap. Tang (2016) even claims that much research within operations management is irrelevant for practice. Thus, do the better ranked journals include more practical relevant research? Do the better ranked journals include better research? The relevance and importance of journal ranking is not questioned as an instrument raising the quality of scientific work. What is questioned here is the balance in performance measures of publications in highly-ranked journals versus publications with a practical impact (e.g. books, trade press articles and other forms of media). Where is the tipping point between theoretical and practical relevance? Do we, as discussed by Arlbjørn et al. (2008) and Brennan (2008), widen the gap between research and practice if we continue to pursue a strategy with a high focus on high-ranked academic journals? We would like to challenge this performance culture with measures that has inevitably increased the volume but not necessarily the quality and relevance.
The ranking environment has both positive and negative effects (Mckinnon, 2013; Svensson and Wood, 2006); however, with direction and strengths being dependent on the ‘eyes that view’. Among positive elements, the ranking might stimulate what is good quality and increase competition among journals and universities and business schools. Contrary, this ranking culture has also created challenges for academic environments (Davis, 2014) i.e. coerciveness to site journals (Wilhite and Fong, 2012); development of citation cartels among researchers (Franck, 1999), standardization of research regarding questions and methods (Arlbjørn et al., 2008); higher emphasis on quantity at the expense of quality (Davis, 2014; Svensson et al., 2008) and that practical relevancy is downplayed to tailor themes, methods and theoretical perspectives to fulfill the needs through the academic journals gatekeepers (Bennis and O´Toole, 2005). Overall, it also raises the principal question of what role business schools and universities should play in the society (Ferlie et al., 2010).
This special issue solicits empirical, conceptual, and theoretical articles (with a prioritization at empirical articles) that contribute to the understanding of the theoretical-practical relevance divide, addressing, but not restricted to, the following range of issues:
·         What is relevant business-related research?
·         What impact factors are most expedient?
·         It there a trade-off between rigor and relevance in business-related research?
·         What is theoretical and practical relevance?
·         What are the advantages and disadvantages of journal rankings for the research community and the society as a whole?
·         What are the effects of performance management culture at business schools and universities?
·         To what extend should business research enable business action?
·         What strategies are expedient for securing practical relevant research?
·         What are alternative performance measures to secure practical relevant research?
·         What are the most expedient research dissemination strategies?
·         How to develop business integrated research strategies?

·         Is business research “about” or “with” organizations?


 Submission Process
Research submissions must be submitted through ScholarOne, the online submission and review system- Please ensure you select the correct special issue when submitting. Manuscripts should be prepared according to the Author Guidelines for European Business Review and will follow the journal's usual double-blind peer review process.
Submission Deadline: January 31st, 2017. The special issue is planned to be published in 2017.
For any queries please contact the guest editors, Jan Stentoft at [email protected] and Per Vagn Freytag at [email protected].


Adler, N.J. and Harzing, A-W. (2009), “When knowledge wins: Transcending the sense and nonsense of academic rankings”, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 72–95.
Arlbjørn, J.S., Freytag, P.V. and Damgaard, T. (2008), “The beauty of measurement”, European Business Review, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 112-127.
Bennis, W.G. and O’Toole, J. (2005), “How business schools lost their way”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 83 No. 5, pp. 96-104.
Biswas, A.K. and Kirchherr, J. (2015), “Prof, no one is reading you”, The Straits Time, (accessed May 28, 2016)
Brennan, R. (2008), “Theory and practive across discipælines: implications for the field of management”, European Business Review, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 515-528.
Davis, G.F. (2014), “Editorial essay: Why do we still have journals?”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 59 No. 2, pp. 193-201.
Fendt, J., Kaminska-Labbé, R. and Sachs, W.M. (2008), ”Producing and socializing relevant management knowledge: ret-turn to pragmatism”, European Business Review, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 471-491.
Ferlie, E., McGivern, S. and De Moraes, A. (2010), “Developing a public interest school of management, British Journal of Management, Vol. 21 No. 1. pp. 71 – 81. 
Franck, G. (1999), ”Scientific communication--a vanity fair?”, Science, Vol. 286 No. 5437, pp. 53-55.
Gioia, D.A. and Corley, K.G. (2002), “Being good versus looking good: business school rankings
and their Circean transformation from substance to image”, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 107-20.
McKinnon, A.C. (2013),"Starry-eyed: journal rankings and the future of logistics research", International Journal of Physical Distribution & Logistics Management, Vol. 43 No. 1 pp. 6 – 17.
Pfeffer, J. and Fong, C.T. (2002), “The end of business schools? Less success than meets the eye”, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 78-95.
Piercy, N.F. (2002), “Research in marketing: teasing with trivia or risking relevance?”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 36 No. 3, pp. 350-63.
Svensson, G., Helgesson, T., Slåtten, T. and Tronvoll, B. (2008), ”Scientific identity of ”top” research journals in the broader discipline of marketing: Finding and queries”, European Business Review, Vol. 20 No. 5, pp. 384-400.
Svensson, G. and Wood, G. (2006), “The Pareto plys syndrome in top marketing journals: research and journal criteria”, European Business Review, Vol. 18 No. 6, pp. 457-467.
Tang, C.S. (2016), “OM Forum—Making OM Research More Relevant: “Why?” and “How?”, Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 178-183.
Macdonald, S. and Kam, J. (2007), “Ring a Ring o’Roses: Quality journals and gamesmanship in management studies”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 44 No. 4, pp. 640–655.
Wilhite, A.W. and Fong, E.A. (2012), “Coercive citation in academic publishing”, Science, Vol. 335 No. 6068, pp. 542-543.