Research That Matters: How AACSB Is Pushing B-Schools To Make A Positive Impact

AACSB’s Caryn Beck-Dudley: “We need less academic research, and more research that actually results in a positive societal impact”

The research that comes out of business schools is, by and large, removed from the realities of business in the real world — famously so. In a word, it has long been considered far too academic.

AACSB International wants to change that. The nonprofit business education alliance that accredits B-schools has a goal to help business schools conduct research that makes a positive impact on society.

Caryn Beck-Dudley, president and CEO of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, says it’s time those schools publish less research that’s read only in the halls of higher education and more that addresses real-world problems.

“We need less academic research, and more research that actually results in a positive societal impact,” Beck-Dudley says.


AACSB changed its business accreditation standards in 2020. It now requires schools to show that they are creating positive, impactful research. On Tuesday (September 28), AACSB published a thought paper with SAGE Publishing — a global academic publisher of books, journals, and a growing suite of library products and services — titled Research That Matters: An Action Plan for Creating Business School Research That Positively Impacts Society which includes the common components of impactful research and a five-step roadmap that business schools can use to produce research that leads to a positive societal impact.

Most importantly, the paper furthers AACSB’s role in driving business schools to place societal impact at the center of their mission and activities.

“This collaboration with Sage Publishing is really about giving schools ideas about what that might look like,” says Beck-Dudley.


According to the thought paper, there are three elements to conducting research that creates societal impact: research that is cross-disciplinary, at the intersection of academia and practice, and that creates real change that’s useful to stakeholders.

Beck-Dudley especially emphasizes the importance of a cross-disciplinary approach. “If I’m in my own silo, it’s hard to understand what’s going on and how my research can be used to help somebody else’s research,” she says. “A lot of universities have stayed in their own narrow silos and haven’t worked across disciplines. Business schools really can change the world for the better. But we have to connect with other disciplines in order to do so.”

As part of the Working Board of Responsible Research and Business Management Group for the last seven years, Beck-Dudley says she wants to see faculty spending 40% to 60% of their time conducting research. However, if this research only talks to other academics, it often doesn’t lead to any positive societal impact as opposed to research that’s aimed at solving a problem. To create change, Beck-Dudley explains that business schools need to be focused on the world’s most pressing problems and use faculty’s expertise to try to solve those issues.

“The most effective way to approach these problems is in conjunction with other people,” she says.

Climate change is a perfect example of the need for cross-disciplinary research, she adds.

“In order to approach climate change, it requires different disciplines to work on multiple aspects of it. If it was easy to solve, it would have already been solved,” she says.

See the next page for more on AACSB’s “five-step roadmap” to more useful B-school research.

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