Tag Archives: invisible colleges

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.

Business Research at German Universities

The figures below display networks of relations between different fields of business research at public German universities. They visualize how the fields are connected to each other, which fields are stronger embedded and which are peripheral.

Altogether, 1.287 full professors are currently teaching and studying business at 78 institutions. I took their membership in scientific commissions at the German Association for Business Research (VHB) and, in case of no membership, information about their institutes or chairs to specify the fields of research. Each scholar may be affiliated to one or more of the following communities: 1) Banking and Finance, 2) Business Taxation, 3) Academic and Higher Education Management, 4) International Management, 5) Logistics, 6) Marketing, 7) Sustainability Management, 8) Public Business Administration, 9) Operations Research, 10) Organization, 11) Human Resources Management, 12) Production Management, 13) Accounting, 14) Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 15) Business Information Systems, 16) Philosophy of Science and Business Ethics.

The sixteen fields of business research are shown as nodes. The size of a node depends on the number of members in the respective commission. A tie between two nodes indicates a professor’s membership in both communities. Tie strength indicates the number of professors with co-memberships (the stronger the tie, the more co-memberships). The second network displays only ties with more than 10 co-memberships. It’s an arbitrary threshold to provide better visual interpretation.

The biggest community is Accounting (243 members), followed by Organization (229), and Marketing (200). The smallest fields are Academic and Higher Education Management (50) and Public Business Administration (77). It’s obvious that a functional focus is more common than object-oriented specializations. The strongest links exist between Organization and Human Resource Management (96 co-memberships), Production Management and Logistics (65), and Accounting and Business Taxation (61). The most embedded field of reserach is Organization, followed by Production Management. Surprisingly, the two object-oriented fields of Academic and Higher Education Management and Public Business Administration are at the periphery of the network, despite the fact that their operations likely involve most of the other functional areas.


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.