playing to the center
I’ve had a lot of fun reading chapters from this wonderful little book that offers advice from established organizational scholars about how to engage in research. A preview of the book, Renewing Research Practice, can be accessed online here. This is great material for a pro-seminar, but it’s also nice conversation fodder for any informal occasion where academics will be present.
I found this piece of advice from Steve Barley to be particularly compelling:
Early on I set myself the goal of publishing in journals, in particular the Administrative Science Quarterly, read by the majority of the field. I resisted publishing in less widely read journals that were more sympathetic either to my message or my methods. I believe that unless you can communicate with the center, there is no hope of effecting change on issues that one holds dear, of influencing how members of the field think, or of broadening the type of research that the field considers legitimate (81).
I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it’s much harder to get published in the top journals (i.e., the most widely read journals in your field or subfield) but how else can you have an impact on the broader field if you don’t try to get published in these outlets? In most elite departments this is expected of nearly all members of the department and is certainly enforced among junior faculty, who will have a hard time getting tenure if they haven’t published at least a few papers in their top journals. But my experience tells me that this is not true of the majority of departments (especially in sociology, less so in management). It’s an unfortunate product of our stratified system of rewards. But still, is there anyone out there who wouldn’t at least agree in principle that we should strive to maximize our audience size? That playing to the center has its own intrinsic rewards, independent of the monetary incentives for publishing in highly-regarded journals?