Ethical Leadership through Giving Voice To Values: Free Online Course

Beginning next Monday, September 25, 2017, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, in partnership with Coursera, will offer a 4-week online course, Ethical Leadership through Giving Voice To Values.
This course offers an action-oriented introduction to Giving Voice to Values (or GVV), an exciting new approach to values-driven leadership development in the workplace, in business education and in life.
GVV is not about persuading people to be more ethical, but instead it starts from the premise that most of us already want to act on our values, but that we also want to feel that we have a reasonable chance of doing so effectively and successfully.
Through positive, real-life examples, pre-scripting, rehearsal and peer coaching, GVV builds the skill, the confidence and the likelihood that we will act on our values more often and more successfully. Based on research and practice and with more than 1,000 pilots in companies and educational settings on all seven continents, GVV helps us to answer the questions: “What if I were going to act on my values? What would I say and do? How could I be most effective?”
Audiences for this course include business practitioners, corporate trainers and leadership/ethics professionals who wish to use the GVV approach in their organizational training and management practices; faculty who wish to find ways to integrate values-related topics into their core curriculum; as well as students and individual learners. Faculty may wish to assign the entire course and/or selected videos and assignments to students in their own classes, as a way to introduce them to the GVV approach before asking them to apply the methodology to cases and topics in their existing syllabi.
The course includes short videos introducing the key GVV topics and approaches, as well as video presentations by GVV users from business, the military and academia; readings; exercises; and peer coaching opportunities.
Learners can earn a course certificate from Coursera for $79. Auditors can access the course materials for free.
Registration
Registration is available now at this link through Coursera. The first cohort for the course begins on September 25, 2017 and runs for 4 weeks. For the remainder of 2017, subsequent cohorts launch on October 23November 20December 18, and every fourth Monday after that.
For more information, please feel free to contact AOM Ethics Education Committee member GentileM@darden.virginia.edu and visit www.GivingVoiceToValues.org and www.MaryGentile.com.

Theory Meets Practice: Executives in the Ethics Classroom Let’s Compare Notes!

by Diane L. Swanson, PhD    Kansas State University

theory-73181_1280Why this blog?

I am sharing my experience in team teaching ethics with a corporate executive because I want to hear from others who have done something similar. It is difficult to find such experiences documented anywhere; therefore, it would be ideal if Academy of Management members would share their thoughts on this subject here.

How my team teaching with an executive started:  

Approximately four years ago, I started team teaching my graduate professional ethics elective in our college of business with a recently retired senior executive.  This came about because the then dean of our college stopped me in the hall one day and asked if I wanted to team teach with our newly arrived executive in residence.

I usually pause for at least a few minutes before making any decision, not to mention one that affects my classes. However in this case, I quickly said “yes.”  Although I hadn’t yet met this gentleman, the dean told me of his stellar career with a Fortune 500 company and of his sincere interest in business ethics education.   I also knew that he was still serving on three boards of directors.

That was enough for me.

To make a long story short, this executive and I soon met to plan our experiment in team teaching. This coming fall will be our fourth semester team teaching this graduate course.

In due time, the dean put me in touch with yet another executive who helped me create an ethics teaching module for my MBA triple bottom line class.  Soon afterwards, a law partner of a large global firm started flying to campus twice a year to give lectures on ethics in my undergraduate and graduate classes and to our college’s professional advantage students.

I can attest to the advantages of these arrangements, especially the benefits from the team teaching arrangement.

Benefits of the team teaching:

  • The very presence of this executive in the classroom speaks volumes to students about the importance of ethics in the workplace.
  • The executive boosts this subject’s relevance by giving concrete examples of how and why ethical behavior in the workplace matters. Student teaching evaluations show as much.
  • Students are looking for role models. They want to take advice from a successful business executive, especially when it is given face-to-face in an ethics classroom.
  • What this executive has added to the class has influenced the topics covered in this course. Notably, given my teaching partner’s experience as a former senior vice president of a Fortune 500 firm and his role as a current board member for three organizations, I have added material on corporate governance to the course.
  • This executive has touched the lives of students in ways he may never know. I have heard from former students who tell me that their interactions with him made a positive difference in their professional lives. Three of them have offered to give back in kind someday. There could be a chain reaction taking shape!
  • The executive tells me that he enjoys helping students and giving back to society in this role.
  • I continually learn about developments in practice, especially those that affect the C-suite.

Our method in brief:  

My teaching partner is active in our classroom. (I now think of it as our classroom!)  He attends classes, meets with students in groups, and gives them thoughtful feedback on their presentations.  The method that works best for us is that I teach the models and then ask for his comments and observations.  Examples of the questions I pose to him include: How is this model relevant to practice in your view?  How is it not?  Could the model be altered to address practice better?

The most interesting conversations begin.  Essentially, we engage in looking at the models and material more critically.   Since this elective is just as much a course in critical thinking as it is a course in professional ethics, these conversations are a real plus.

Let’s compare notes!

Again, please feel free to use this blog site to weigh in on this topic. It would be nice to create some notes on best practices!

 

Diane L. Swanson, PhD
Professor of Management and Edgerly Family Endowed Chair of Business Administration
Founding Chair, Business Ethics Education Initiative
Kansas State University http://cba.k-state.edu/departments-initiatives/business-ethics/index.html
Co-editor: Advancing Business Ethics Education (2008) and Toward Assessing Business Ethics Education (2011)

Ethics? Let’s talk! Plan now for Atlanta sessions.

rightandwrongdecisionsWhat does it mean to act ethically?

Is it basically to “do the right thing”? We only have to peer out of our office windows to see that what one thinks is the right thing, the appropriate attitude, justifiable behavior, is utterly, perhaps terrifyingly wrong to someone else. What is the right thing, and who is the arbiter?

As academics, scholar practitioners, or students, much of our work is done privately. No one can see what we’re doing when we’re crafting a paper, analyzing data, or conducting a peer review on someone else’s work. If we cut corners or cheat the risk may not be obvious, or it may take time before those closed-door deeds become public. Other activities are public, and may have an immediate impact on other’s well-being, or careers. Even so, the right action, the ethical behavior, may not be entirely clear.

Members of the Academy need to be on the same page about what is right, and we can readily find that page– it’s called our Code of Ethics. The code spells out expectations for all of us in General and Professional Principles. Ethical Standards spell out “enforceable rules” for activities within the context of the AOM.

All members are expected to uphold the Code, but it is clear that many have not reviewed it to see what they have endorsed by joining the AOM, or perhaps wait until a problem arises before consulting it.

Like any document of this kind, it is useless unless we bring it to life in the ways that we think and act. The Ethics Education Committee (EEC) is responsible for bringing the Code of Ethics to the attention of our members– and the Ombuds Committee is responsible for providing guidance when dilemmas arise. EEC members are available to assist your Division Consortia, or other sessions you offer at the annual conference. We offer a flexible menu of options, and encourage you to contact us to discuss the best way we can work together in Atlanta.

We can offer the following types of sessions for your meeting, Division Consortium or Committee:

  1. Presentation and Discussion: A 60-minute interactive session to provide a broad overview of business and professional ethics, values and the AOM Code of Ethics.
  2. Focused Session and Discussion: A 30 to 60-minute session on a specific topic such as academic honesty, ethical dilemmas in collaborative research and writing, or an area you identify.
  3. Q & A Forum: Collect the questions your doctoral students or early career faculty have about ethics and the AOM in advance, and will come prepared to answer, and discuss them.
  4. Code and Procedures FAQ: 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 and ways to get help.
  5. Discussant: An EEC member can attend an ethics session you are offering in a consortium, PDW, or symposium, and answer questions as needed about the AOM Code, Ombuds roles etc.

Please contact EEC Chair Janet Salmons (jsalmons[at]vision2lead.com 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.

Journal editors – unregulated and unmonitored

HI Friends

I’ve been quiet for a couple of months – summer schedule and all – and wanted to get back to the blogosphere. I’ll try and be more diligent.

Many strange things have been brought to my attention over the summer, but I thought I would start with a more personal experience. That way, if anyone want’s to comment, at least one side of the equation is available.

Last spring we sent a paper in to an unnamed FT50 journal. Normally, these top journals reply within three months – at least – that has been my experience until now, for the most part. One consequence of the enhanced competitive environment is that journal editors seem to invite submissions by promising faster turn around.

In any case, a full six months went by, without hearing from the journal. As a result, I contacted the editor directly.  The editor immediately responded, on a Friday,  by saying “I should have contacted him earlier” and that he would ‘get on it’. By Monday, we had our rejection, along with only one review, and a note from the editor saying he was unable to get a second review. He didn’t even bother adding his own comments to the rejection letter. Needless to say, the first review was not very helpful, but that is beside the point. This little exchange once again brings me to question the authority, transparency, and lack of professionalism sometime exhibited by editors of even top journals. One cannot help wondering, given the importance of these gate-keeping roles, how it happens that we have processes that appear cavalier, with no recourse regarding accountability, transparency, appeal, or arbitration. In this particular case, my career does not hinge on the outcome – but I must report – in many cases where individual careers are in jeopardy, I have more often observed arrogance than compassion.

So, this brings me to raise an important question – and I must highlight – this question does NOT apply to Academy of Management journals, where transparency and fairness seems to be much more institutionalized.

Who appoints these people as editors?

Who governs their behavior?

Why do we allow autocratic and incompetent behavior by editors, even of prestigious journals?

In my view, we have a serious professional need for an equivalent of ‘rate my professor’ for academic journals. Such an idea was posed a few years ago in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Robert Deaner who called for a “consumer reports for journals”. We could monitor and evaluate the review process, the editorial process, the time taken, and other aspects of peer review. If anyone is interested in starting such an activity, please let me know – as I think we really need some monitoring out there.

Happy Research!

Benson

 

The Moldable Model

by Don Dunn, PhD

Wrightandwrongdecisionse have researched ethical leadership for nearly 100 years, but not as extensively and with as complicated methodology as during the new millennium. Due to the ethical failure or dark leadership of so many corporations during the early years of the 21st Century, the study of company ethics has hit a feverish pitch in looking at best practices and organizational behavioral results.

Much of the literature on ethical leadership, specifically in the area of how we lead and manage ethics at the organizational or corporate level, offers a wide variety of components or processes needed to assure that a company operates ethically. The literature offers components such as codes, rewards, discipline, ethical training and communication, decision-making tools, accountability processes, and/or the new kid on the block – ethical audits. In reviewing the literature, I noticed that there was not a consensus on one model of consistent components to lead and manage ethics. Would it not be advantageous to know that there was some sort of model or framework by which any organization in any industry of any size could create, improve, or enhance its ethical culture? Would it not be beneficial to busy executives to have a framework that could easily be implemented in their organizations that would guide company ethics?

That was the problem and purpose of my research using a qualitative, multiple case study approach sampling three organizations of global, regional, and local reach that had demonstrated strong ethical processes. In researching these organizations, collecting data from three different sources, I was able to determine that a model of consistent components emerged from the single- and cross-case analysis.

The model is called the Moldable Model© (MM) because it has a fixed framework of three components that all organizations can use, but then can adapt or mold those fixed components to fit company-specific needs. The MM includes the fixed framework of these components: role modeling, context, and accountability or as delivered in the three R’s of corporate ethics: (1) Role modeling, (2) research Reasons or outcomes for being ethical, and (3) Responsibility or holding employees accountable for company values. Role modeling based on social learning and social exchange theories can be implemented in different ways in the organization; it is a leadership function (influence relationship). Reasons to be ethical are numerous, and specific reasons can be selected by the company to share with and to motivate employees toward ethical conduct. Responsibility or holding all employees responsible for company values is a management function (authority relationship) and includes a choice of several activities such as hiring protocols, consistent ethics training, communication of company ethics, rewards and discipline, ethical audits, and/or employee evaluations that include adherence to company values.

Specific explanations and implementation processes of the MM are available in my recently published book by Business Expert Press: Designing Ethical Workplaces: The Moldable Model©. The book was written for use in executive MBA programs and for PDWs, while based on solid research.

See: Dunn_BEP_Designing Ethical Workplaces-TheMoldableModel (4)

What are we professors to do? Are we better than VW?

As members of the Academy, we each hold responsibility in upholding our professional ethics. Once the ‘egg is broken’, it will be very hard to re-establish public confidence. VW, for instance, will undoubtedly have a long road in convincing the public that their organization acts in an ethically responsible way. While the public seemed to quickly forgive GM for their ignoring a faulty ignition problem, they are less willing to forgive systemic premeditated corruption. We have seen the flashback from the American Psychological Association regarding members advising how best to conduct torture having an impact on their community. In short, many of these professional ethical issues have a way of impacting our field for the long run.

In the last posting, Greg Stephens AOM’s onbudperson, outlined a range of issues they examine, with instructions regarding how to proceed should you have a professional ethics dilemma. They do a fantastic job, often behind the scenes, and we should be very appreciative of their hard work.

Of course, these issues are primarily only of relevance to things that happen in and around the Academy of Management. If you observe something at another conference, or at a non AOM sponsored journal, well, there may be few if any options for you to pursue.

A  AOM recent censure ruling, the first I ever recall seeing, included the sanctioning of an academy member. Professor Andreas Hinterhuber had submitted a previously published paper for consideration at the upcoming Annual Meeting. The ruling was as follows:

The final sanctions include disqualification from participation in Academy of Management activities (including but not limited to submission to the conference, participation on the conference program, serving the Academy or any of its Divisions or Interest Groups in an elected or appointed role, or submission to any of the Academy of Management journals) for a period of three (3) years, public notice of the violation through publication in the AcadeMY News; formal notification to the journal where the work was previously published, and ethics counseling by the Ombuds Committee.

Seeing a public and formal sanction is a good professional start, and I applaud our organization for taking the trouble to demonstrate that we have professional limits that should be honored. However, what if  Professor Andreas Hinterhuber were found to have done the same thing at, say, EGOS, or BAM? Of what about someone who submits a paper simultaneously to two different journals for review? Would the consequences be the same? Likely not.

It would seem to me that we would all benefit from a larger professional ‘tent’ whereby public notice of violations and censure were more systematically discussed. I find it very odd that, out of 20,000 members, it is so rare for us to have a public censure (this is the first I am aware of – although there may have been other non-public consequences). Every year I hear of multiple cases of doctors and lawyers getting disbarred.  The odds are presumably the same for our profession, but the consequences far less, and the frequency of public humiliation quite rare. This would only provide incentives to engage in unprofessional conduct.  I am not suggesting we begin a yellow journalistic finger pointing exercise. Only that given the rise in competition, and the important stakes involved in our profession, we should collectively think about professional monitoring, public dialog, and the provision of clear ethical guidelines in our doctoral and professional career development.

Your thoughts on the matter are welcome.

How are we evaluated as scholars?

Considerable effort is expended on tenure reviews, letters of recommendation, and extensive reports on citation counts and the impact factor of  scholarly journals.  Many Jr. faculty tell me that they are required to publish in only a very limited number of ‘high impact’ journals – often as few as five. In fact, one scholar surprised me with this requirement, as not only was the university where he taught not particularly top tier, but neither were his colleagues or the dean imposing the standard. Yet, without the five promising articles, he was out looking for another job. A totally wasted effort on the part of the institution and the scholar, who is very promising and has already ‘delivered’.

The number of universities incorporating these types of barriers seem to be growing, despite increasingly difficult hurdles and ridiculously ‘low’ odds of having a paper accepted for publication in one of these ‘sacred’ journals. It is as though tenure committees no longer have the capacity to think, to read, or to adjudicate. They just want a simple formula, and are just as happy to send a young scholar to another institution then they are to keep them. I just don’t see how that enhances the reputation or quality of the institution. Don’t we want to invest in our human capital? Are faculty simply a number generated by a few editors or by google-scholar? Is there no purpose whatsoever to the community and teaching activities that we might be engaged in, or to the publication outlets that we seek that might be more inclusive than the very top five?

I’ve attended numerous editorial board meetings over the years, and I would say that half of the time dedicated to these meetings revolves around the issue of journal impact factor.  Editors with dropping impact factors seemed ashamed and hasten to share new strategies. I, myself, have observed the removal of case studies and other non-citable material from journals legitimated primarily to enhance citation impact.  Editors with increasing impact factors loudly and broadly share their new found success like proud grandparents.  Given this emphasis, one would think that a set of standard practices would be in order to compare one journal, fairly, with another. And yet, the reality is far from achieving even a semblance of objectivity.

For starters, many editors encourage authors to heavily site their own journals, reflected in the ‘coercive citation’ literature. In fact, a look at the Thompson list of citation impact factor for journals shows that many journals have heavily inflated impact factors due primarily to self-citation. JCR, the primary database for comparison, does provide a measure discounted by self-citations, but this is rarely used or referred to. Fields that are rather small claim the self-citation rate is necessary, as there is little information on their subject matter elsewhere. However, this can also be a convenient way to inflate the work of the editor, editorial board, and influential reviewers and gatekeepers. A very strange example of editorial manipulation occurred a couple of years ago regarding a citation cartel, whereby the editor of one journal edited a few special issues in two other journals. By directing the scholars in the special issues to cite the other journal, the impact factor grew to embarrassingly undeserved heights, resulting in the resignation of that editor.

Now, a recent article has uncovered yet another cynical editorial ‘trick’ to bias statistics and provide a higher impact factor.

An article by Ben Martin in Research Policy entitled “Editors JIF_boosting Stratagems” highlights the many ways editors now employ to upwardly bias their results  (A nice summary of the article is provided by David Matthews  in the times higher education).  The ‘tricks’ are impressive, including keeping articles in a long queue (every wonder why your accepted paper takes two years to reach print?). This ensures that once a paper is published, it will already have a good number of citations attached to it.  As stated by Ben “By holding a paper in the online queue for two years, when it is finally published, it is then earning citations at the Year 3 rate. Papers in Year 3 typically earn about the same number of citations as in Years 1 and 2 combined, and the Year 4 figure is broadly similar.25 Hence, the net effect of this is to add a further 50% or so to the doubling effect described above (the JIF accelerator effect)”.

One top management journal reportedly has 160 articles in their queue, another on management ethics 600!! Other strategies reported include cherry picking articles to hold back, and encouraging review articles, that get widely cited.

In sum, it appears that the ‘objective’ measures we tend to employ regarding journal quality and citation impact are far from objective, and subject to considerable bias and manipulation.

Isn’t it about time that tenure committees read material and focus on content, rather than on a publication’s location? Perhaps we, as a community, can provide a ‘gold standard’ set of recommendations? What do you think?

 

Student abuse by faculty

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling, lately, which in part accounts for my relative silence over the past few weeks. However, in the course of traveling, I keep coming across a set of similar stories, from throughout the world, although principally from developing countries, in particular, China and those in Africa.

The stories tend to be similar, in terms of exploitation of doctoral or junior faculty members, and go like this:

“At our university, the senior faculty insist that their names go first on every paper I produce, even those that they have not contributed to, in any way”.

Or,

“At our university, doctoral students do all the data collection analysis, and writing, but our names are never put on the paper – only that of the senior faculty”.

When I hear these stories, as both a scholar and an editor, I am outraged.  How is it that faculty members can openly exploit students and junior scholars is such a blatant fashion?  Why is it that no professional organization exists to come to their defense? Unfortunately, we are collectively partially responsible, as the publish or perish norms and intense competition that we have helped develop only exacerbates this problem.  It is, after all, a collective problem.

Of course, the exploitation of students is not entirely new. The recent movie “the Stanford Prison Experiment” shows the extent to which Lombardo went during his study, and the expense those participants must have paid.  Zimbardo, then an ambitious recently tenured scholar, was a consultant on the film, and it reportedly accurately reflects what took place. His subsequent work was devoted to more pristine socially progressive causes, such as understanding shyness. No surprise there…

Our code of ethics does address these issues, although not as directly as one might think. For example, on the aspiration side, with regard to integrity:

  1. Integrity

AOM members seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of their profession. In these activities AOM members do not steal, cheat, or engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact. They strive to keep their promises, to avoid unwise or unclear commitments, and to reach for excellence in teaching, scholarship, and practice. They treat students, colleagues, research subjects, and clients with respect, dignity, fairness, and caring. They accurately and fairly represent their areas and degrees of expertise.

Regarding specifically students:

  1. To our students. Relationships with students require respect, fairness, and caring, along with commitment to our subject matter and to teaching excellence. We accomplish these aims by:

Showing respect for students. It is the duty of AOM members who are educators to show appropriate

respect for students’ feelings, interests, needs, contributions, intellectual freedom, and rights to

privacy.  Maintaining objectivity and fairness. It is the duty of AOM members who are educators to treat  students equitably. Impartiality, objectivity, and fairness are required in all dealings with students.

1.6. Exploitative Relationships: AOM members do not exploit persons over whom they have evaluative or other authority, such as authors, job seekers, or student members.

And finally,

4.2.2. Authorship Credit

4.2.2.1. AOM members ensure that authorship and other publication credits are based on the scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved.

4.2.2.2. AOM members take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they

have actually performed or to which they have contributed.

4.2.2.3. AOM members usually list a student as principal author on multiply authored publications that  substantially derive from the student s dissertation or thesis.

I underlined the word “usually” under 4.2.2.3. I assume that the exception referred to are situations where the student would not be listed as principal author, but would be listed as co-author (although what these would be, and why they would be exceptions, is a bit of a mystery to me). However, it appears that from the perspective of some of our international members, this ‘exception’ may leave open the interpretation that a scholar may occasionally NOT cite a student as co-author, even when they are  a principal author. Further, and unfortunately, there is no mention of adding authorship to work where the scholar did NOT make a contribution (although 4.2.2.1 does seem to imply that such a deed would not be welcome).

So, what can we do collectively to eradicate this practice of exploitive advising? How can we get the message across different cultures and institutions that when an author submits a paper, the assumption by the editor – indeed, the social contract – ensures that an appropriate amount of work has been conducted by that author reflecting the order of authorship? Further, perhaps it is time our code of ethics become a bit more specific regarding some of these practices, in order to make it explicitly clear that exploitation of any sort is unwelcome in our profession.

Ethics and Ethnography

I’ve been having some interesting conversations over at OrgTheory with Victor Tan Chen about the ethical dilemmas that ethnographers face in their research practices. This is closely related to the issues that Benson picked up on in his recent post, noting that our Code of Ehics requires us “to preserve and protect the privacy, dignity, well-being, and freedom of [our] research participants.” In this post, I’d like to bring out to important dimensions which we might distinguish into a concern with our “scientific” and our “professional” integrity.

As scientists, we are concerned with the truth. So, when we observe something in our fieldwork we feel a duty to report those events as they actually happened. But sometimes we have to modify our description of those events, leave them out, or even outright fictionalize them, in order to protect our research subjects from the consequences of making their actions public. (This is not always, but sometimes, because they are themselves involved in unethical or illegal activities, which raises an additional dilemma.) Once we do this, of course, we have made a compromise, we have sacrificed a little bit of truth for the sake of a, presumably, greater bit of justice.

But at the next level of analysis, we now have to ask ourselves whether we are inadvertently circulating falsehoods. Will our readers begin to tell certain anecdotes to their peers and students as though they are “true stories” even though the actual events are very different? What for us might merely be slight embellishment for the sake of concealing an identity or a location, might for our readers become an illuminating “fact” about how the world works.

Consider an analogy to medical science. Obviously, you don’t want to end up claiming that a pill has effects it doesn’t actually have or doesn’t have effects it actually does. That’s why you don’t leave out information about the population that you have tested it on. If you’ve only tested the pill on healthy men in their thirties, you don’t hide this fact in your write up because it’s important to know that its effects on seventy year-old women with high blood pressure are largely unknown. Similarly, if you’ve done your ethnographic research in rural China, you don’t “anonymize it” by saying it was done in India or the US. The context matters, and it is often very difficult to know how to characterize the context while also making it non-specific enough not to reveal who your actual research subjects were.

The broader professional issue has to do with preserving our collective to access to the communities that we want to remain knowledgeable about. If Wall Street bankers always find themselves written about by ethnographers as greedy sociopaths (and assuming they don’t self-identify as greedy sociopaths) or citizens of low-income neighborhoods always find themselves described as criminals, they will slowly develop a (not entirely unfounded) distrust of ethnographers and will, therefore, be less likely to open up their practices to our fieldwork. As Victor points out, these are issues that journalists also face, and which they have a variety of means to deal with. Many of these means can be sorted under “ethics”.

Let me emphasize that these are issues we must face collectively, i.e., as a profession. Losing access to empirical data is not just a risk you face personally in your own work. If your peers don’t enforce disciplinary standards then we’ll all lose credibility when engaging with practitioners. For this reason I also agree with the anonymous commenter on my last post: we must lead by example and, unfortunately, every now and then we must make examples of each other.

How should we treat each other as scientific subjects?

At the Academy meeting in Vancouver this year, it was brought to my attention that there were PDW’s collecting research data on participating members – without a clear ethics approval or apparent ethics protocol. That is, there was no informed consent, yet data appeared to be collected.

This was not the first time I observed our collective avoidance of Ethics Review Board (ERB) or Institutional Review Board (IRB) protocol when surveying ourselves.  As previous chair of AOM’s ethics education committee, I was tasked with repeating the ethics survey that we had administered to our entire membership some years before. The first thing that I did was to ask for the ethics review board protocol, in order to be sure I was following accepted procedures.

After a few weeks of embarrassing emails and back and forth confirmations, it was eventually clear that we had never submitted our own ethics survey to any kind of ethics review board. I was told that when the AOM board met to discuss this issue there was some hesitancy to constrain the activities of divisions surveying their membership – and no clear path to indicate who would serve as an accepted IRB for Academy research. My own decision was to obtain ERB approval and protocols from my own university, and proceed with the survey in that manner.

Many of us feel IRB’s are a burden. However, it is worth noting how many of these regulations came about.  For one, experiments on concentration camp victims horrified the scientific community, leading to the Nuremberg code. Much later, the experiments by Stanley Milgrom attempted to understand how people willingly agreed to do terrible acts to each other. His work, as well as famous Zimbardo prison simulation study, have led to tighter constraints on how to approach research, what is acceptable, and when ‘the line is crossed”.

One of my very first sociology professors was Laud Humphreys. He was famous for studying homosexual activities in public toilets, where he acted as the “watchqueen”. Later, he surreptitiously followed participants to their cars, identified their license plates, and showed up at their home disguised as a surveying health worker. This was done in 1960’s before IRB’s were mandated by the US federal government.

In fact, we have Academy members who come from countries where there is little of any oversight regarding research, particularly social science research.  However, I would argue we have a collective responsibility to observe the highest standards of research protocol, despite the burden, for our entire membership.

Our own code of ethics addresses this issue, although not as stridently as one might expect, as there is no specific mention of IRB procedures:

Participants. It is the duty of AOM members to preserve and protect the privacy, dignity, well-being,and freedom of research participants.

1.7. Informed Consent: When AOM members conduct research, including on behalf of the AOM or its divisions, they obtain the informed consent of the individual or individuals, using language that is reasonably understandable to that person or persons. Written or oral consent, permission, and assent are documented appropriately.

2.4. Anticipation of Possible Uses of Information:

2.4.1. When maintaining or accessing personal identifiers in databases or systems of records, such as division rosters, annual meeting submissions, or manuscript review systems, AOM members delete such identifiers before the information is made publicly available or employ other techniques that mask or control disclosure of individual identities.

2.4.2. When deletion of personal identifiers is not feasible, AOM members take reasonable steps to determine that the appropriate consent of personally identifiable individuals has been obtained before they transfer such data to others or review such data collected by others

Most North American universities are under strict IRB procedures.  They are virtually unanimous in stating that all surveys involving human subjects should be subjected to ERB committees. Here are a few statements from the Canadian “Tri Counsel” that governs Canadian universities:

If the primary purpose, design, content and/or function of such surveys is to conduct “research”2 involving humans, then it would generally require REB review, under TCPS Article 1.1(a):

Very similar statements appear at the Cornell Univ. website:

At the end of the day, each of us, no matter where we do our scholarly work, have a responsibility to protect the respondent as much as possible, in every conceivable way. The distance between our own behavior, and the 16 German doctors convicted of experimenting on human beings without their consent, is an essential red line that we cannot allow to become a ‘slippery slope’. Thus, even when we decide to research ourselves, as professors, and colleagues, I believe we should commit to the highest standards of scientific ethical inquiry. Even if IRB’s are a ‘burden’.