Author Archives: Rick Vogel

Publons: Get credit for peer review

Reviewers do an important but often underappreciated job in the current publication system. To recognize their invisible and usually unpaid efforts, journals often gratefully publish the name of their reviewers by end of the year. From the perspective of reviewers, these “honorable mentions” are nice, but still somewhat scattered and disconnected.

The online network “publons” offers a more personalized approach of earning credit for reviewing. Once you have created an account, you can forward the “thank-you-for-reviewing”-mails that are automatically generated by submission systems after completion of the process. The information will be verified and added to your profile, thus recording your personal history of peer reviewing. This can be helpful to document your services to the community, e.g. in application processes.

It’s official: the better the teacher, the worse the evaluation

A recent study found that students’ evaluation of teaching quality at universities drops by about half a standard deviation when the effectiveness of the teacher in improving students’ performance increases by one standard deviation. In other words: the better the teacher, the worse the evaluation. This is mainly due to the extra-effort that good teachers require from their students. The weather also proves to be a determinant of evaluation results. Overall, these findings cast doubts on the evaluation practices of universities, both with regard to current and prospective teachers.

Short Impression from the 12th Workshop on New Institutionalism

The 12th Workshop on New Institutionalism in Organization Theory took place in the picturesque city of Lucerne, Switzerland, on 31/03 and 01/04/16. A good share of the presented papers was on higher education organizations, which indicates again that new institutionalism is among the most vital theoretical perspectives in our field.

Jelena Brankovic presented an interesting piece on the emergence of ‘elite’ university associations, such as the Russell Group in UK or the German U15. If this trend continues, soon few universities will be left that are not excellent. But if all universities are excellent, none is.


We are currently visiting the International Centre for Higher Education Management (ICHEM) at the University of Bath, UK. It was very interesting to learn more about the DBA, a truly international doctoral programme in higher education management, at yesterday’s Founder’s Day presentation. Even more than that, the multi-level research at ICHEM makes us wonder if the various European research centres should work together more closely in a network-like cooperation …

Calls for Papers: Special Issues on Knowledge Intensive Organizations

Universities are knowledge intensive organizations, indeed. As a follow-up of the 4th Ashridge International Research Conference on “Leadership, Management and Innovation in Professional and Knowledge Intensive Organisations”, four Special Issues will be published. The deadlines for submissions are in November 2015. Please find the Calls for Papers below.

“Progress Relies on Both”

Reproducibility is a core value of research. An open collaboration of more than 100 authors has recently conducted replications of empirical studies published in psychology journals and found that replication effects are considerably weaker than the original effects. While 97% of original studies had significant results, only 36% of replications had. The authors conclude that journal reviewers and editors may reject replication studies as unoriginal and prefer innovative studies instead. However, “innovation points out paths that are possible; replication points out paths that are likely; progress relies on both.” Read the full paper in Science here.

Towards an Open Research Culture

Although transparency, openness and reproducibility are core values of science, the academic reward system does not sufficiently incentivize according practices. In the present reward system, excessive emphasis on innovation and the neglect of negative and null findings may undermine practices that support verification and replication. The Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Committee has now released eight standards for more open journals’ procedures and policies for publication. You can download these guidelines here and read the full article in the Science Magazine here.

The Hybrid Registered Reports Submission Path

One of the most frequent criticisms regarding the peer review system is a bias towards positive (i.e., confirmative) results, while negative or null findings are less likely to find approval by reviewers (although they may address no less relevant research questions and may result from equally rigorous methods).

The Journal of Business Psychology (JBP) has now announced to roll out an additional manuscript submission path that the editors hope to address the publication bias. In this alternative path, called hybrid registered reports submission path, authors submit the introduction, information on methods and measurement, as well as a plan of analysis, while no results and discussion are provided. Research is then evaluated on the merits, rigor, and quality of the project rather than what was actually found.

How Dinosaur Experts Propose Marriage

A particular interesting way to detect invisible colleges in scientific fields is to study acknowledgements in research publications. Authors usually thank their colleagues who spent time and effort to provide a “friendly review” of earlier drafts of the manuscript, or who have given other forms of support. When these efforts are reciprocated, networks of professional ties among scholars rise to the surface.

Sometimes acknowledgements reveal more than just professional networks. A Canadian paleontologist has recently published a paper in which he gives credit to the support from his colleague Lorma, who holds a PhD from the same university. So far, so good, but the acknowledgements continue surprisingly: “Lorma, will you marry me?” See the full CBC news report.

The Art (and Business) of Fabricating Peer Reviews

The Washington Post reports on a new way of cheating in academic publishing: Dubious agencies offer the service of faking peer reviews during the submission process of academic journals. A scandal revealed in the biomedical sciences suggests that these agencies fabricate contact details for reviewers and then submit favorable reviews from these addresses. Some of these accounts have the names of seemingly real researchers but with fraudulent e-mail addresses, others are completely fictitious. The blog Retraction Watch has counted a total of 170 retractions in the past few years because of fake peer reviews.

Although “fakeries” of this kind may be a threat to the integrity and reputation of academic publishing, the peer review system still enjoys high levels of commitment among researchers across all disciplines. This is a preliminary result of our survey on peer review which we conducted recently – more information soon on this blog.

On Fake Science in “Predatory” Journals

While the future of scholarly communication is still written in the stars, the present publication system reveals its shady sides: In “predatory” journals, activists who pursue political or commercial goals circumvent peer review and publish fake evidence on scientific or pseudo-scientific issues (e.g., reporting alien sightings, denying global warming or promoting untested medicines) in return for payment of a publication fee. The problem: Once published, the articles get indexed in Google Scholar and thus flow freely into the communcation process in science and beyond. Tom Spears reports on this problem in the Ottawa Citizen.

A piece on editorial governance

As our IndiKon project proceeds, it splits up into several sub-projects, one of which is concerned with the hidden drivers of journal rankings. Such rankings are increasingly important elements of performance management systems in higher education. We are now in the midst of gathering data on the composition of editorial boards, and we are truly amazed by the great variety of different roles, functions and bodies in the editorial governance of journals. Here is a selection (making no claim to be exhaustive):

Area Editor, Associate Editor, Associate Editor Board, Associate Editor ex officio, Associate Editor for Reviews, Board of Professionals, Book Review Board, Book Review Editor, Co-Editor, Consulting Editor, Contributing Editor, Coordinating Editor, Copy Editor, Cross-National Studies Editor, Department Editor, Deputy Editor, Editor, Editor Elect, Editor Emeritus, Editor-at-Large, Editorial Advisor, Editorial Advisory Board, Editorial Assistant, Editorial Board, Editorial Coordinator, Editorial Manager, Editorial Review Board, Editor-in-Chief, Editor-in-Chief Elect, Executive Board, Executive Director, Executive Editor, Executive Editorial Board, Feature Editor, Former Editor, Former Editor-in-Chief, Founding Editor, General Editor, Graphics Editor, Honorary Editor, Incubator, Joint Editor, Managing Editor, Managing Editor Emeritus, Manuscript Editor, Past Editor, Past Editor-in-Chief, Point-Counterpoint Editor, Policy Board, Product Editor, Production Coordinator, Production Editor, Production Manager, Regional Assistant Editors, Regional Editor, Reviewing Editor, Section Editor, Senior Advisory Board, Senior Associate Editor, Senior Editor, Special Adviser, Special Editor, Special Projects Manager, Subject Area Associate Editor, Technical Editor, Web Editor.

CfP for special issue: are scholars public service motivated?

We are editing a Special Issue of the International Journal of Manpower on “Human Resource Management and Public Service Motivation”. Public Service Motivation (PSM) is defined as an “individual’s predisposition to respond to motives grounded primarily or uniquely in public institutions and organizations” (Perry & Wise, 1990, p. 368). Given this definition, it seems reasonable that scholars have high levels of PSM. For example, the “commitment to public interest” dimension of PSM seems to correspond to the norm of communism (i.e., scholars share their work with their invisible college for the common good) in the Mertonian sociology of science. However, we still know little about the antecedents and consequences of PSM in higher education organizations. For example, how does PSM moderate the relationship between performance measurement and scientific misconduct? If you have ongoing work in this or closely related fields, please consider a submission to our Special Issue. You find the Call for Papers here.

Universities in Unsettled Times – More Reflections from EGOS

With some delay to Ferdinand’s report, but here they are: our impressions from the EGOS colloquium in Rotterdam, Netherlands. IndiKon’s Alfred Kieser (Zeppelin University) co-chaired the track “Universities in Unsettled Times: Effects of Evaluations, Accreditations and Rankings” together with Richard Whitley (University of Manchester) and Lars Engwall (Uppsala University). The sub-theme’s program covered a broad range of topics relating to current reforms in higher education systems around the world. We presented our paper “What makes journals highly ranked?” and received valuable comments from the other participants. The positive feedback encourages us to continue with this sub-project on a broader database and with new bibliometric indicators. Jessica Petersen (Zeppelin University) and Fabian Hattke (University of Hamburg) will join us in our efforts.

One of the most striking insights I had in the course of the three days was the following: Much is written about the impact of performance management systems in higher education on the professional identities of academics, and many authors argue that the new managerialism in universities is a serious threat to academic identities. However, as Richard Whitley and others argued, performance management systems may also strengthen the commitment of scholars to their professional communities. If performance measurement is based on rankings, elements of peer control within scientific communities become incorporated into output-based control systems of universities. Since rankings reflect the stated or revealed preferences of scholarly groups (i.e., invisible colleges), their professional standards gain in importance for, and are appreciated by, performance appraisals in universities (i.e., visible colleges). This, in turn, may even elevate the professional identities of scholars. For me, this is a nice thought worth examining empirically.