The Response to Research Impact in a Business School: Managing Diversity Within and Academic Department:

Newcastle University Business School

Claudia Gabbioneta
Newcastle University Business School

Carlos Osorio
University of Manizales

The establishment and development of research impact (RI) depend on the knowledge, abilities and effort of individual academics (e.g. Chubb 2014, Chubb et al 2017), which has been greatly resisted by not few (e.g. Chubb and Reed 2018, Watermeyer 2015). This challenge is exacerbated since several identities coexist at the level of academic units (e.g. McInnis 2010, Whitchurch 2010). With this important gap in mind, we undertook an explorative work to study the response to RI of the academic staff of a business school by using self-development theory (SDT) (Ryan and Deci 2017) as theoretical lenses and a mix of qualitative sources of information. The theoretical contribution embraces the identification of six groups which were explained based on the main intrinsic or extrinsic motivation of the individuals to be in academia, how they materialize it, the contrast of this with the requirements to do RI in terms of the core psychological needs -autonomy, competence and relatedness- and, as a result, on their motivation towards RI. We also appreciated the general causality orientation -autonomous, controlled or impersonal- and traits of the academics, with the purpose of inferring their reaction to potential contextual scenarios oriented to RI.
Following cognitive evaluation theory (CET) and organismic integration theory (OIT) (Deci and Ryan 1985), and as practical contributions, we propose contexts composed of measures that could improve the core psychological needs in order to try either to improve any intrinsic motivation to RI or create states of extrinsic motivation and internalize them. Whereas the higher weight of RI for promotions, the increasing funding oriented to it and the reduction in the number of publications for the research excellence framework (REF) could be helpful for most of the academics, other potential initiatives could be useful as well but depending on each group. We suggest diverse areas of intervention such as training in RI, research and bidding for funding, using quality assurance processes related to RI, connecting the work of different groups, and facilitating other engagement activities to create synergies with RI. Practice-oriented researchers and high theoreticians might not need special measures since the former have always been doing RI and, contrarily, the latter have a too impersonal orientation towards it.
We discussed and expanded our constructs with the use of relevant literature about academics and academic practices. We suggest further research on the detailed application of these theoretical and conceptual areas to the context of RI by following the way we have connected them. Basically, the profile and differences between practice-oriented researchers and high theoreticians can be explained by the gap between rigor and relevance (e.g. Kieser and Leiner 2009), the motivation and practice of business seekers are similar to the ones of academic entrepreneurs (e.g. D’Este and Perkmann 2011), the role of relationship facilitators can be understood by using concepts on academic brokers and boundary spanners (e.g. Mooney 2012), and the adaptation of compliers to RI can be explicated by the process to modify the identity of academics (e.g. Jain et al 2009) and the barriers in the academic-practitioner interaction (e.g. Bartunek and Rynes 2014). In addition, we made sense of the great difficulty to change of the high theoreticians with the concepts of academic freedom and autonomy (e.g. Hudson and Williams 2016) and paralleled the adaptable approach of the instrumentalists to the ones of the academics with liquid identities (Barnett 2011), borderless professionals (Middlehurst 2010) and hybrid professionals with blended capabilities (Whitchurch 2008).
Our constructs open up more possibilities for future research, including the refinement of the explication of the groups, the potential addition of more groups and the appreciation of the proportion of scholars per group, all by studying the academic units of different disciplines as well as universities with different levels of research intensity and interest in RI. From a more practical perspective, it would be worthy to accomplish longer longitudinal studies or action research to follow up the application of the proposed contextual measures in order to understand their implementation and effectiveness, verify the outcomes of RI in the groups and suggest complementary policies if it was necessary. The research of RI is a relatively new area and we believe that our study is a firm step in a promising direction.