KEY INSIGHT: THE ETHICIST has been running as a blog on AOM Connect for a year now so it makes sense for its creators and bloggers to take stock of what the blog has (and has not) accomplished over the past year, and to think creatively about how to move ahead. We will hold a Caucus session, “THE ETHICIST: THE INFORMAL ECONOMY AND SCHOLARSHIP, TEACHING AND PROFESSIONAL LIFE ETHICS,” to discuss this issue at the Boston AOM annual meetings in August 2012. Please join us!
The Producers Problem
One of my favorite movies is The Producers, and here I mean the original version from 1968 directed by Mel Brooks and starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder (not the 2005 re-make starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick). For those of you unfamiliar with this comedy, here is the basic plot. A ne’er-do-well Broadway director (Mostel) and his accountant (Wilder) hatch a scheme to make money by producing a play that flops. The duo will go to backers and raise thousands more than is needed to produce a play. Of course, they’ll have to sell more than 100% of the profits to raise all of that money, but as long as the show flops –preferably closes on opening night– the backers will expect neither the return of their invested principal nor any profits. The duo can take the remaining money and head to Rio de Janeiro. Ah, but if the play is a hit then they’re in big trouble, because they’ve promised much more than 100% of the profits to the backers. Of course, they end up inadvertently producing a hit musical comedy (improbably titled “Springtime for Hitler”), which lands them in jail for fraud, where they start producing and over-selling yet another musical (more appropriately titled “Prisoners of Love”). That’s Mel Brooks.
The semester ended a week ago, with the usual flurry: exams, grading crunch, and anxious seniors making sure they passed my section of their capstone strategy course. But this semester, the end of the semester also brought something new: Facebook ‘friending’ requests from my soon-to-be ex-students. They want to keep in touch, they say, and Facebook (FB) has become the default mechanism to do so. I got friend requests this semester for the first time because I QUITE belatedly have created my own FB page. At the time of Facebook’s IPO, the site had about 845 million users. I was probably number 844,999,000 to sign up, just opening my page in January of this year. Getting on Facebook has been a true event for me, having easily resisted the pull of FB since its inception about eight years ago. Do I need another thing to do, really??
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?
December is supposedly the “holiday” month of gift-giving, but recent experience as a track chair for the 2012 Academy of International Business (“AIB”) annual meeting tells me that the real gift-giving time, at least professionally, is from mid-January to mid-February. It was during those weeks that so many of my AIB peers gave their time and attention to read and review more than 150 papers submitted to my track for competitive or interactive presentation at this summer’s annual meeting in Washington, DC. My goal was to get multiple reviews for every submission and get them in about four weeks. Virtually every AIB member submitting a paper got a paper. Several got more than one paper to review. More than a few got several papers from me, from other AIB track chairs, and from our counterparts over at the Academy of Management. Four weeks later, practically everyone had submitted their reviews, whether it was just one or several from those “overfished” reviewers. It was amazing to observe. And it’s critically important to preserve and nurture. So that’s my topic for the month: peer review and its importance in our professional lives; peer review and the motivations of peer reviewers; and how we might do a little less “overfishing” of some especially good and generous peer reviewers. Continue reading “Peer Reviewing”
I graded my strategy students’ first position/reaction paper late last week. As is usually the case on the first one, students do quite poorly, not making the conceptual leap from summarizing the contents of the article to which they had to respond, to making supported judgments about the article’s assertions. It’s a complex learning process, and as such I offer extensive handouts and scaffolding to lower their anxiety level. While the mean score is usually a low ‘C’ on the first paper, one student simply.. how should I say it.. bombed the assignment. “Bob” [not his real name, and he knows I am writing about this] did not follow any of the directions for either content or structure, and appeared to have no grasp of the assignment’s intent.
Blog No. 2012-02 (February 2, 2012)
Key Insight: Research projects are often huge undertakings that lead to more than one publication. How do authors determine whether the papers coming out of one project are sufficiently different from one another to be considered new papers? In this blog, I look at some ex ante methods that authors can use to determine whether a paper is new.
Blog No. 2012-01 (January 1, 2012)
Another Year and Another Hemisphere of Professional Life
Welcome to a new year, new semester and a new posting from The Ethicist. When writing last October, I promised to explore ethical issues in the very broad sphere of professional life, the part of our work neither falling neatly into research nor teaching. It’s the sphere of “everything else” that can be divided into hemispheres related to issues arising from membership in professional organizations like the Academy of Management and issues arising from membership in academic or research institutions. Last October, I wrote about an ethical issue arising from our work in professional organizations. This time, I thought I would travel to the other hemisphere and discuss an ethical issue more commonly (for me) encountered in academic departments, colleges and universities. The topic is service and the issue is knowing when to say no.
I am delighted with the responses to the Ethicist posts—both on the site and to me personally. Thanks for your energy and insights.
An Academy member sent me a very interesting scenario he has been facing that should resonate with many, not only in our field but with those following trends in academe as a whole. I have experienced a version of it myself just this semester. Consider this:
For the past 10 years, you’ve taught a required course you like. You’re effective at teaching this course, too: in the first several years, your course evaluations were very high and other student feedback indicated that they loved your course. However, although you manage the course in essentially the same way as you have since the beginning, and your teaching style has not changed dramatically for the worse, your course evaluations have become not so great. The reason behind this is that your students now evaluate your course’s workload as much too heavy, especially in relation to others who teach the course. When you first were teaching the course and got great evaluations, over 90% of students evaluated your course’s workload as “appropriate.” Over time, you now earn that evaluation metric from only 20% of students.
For students considering taking your course, the word on the street is that you are a very difficult instructor and your course carries an inappropriately rough workload. So, along with decreasing student evaluation numbers, you’re also facing fewer students in your section and resentful colleagues, all in the context of a dramatically increased institutional focus on student retention. You consider your assignment load completely appropriate for the course material.
As you puzzled over your change in evaluation fortunes, you reviewed syllabi from colleagues who also teach this course and found out that, based on similar student feedback, they had been gradually decreasing the workload in their courses. It appears that other sections of this course now require only a group presentation (without a corresponding written assignment) and one multiple choice exam at the end of the course. Indeed, you do have the heaviest workload now out of anyone teaching that course, although there is nothing out of the ordinary in your assignment mix: multiple writing assignments, group written project, and two essay/short answer exams.
What do you do?
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.