Why Research Diversity Matters

Why Research Diversity Matters

The Three Major Missions of Business School Professors

Business school professors – as academics in most other higher education institutions – fulfill three major missions: research, teaching and service. Although teaching-related tasks such as giving classes, marking exams and advising students and service-related tasks such as participating in the governance bodies of the business school obviously represent core activities of a business school professor, research has become of overwhelming importance in research-driven business schools. In other words, business school professors aim at building knowledge with the ultimate goal of improving business practice.

Creating Knowledge

But how do we know or even measure that knowledge has been created by a business school or an individual professor? Publications in peer-reviewed academic journals are one of the most widespread indicators of whether knowledge has been created. Publications in leading academic journals undergo several rounds of evaluation by anonymous referees with similar expertise as the authors (usually other professors called “peers”) and subsequent revisions by their authors. This peer-review process ensures that publications fulfill the highest academic standards in terms of methods, theories and overall rigor. Accordingly, publications in leading academic journals represent cutting-edge knowledge with the potential to impact scholars, companies, and society overall.

The Role Publications Play

Moreover, publications in leading academic journals have become the almost exclusive path for career advancement of individual business school professors and a decisive factor for their status in the academic community and beyond. In academia, these publications play a significant role in recruitment processes and promotion committees as well as in research grant allocations. They have a real impact on how well business schools are ranked (for example in the influential Financial Times Executive MBA or Global MBA rankings) and subsequently have an impact on the attractiveness of a business school for students, employers and professors. In other words, publications in leading academic journals have become of crucial importance for individual academics and their institutions. Interestingly, each academic business discipline – such as accounting, finance and marketing – has only a very few journals that are recognized as top-journals and academics from higher education institutions around the world aim at publishing in them. These journals are managed by editors and editorial boards that review manuscripts submitted for publication-consideration and ultimately decide which manuscripts will be published and which will not. One has to bear in mind that top-journals regularly reject more than 90% percent of the manuscripts they receive for publication-consideration! Therefore, the editors of leading academic journals can be considered gatekeepers who hold a considerable influence on academic disciplines.

Why Research Diversity Matters

Against this background, ESSEC Professor Christoph Endenich (Department of Accounting and Management Control) – together with Professor Rouven Trapp from Ulm University (Germany) – turns our attention to the academic profiles of these influential scholars and raises the following question: “What if journals are dominated by academics with similar profiles representing few sub-disciplines (e.g., financial accounting or management control) and using few methodological approaches (e.g., experiments and questionnaires)?”[1] This is a meaningful issue given that these academic profiles constitute a powerful signal sent by a journal that can encourage scholars with similar academic profiles to submit their work to the journal and discourage those who do not see a match between their own academic work and the academic profiles of the editorial board members. Therefore, in the case of undiversified editorial boards, the lack of different viewpoints and methodological approaches may lead to more homogenous, less innovative publications that will ultimately cumulate less knowledge. On the other hand, research diversity contributes toward a more overarching understanding of business and societal reality. Building on different research methods and theoretical angles allows to tackle issues of relevance for companies and overall society from different perspectives and their complementarity can provide fresh insights. In other words, as in other areas – such as teamwork, decision-making boards, politics etc. – diversity (also) matters in terms of research approaches because it pushes our knowledge further.

In his empirical research project, Professor Endenich studies two of the most recognized journals in academic accounting research: Contemporary Accounting Research and The Accounting Review. He shows that when it comes to the methodological expertise, a more diverse editorial board is likely to result in a more diverse set of articles submitted to and published by the journal. Thus, Professor Endenich provides another example that diversity matters and efforts to increase diversity ultimately pay out: editors who engage in diversifying their editorial boards by appointing editorial board members with different areas of expertise can contribute toward a dissemination of a diverse set of research articles that altogether provide us with a more overarching illumination of reality. That is all the more true at a time when the complexity of the world keeps increasing. To highlight the importance of Professor Endenich’s findings, the editors of Critical Perspectives on Accounting have assembled a special issue around his article [2], comprising commentaries from six leading senior authorities in the accounting academe from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.


[1] Endenich, C./Trapp, R. (2018): Signaling Effects of Scholarly Profiles – The Editorial Boards of North American Accounting Association Journals, in: Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 51, pp. 4-23.
[2] Endenich, C./Trapp, R. (2018): Toward an Overarching Signaling Framework – The Editorial Boards of North American Accounting Association Journals, in: Critical Perspectives on Accounting, Vol. 51, pp. 84-86.

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