The 3rd summit of the Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM) marks the coming of age of an initiative that has its roots in a presentation by Anne Tsui almost ten years ago — she questioned the purpose of research in business schools. A small group of scholars recognised that business schools had an opportunity for change and needed to grasp it – to free themselves from the race of more 4-star journal articles and to ensure that their research demonstrated its impact on the big societal challenges.

Ten Years in the Making…

Since the initial spark, numerous events, initiatives and actions led by editors, scholars, association leaders, and deans have demonstrated the possibility for change if energies can be focused. If business school research were to remain relevant, attract funding and be relevant for stakeholders something had to change. The founders had asked the twin questions “if not us who? if not now when?”. Ten years later, the influence of the RRBM is clear in the revised standards of the leading business School accreditations, numerous initiatives around the world and pioneering activities of certain schools.

Beyond Relevance and Rigor…

At the heart of the conundrum facing business schools is the long-running existential debate: the balance of rigour and relevance. However, where others have prevaricated and floundered the RRBM initiative seems have gained traction with a vision for business school research to be highly relevant for stakeholders, impactful and applied to major world challenges. There was a recognition by the founders that it was vital to change the “rules of the game” by involving key actors from deans to journal editors, from association leaders to accreditation bodies, and from senior scholars to PhD students.

Seven Principles

There are seven key principles to which responsible research should adhere. Obviously, there is an essential commitment for research to advance both basic and applied knowledge (No.2) and make a contribution based on sound methodologies (No. 4). However, the other principles provide the keys for impactful research that can make a difference – being a service to society (No.1), drawing upon multiple disciplines (No.3), including and having an impact upon stakeholders (No. 5 & 6) and committing to broad dissemination (No. 7).

Summits, Initiatives & Actions

By building upon the White Paper published in 2017, the 1st RRBM Summit was attended by an invited audience of just 50 scholars, deans and association leaders. There was a sense of urgency in the initiative as an alert for business schools to act and start to address wider societal challenges. What is different about the 3rd Summit is that it will bring together over 250 top scholars, association leaders, journal editors, PhD students, and Deans from business schools on five continents to take these actions to the next level.

I will, We will…

One of the most powerful dimensions of the RRBM initiative is the commitment to action that participants have made. Going beyond simple calls to action, participants commit to changing something in their domain of influence or control – learning from, and being inspired by, each other. And thus they promote research that is more responsible.

These commitments may include journal editors launching special issues, deans to broadening promotion and tenure criteria, senior scholars leading RRBM projects, senior leaders agreeing to share RRBM principles among their national research communities and many more. These summits are pivotal as each actor commits to moving the agenda forward in their own way. The Third Summit promises to be just as influential.

This blog was initially published on LinkedIn

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