Considering Corruption Involved in Postpublication Oversight

[We’re pleased to welcome author Richard Arend of the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He recently published an article in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled, “Conflicts of Interest as Corrupting the Checks and Balances in the Postpublication Oversight of Academic Business Journals.” Below, Dr. Arend shares highlights of his research and how it will impact the field of management research. Please note that this opinion is wholly Dr. Arend’s and he does not speak for SAGE.]

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint.jpgWhat motivated you to pursue this research? I was stunned at the failures of post-publication oversight that I confronted as I tried to address articles that were published by others that contained significant misrepresentations that could cause harm. I was under the naive impression that academic peers, editors and publishers would understand ethical issues, and put the interests of readers and students above more personally beneficial interests. I was shocking to see how few institutions actually care about doing the right thing. It makes one wonder just how much bad research has yet to be exposed and retracted, and how much unnecessary harm it is doing.

In what ways is your research innovative? I believe that this is the first real case describing five levels of failed post-publication oversight and, further, one that proves a straightforward solution could have worked. When an external party did the necessary independent investigation, it quickly exposed the misrepresentations that should have made the articles unpublishable. Such an investigation even revealed that peers did exist who would have done the right thing. And, bringing theory to such a new case provided a new way to think about conflicts of interest – that they can become viral in a chain of oversight and corrupt it.

How do you think it will impact the field? I do hope it will cause our oversight levels to reconsider their current practices and policies. I hope it will lead to the replacement of superficial ethical oversight organizations like COPE, AACSB and others – organizations that espouse high standards but have either never investigated issues or never enforced their standards. One of the best ways to stop bad behavior is to show it will be discovered and punished, and that just isn’t very credible with the current players. If we as business academics are going to teach ethics, then the least we can do is show we can implement a working system of ethical oversight for our research. While I don’t think changes will happen soon, I am hoping that cases and articles like this one will at least lead to fruitful discussions on how to improve the standards in our field.

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