Why We Need a Research Transparency Revolution in Business History

19 12 2015

AS: We plan to present this paper on the 2016 conference circuit.

Andrew Smith, University of Liverpool Management School; Maki Umemura, Cardiff Business School.

Paper Abstract:  In both the physical and the social sciences, there is an increasing emphasis on research transparency. The failure of Business History as a scholarly community to participate in the ongoing “transparency revolution” in Qualitative Social Science risks placing our research community in a serious competitive disadvantage relative to other research areas. This competitive disadvantage would have an adverse impact on the careers of business historians. This paper argues that the creation of research transparency institutions is vital for business history scholarship. Thanks in part to the recent historical turn in management research and teaching, Business History has risen in prominence in management schools  Keulen and Kroeze, 2012; Rowlinson et al. 2013;  Kiesen, 2015; Rowlinson 2015, 78). If Business History is to continue to capitalise on these crucial gains, we need to start constructing transparency institutions. This paper is designed to initiate a conversation about what these institutions should look like. The paper begins by outlining a model of disciplinary competition for societal resources. Our model  draws on literature on the sociology of academic knowledge as well as on recent observations about the state of business-historical research and other qualitative approaches to management learning (Kipping & Üsdiken 2014; Kipping, & Üsdiken, 2014). The paper then moves on to discuss the development of research transparency institutions in both the hard sciences and in disciplines that are much closer to business history in terms of research methodology. Drawing on recent research on the current state of business history (De Jong, Higgins, and van Driel 2015; Kipping, Wadhwani, and Bucheli, 2014; Rowlinson, Hassard, and Decker, 2014; Whittle and Wilson 2015; Decker, Kipping, and Wadhwani 2015) and on publications dealing with the nature of business-historical sources (Fridenson and Scranton, 2013; Lipartito, 2014), the paper discusses the unique challenges business historians might face in creating research transparency protocols.  The paper concludes that Business History organizations and journals should attempt to move towards a regime of Active Citation whereby references to primary sources in paper contain a direct link to a scanned image of the source being quoted or otherwise cited. We argue that this reform will strengthen Business History as it contends with similar disciplines for scarce resources such as research council funding, venues for the presentation of research, and the creation of academic posts.

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