On responsible research

Professors at business schools increasingly engage in discussions of business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) or, more generally, responsible management. It seems to me that our first obligation would be to clarify what responsibility means, what are our responsibilities as business school professors and how well we are doing relative to these responsibilities. In this entry, I deal with what I think responsible research is. I believe there are 3 important dimensions:

1- scientific rigor and contribution: in order for research to be believable (“true”) and make a contribution to the extant research body (which I think it is its primary obligation), it requires to follow the scientific method which entails: (a) clearly defining the key concepts, (2) identifying a gap in the relevant scientific literature by conducting a thorough critical review, (c) formulating hypotheses and providing their associated causal arguments (d) prior to engaging in empirical work to test them and (e) faithfully reporting our findings (refraining from data fabrication and mining). As researchers, we are entrusted with society’s trust that our research is sound and believable, i.e. the result of following a valid, scientific method which makes our claims legitimate.

A very important part of our research/scientific activity in our co-opetition world is free reviewing of papers for scientific journals, which influences in part our career progression. Reviews – which are formally double-blind in premier journals – largely determine editorial decisions (of whether papers are accepted and published) and thus to a great extent individual career progression, in a given university as well as in the profession. Diligent and scholarly reviewing is thus also a responsibility.

2- organizational relevance: to address important, general organizational phenomena and their consequences (see entry on managerially relevant research) 

3- societal consequences: to make our most so the uses of our research by different actors have a positive organizational, societal and environmental impact. Of course, what positive means has to be defined.

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