Yet, many of these articles are unreadable, delving into esoteric issues that have little current day relevance to practitioners. One of the most vocal critics in recent years has been Roger Martin, until recently the dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “MBA education is narrow where it should be broad, shallow where it should be deep, and static where it should be dynamic,” he told academics last year. “Faculty is content to make marginal improvements in the fields they know. We keep ourselves in a narrow cage of static shallowness.”
Just as pointedly, Larry Zicklin, the former chairman of Neuberger Berman and a faculty member at New York University’s Stern School, has called for a major scaling back of research by business schools. “Most research is written to get ahead in the academic world, for promotion and tenure,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek last year. “It’s not written to be applied in business…it is often obscure and exotic. Research should be done at business school, but it should be done in moderation…The way professors are judged is 99 percent dependent on their research and 1 percent dependent on everything else. People who do research well should do it. People who don’t do it as well should not. The system has been perverted.”
ESTIMATE BASED ON $300,000 A YEAR ALL-IN COST OF TENURED FACULTY AT ELITE SCHOOLS
On the other hand, the defenders of the publish-or-perish system in business academia aggressively argue that such research keeps professors on the leading edge of knowledge in their fields. Without it, they say, teaching in business schools could devolve into a recitation of war stories by executives who find their way into the classroom. Business school research, moreover, has led to some substantive changes in both management practice and investment.
Ulrich and Terwiesch figure that the cost of employing a tenured or tenure-track faculty members is about $300,000 a year, including benefits, sabbaticals and administrative support. At the top 30 or so schools, a full-time faculty members teaches three courses. The pair estimated that half of the cost of the professor’s time, or $150,000, could be allotted to teaching. The other half to research.
“For our analysis,” they write, “we consider the published academic paper as the atomic unit of knowledge. Business school faculty members publish in scholarly journals, such as Management Science, Marketing Science, and the Journal of Finance. Though there are hundreds of such academic journals, the academic community holds at least an implicit agreement that only some of these journals are top journals (also referred to as “A journals”). So, what does it cost to create a unit of knowledge that is of sufficient quality to appear in an A journal? Based on an informal survey of faculty vitae, we observe that faculty members at top business schools publish about 0.75 A journal articles each year with an average of 1 co-author…it costs a business school about $400,000 for every article published in an A journal.”
Asked if Ulrich thought his $400,000 estimate could very well overshadow the report’s other primary conclusions on the impact of technology, he said that he was afraid that was possible. The last thing he would want is for his colleagues to attack him for revealing the high cost of academic research.