Join us in Anaheim at AOM’s Annual Meeting!

The Ethics Education Committee at Anaheim

We look forward to discussing the ethical dilemmas you are encountering in your academic and professional lives, and in your interactions as an AOM member.

Educating the educators: Truth and justice in academic publishing

It seems I can’t visit anywhere without hearing harrowing stories of unethical and abusive editors, reviewers, and scholars. Before starting this blog, I would hear the odd tale or two – but now I seem to be ground zero for the often shocking admissions of disgruntled and abused colleagues the world over!

While it would be nice to view these unfortunate confessions as a biased sample, I am beginning to believe that the entire profession harbors within each of us, numerous examples of blatantly unethical conduct, all simmering and waiting to escape as some sort of neurotic or equally unjust retribution. In short, we may be the walking wounded. All of this has to do with our culture of scholarship – we need to carefully ask ourselves, what kind of culture are we promoting, and what are our overall objectives? How can we improve the cultural landscape that we operate in?

Just a few representative examples:

A junior colleague tells me an anonymous reviewer demands a series of coercive self-citations of their own, only tangentially relevant work. They also disclose, in the review, both who they are, along with insinuations that they know exactly who the jr. scholar is. The editor forwards this review with no comment.

A senior scholar reports presenting a paper with a unique novel analysis of public data during a conference. A few months later, she observes a conference paper written by a member of the audience who had attended the talk – utilizing the exact same methods and data.  There is no mention of her paper, not even an acknowledgement. Despite reminding the author of this sequence of events – by sending a copy of the proceedings as a reminder – the paper is eventually published, without a word of recognition, even though the editor is aware of the circumstances.

Dog eat dog…

Finally, we have the ‘curse’ of the special issue editors. These are often the unregulated wild west. I have heard more horror stories than I can relate in this short blog, but they range from ‘tit for tat’ expectations, to outstanding examples of favoritism, nepotism, and cronyism. Editors taking advantage of writing themselves or their friends into special issues is very common. These may represent closed networks of special subject reviewers who are primed   to support primarily insider work – and reject outsider material. Social expectations trump scientific merit, and the entire effort becomes mired in politics.

While these are but a few examples, one begins to suspect that what is published is often not recognition regarding the high quality of the research, rather, it has to do with the social processes underlying how the work is presented. Rather than rewarding the highest quality work – or the most innovative work – we wind up with a kind of replication of the norm. We pat each other on the back regarding out methodological rigor, without really considering the accuracy or consequences of our efforts. No wonder managers in the ‘real world’ seldom pay attention to anything we do.

All of which suggests that we need more transparency in our publication and review process, as well as more insight into the methodological and philosophical rigour we use to approach our work. The idea of double blind is good – as long as it is truly double blind, and the objective is to enhance the quality of the subsequent product. However, all too often, we’re simply going through a well rehearsed process of convincing the editors and reviewers that our work is normative, while they go through the ritual of telling us how to frame an acceptable ‘story’ that meets their standards, irrespective of the accuracy of the work.

In a very insightful article, Bill Starbuck in the  60 year anniversary issue of ASQ points out the inconsistencies in reviewer evaluations, including the problems of submissions from ‘low status institutions’, convoluted formulas, and ambiguous editorial feedback. He also highlights the problems of signalling inherent in language usage, whereby reviewers can identify the origin of any particular manuscript’s authors.

Next, Bill tackles the issue of our efforts to enhance the importance of our work, irrespective of the actual merit, sometimes leading to corrupt methodologies, HARKing (Hypothesizing after results are known) and p-Hacking (subjecting data to multiple manipulations until some sort of pattern emerges) both of which misrepresent the accuracy of the theories discussed. Bill points out that this leads to “a cynical ethos that treats research as primarily a way to advance careers”.

Bill concludes that cultural changes are needed, but that they happen only slowly. Senior scholars must take a very visible lead – editors and reviewers alike. In the end, it’s really a matter of education.

I fully agree with Bill – we need to start looking at ourselves carefully in the mirror, stop quoting our individual H indexes, and begin the difficult task of educating ourselves regarding how to advance our scientific capabilities.





Ethics: What is expected of AOM Members?

ethics-cropped-1024x555Did you realize that as a member of the Academy of Management you “agree to uphold and promote the principles of the ‘AOM_Code_of_Ethics’ and to adhere to its enforced ethical standards”? Do you know what principles and standards you agreed to uphold?

Like most people, you probably think the Code of Ethics exists as a reference to consult when things go horribly wrong.   Understandably, studying the AOM Code of Ethics is probably at the very bottom of an extremely long to-do list.

So why would you read and think about the AOM Code of Ethics? First, yourightandwrongdecisions might want to know what the AOM expects of you as a member, and what you can expect of other members. Are there specific ethical guidelines you should know about, as related to participation in activities in your Divisions, committees, the annual conference or other AOM events? What about guidelines for your professional life outside of AOM– as a researcher, instructor, consultant, or as a student?

Second, you might want to know where you can find help or answers when you encounter ethical dilemmas. Who should you go to within the Academy? What are the roles of the Ethics Committee including the Ombuds Committee, the Adjudication Committee, as well as the Ethics Education Committee (EEC)?

Finally, you might want to know what is contained in the current Academy of Management Code of Ethics, so you can provide input on periodic revisions. How can we make sure this Code is up-to-date and relevant given emerging dilemmas in our world?

The Ethics Education Committee is here to help. At the coming Annual Meeting in Anaheim we can offer the following types of sessions for your meeting, Division Consortium or Committee:

  1.  Presentation and Discussion: A 60-minute interactive session on business and professional ethics, values and the AOM Code of Ethics.
  2. Overview and Q & A: A 30-minute introduction to the AOM Code of Ethics, who does what at the Academy in the ethics area, including the role of the Ombuds.
  3.  Discussant: An EEC member can attend an ethics session you are offering, and answer questions as needed about the AOM Code, Ombuds roles etc.

Please contact EEC Chair Janet Salmons (jsalmons[at] or with the contact form below) to discuss ways the EEC can help ensure that new and returning members your area of the Academy are familiar with the principles and standards they agreed to uphold.

The EEC will also be offering these opportunities for discussion at the Annual Meeting:

  • Open Forum on Ethical Scholarship on Saturday, August 06 from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Open Forum on Global Ethics for Business & Academia on Saturday, August 06 from 5:45 PM – 7:15 PM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.
  • Committee Meeting: If you are interested in joining us, our (open) meeting will be held Sunday, August 07, from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the Anaheim Marriott, Elite Ballroom 1.




The Obligation to Publish

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit melancholy about the my obligations to speak publicly about what I know. This has affected both my contributions to this blog, and my work on my longstanding blog about academic writing. It’s not, of course, that I don’t know anything, nor that I don’t have anything I want to say; it’s just a sort of reticence about engaging with others. It will, of course, pass in due time, and it’s probably not something to worry about. But it does raise an interesting ethical question: do we have an ethical obligation to say publicly what’s on our mind?

The Code tells us that we have an obligation

2. To the advancement of managerial knowledge. Prudence in research design, human subject use, and confidentiality and reporting of results is essential. Proper attribution of work is a necessity. We accomplish these aims through:

  •   Conducting and reporting. It is the duty of AOM members conducting research to design, implement, analyze, report, and present their findings rigorously.

I imagine most people read this with an emphasis on “rigorously”, i.e., as a responsibility when we do conduct research and report it to do so rigorously. But I think we do well to keep in mind that if we spent our entire scholarly careers conducting no research at all, or not reporting whatever research we did conduct, we would in fact be shirking an important responsibility.

Reporting our research opens it to criticism by our peers. It allows us to be corrected in our views wherever they happen to be erroneous. One of the most important reasons to publish, that is, is to give our peers an opportunity to tell us where we have gone wrong, so we can stop misleading our students about it, for example. But it is also a way of informing others about results that might call their previously held views into question. If I know that something you think is true is actually false (or vice versa) then I have an obligation to share that knowledge with you. That’s part of what it means to be an academic.

There’s an interesting variation on this theme in the current discussion of the publication of “null results”. If 9 out of 10 studies show no significant effect of a particular managerial practice, but only the 1 out of 10 studies that shows an effect is published, then we are being systematically misled about the efficacy of that practice. And yet, in today’s publishing culture, authors and journals are much less incentivized to publish null results than significant ones.

The Code does say that it is the responsibility of “journal editors and reviewers [towards the larger goal of advancing managerial knowledge] to exercise the privilege of their positions in a confidential, unbiased, prompt, constructive, and sensitive manner.” Perhaps I’m once again grasping at straws, but it is possible to construe “unbiased” as requiring us to publish valid but insignificant findings, i.e., studies that show no effect where one was hypothesized.

This becomes a personal ethical concern for individual scholars when they don’t publish results that call their own favoured theory into question, always, of course, citing the unwillingness of journals to publish null results. But whether it’s the authors or the editors that are to blame, the overall effect is that the truth remains hidden. So, in a sense, it is a species of dishonesty.

For that reason alone, I hope this melancholy of mine soon passes and that I once again start doing the responsible thing, namely, putting my ideas out there for all to see.

Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?

KEY INSIGHT:  James Davis and Susan Madsen (former co-chairs of AOM’s Ethics Education Committee (EEC)) have developed four ethics in research scenarios, which they, EEC members and journal editors have taught to multiple doctoral consortia at the AOM annual meetings since 2008.  In this blog posting, Jim and Susan introduce their scenarios. A short annotated list of internet resources on teaching research ethics follows.  We hope that these resources will stimulate discussion about research ethics among the faculty and doctoral students at your institution. The Ethicist has migrated from AOM Connect and “gone public”; the blog is freely available for reading and download at Comments are welcome, and you are encouraged to circulate this blog posting (and earlier ones) to your colleagues and students.

   Continue reading “Ethics in Research Scenarios: What Would YOU Do?”

The Thought Leader Series: Michael A. Hitt on Ethics in Research

Michael A. Hitt

KEY INSIGHT:  Michael A. Hitt is one of the world’s most respected and prolific management scholars. In this blog, Professor Hitt discusses the ethics of research based on his many years of working in collaborative groups and with PhD students. This blog posting is the first of a series of interviews of thought leaders in our profession, asking them about their views and experience with ethical issues.


Slicing and Dicing: Ex Post Approaches

Blog No. 2012-03 (May 4, 2012)


KEY INSIGHT:  In my February 2012 THE ETHICIST: RESEARCH posting, I discussed an important issue facing researchers: How do authors determine whether the papers coming out of one project are sufficiently different from one another so that they can be considered to be new papers? In my earlier posting, I looked at ex ante methods that authors could use to determine whether a paper was sufficiently new. Here I follow up with ex post methods for determining novelty; that is, once the paper has been written and submitted for review, how can reviewers and editors be assured of its originality?

Continue reading “Slicing and Dicing: Ex Post Approaches”

Double-Blind Review in the Age of Google and PowerPoint

Blog No. 2011-03 (November 1, 2011)

Key Insight:  Double-blind peer review is one of the academy’s most cherished principles.   Its purpose is to ensure that our scholarly journals make decisions to accept or reject manuscripts based solely on the quality, fit and contribution of the paper. Double-blind review, however, has costs as well as benefits, and may be more fiction than fact in today’s world of Google and PowerPoint.

AOM Videos on “Ethics in Research & Publication”

The Ethics Education Committee of the Academy of Management has developed a series of eight videos of journal editors talking about ethical issues involving research and publication. The videos are posted on AOM’s YouTube channel at:

Please share the videos with individuals you think would be interested in viewing them.  The videos are particularly useful for PhD students and junior faculty who are starting into the research process, but — even for old-timers like me — it was very instructional to watch the videos. Highly recommended! Kudos to Susan Madsen and Jim Davis for heading up this project, and to all the journal editors who participated.

The increase of retractions

Eek, my first post! Not much of a post, more of a share…

I came across this article and thought it was particularly interesting. It attempts to analyse why papers being withdrawn are on the increase, suggesting an increase in the awareness of misconduct rather than an increase in the misconduct itself.

Continue reading “The increase of retractions”