Sustainable Academia: Open, Engaged, and Slow Science

Héloïse Berkowitz1 and Hélène Delacour2

1CNRS, Toulouse School of Management-Research, Université Toulouse Capitole, Toulouse, France; 2IAE de Nancy, Université de Lorraine, Nancy, France


Citation: M@n@gement 2020: 23(1): 1–3 - http://dx.doi.org/10.37725/mgmt.v23.4474

Copyright: © 2020 Berkowitz and Delacour. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), permitting all non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Published: 30 March 2020

*Corresponding author: Editorial team: contact@management-aims.com


As we take stock of our new responsibilities to the Journal of M@n@gement and its various contributors, from authors to reviewers, editors, and readers, we also acknowledge the broader challenges that science and society face today.

Academic communities have multiplied critics about science’s ‘health’ and ethics in general, or those of management and organization studies in particular. From the institutionalization of imposter syndrome in our fields (Bothello & Roulet, 2019) and a pandemic of burnout (World Economic Forum, 2019), to increased scientific misconducts and threats on scientific integrity (Honig et al., 2018) and to the inadequacy of commercial scientific publishing models with the view of science as a global public good (Willinsky, 2005), academics individually and collectively face major struggles that even connect to wider challenges like climate change or ‘datafication’. In that context, we believe that we need to reflect upon, define, and identify means to achieve ‘sustainable academia’.

By sustainable academia, we mean individual, collective, and institutional practices and behaviors that contribute to train researchers and produce scientific knowledge in a manner that is responsive to current and future generation needs, in a collective commitment to care for the ‘Other’, whether it be human or nonhuman.

As we walk into the steps of the inspiring teams of chief editors that have created and shaped M@n@gement as a purely free and open access scientific journal, we feel the need to express ourselves on this idea of ‘sustainable academia’. We offer to outline the core values that will, hopefully, guide our mandate as co-editors-in-chief of the journal. No doubt that the pathways to sustainable academia are complex and multiple. The definition itself can be enhanced, and we hope it will be continuously and collectively developed and performed with in our community and beyond. But as a starting point, we have centered our editorial statement on the three pillars of ‘sustainable academia’: openness, engagement, and slow science.

Openness of science

In line with M@n@gement’s historical philosophy, we view science as a global public good that can and should be free and open access to all (Willinsky, 2005). Opening science is needed for at least two crucial reasons: science first and foremost gives us the ability to be critical about the world, that is, to challenge information, the way the world is presented to us by politics or media, and, more generally, the status quo. Second, science helps us to build a better world because we need to understand biology, sociology, mathematics, and organization theory to change things.

In parallel, capitalization of science is preventing people around the world, especially in emerging countries, to access knowledge, which is a profound tragedy. The current dominant regime in science, that is, the commercial model of scientific publishing, hides and controls knowledge behind paywall and produces several devious behaviors. Obviously, opening science means finding alternative funding models, to allow small journals or small publishing houses to survive. M@n@gement embodies the purest model of open access, the diamond one: it is free to submit, free to publish, and free to read (Daudigeos & Roulet, 2018). This would not be possible without the main financial support of the Association Internationale de Management Stratégique (AIMS) and that of the Institut National des Sciences Humaines et Sociales (CNRS InSHS). In a context where individual performance and its assessment are becoming more important than collectives and solidarity, we are extremely grateful for the ongoing support of our sponsors and our community.

Openness is not just about free accessibility. It is also about inclusiveness. M@n@gement has always been and will remain inclusive of different methods, theories, approaches, and voices in management and organization studies. More generally, we also call for more interdisciplinarity, a challenging endeavor to implement, but that is much needed for cumulative research that can draw on various disciplines’ insights. Our new editorial team indicates, we hope, our attempt to remain inclusive and open.

This is also the reason why we moved away from Bepress, which was bought by Elsevier, and why we started a partnership with Open Academia, to use the open platform Open Journal System (OJS), developed by the open science initiative Public Knowledge Project (PKP). PKP is a multi-university-based initiative, a meta-organization some might say, developing free, open access software for academic communities to manage journals, conferences, monographs, and edited volumes, among others.

Making science open access and inclusive means not only that we seek to be read and used, but more broadly that we want to engage with society.

Engaged scholarship

By engaged scholarship, we mean that we view management and organization studies as forms of performative ‘intervention’ in the world (Aggeri, 2017). This might mean developing ‘mission-oriented research’ that looks at contemporary problems, like organizing alternatives to capitalism (Cruz, Alves, & Delbridge, 2017) or hybrid organizing (Battilana, 2018). But as some attempt to make higher education more precarious, we believe that research should not only retain its liberty but also possess the resources to explore a diversity of topics that might not directly seem ‘relevant’ (Carton & Mouricou, 2017). The ‘projectification’ of research and domination of invisible technologies (Berry, 1983) are destroying the possibility of serendipity, innovativeness, and long-term unexpected effects of organization studies.

In that context, academia can engage with society in a number of ways.

First, as management and organization scholars, we can challenge ‘business as usual’ both in practice (Wright & Nyberg, 2017) and in academia, including in teaching (O’Doherty, De Cock, Rehn, & Lee Ashcraft, 2013). Management and organization studies can no longer ignore major socio-environmental issues (see, e.g., Ouahab & Maclouf, 2019; Taupin, 2019). In that perspective, we can collectively explore and rethink concepts and theories, as the AIMS 2020 conference is doing with ‘inclusive strategy’.

Second, by engagement we also mean dissemination towards broader audiences than just academia through conferences and peer-reviewed publications. We do not contend that the classic view of the ‘ivory tower’ (Baron, 2010) applies to all management and organization studies scholars. On the contrary, our colleagues and their initiatives show how engaged with society our community already is: the Conversation, social networks, podcasts like Spla$h or Talk about Organization, initiatives like En direct du labo and science coffees, practitioners, or general press, are all examples of the many forms of dissemination we collectively explore and use.

Third, by engaged scholarship, we ultimately mean caring for one another, whether it is master or doctoral students and their supervisors, colleagues, reviewers, and reviewees, etc. This more generally implies that for us publication is not the end but rather a brick in a research life. For us, research is about more than publishing peer-reviewed articles; it is also about engaging with society through action research and field work, or helping decision-makers, students, citizens, and managers making as informed, sustainable, and responsible decisions as possible. In that perspective, we see our tasks as editors to help give as much visibility to your works as we can. To that purpose, and due to the help of PKP and Open Academia, we will make your works available on several repositories, and we encourage you to do the same. However, as this requires time and energy, this also means that we need to develop slower research.

Slow science

If we need to achieve all this, in the purpose of fulfilling ‘sustainable academia’, then we want to put forward slow science and, more generally, sobriety as values. Slow science means taking time to write and publish high-quality papers, to value reflection, dialogue and polyphony, and variety of canals of dissemination, and also writing books, reading them, and synthesizing them in book reviews (Mintzberg, 2015). Slow science also means to us reducing the number of (generally extremely polluting and irresponsible) conferences we fly to (#OS4future) and finding alternative ways to connect with our communities, while reducing our footprint. This position is all the more relevant to defend since a recent study showed that air travel had little effect on academic success (Wynes, Donner, Tannason, & Nabors, 2019).

Sobriety, in science as in daily life, means to detoxify ourselves from overproduction and overconsumption. Let’s take time to research, to read books, to talk, to walk, and to nap. This is also why M@n@gement is open to Unplugged articles that explore iconoclastic forms of showing and telling ideas.

Yet, sobriety in what we write implies no more and no less words than what is needed, and no more and no less theories and concepts than what is required. This also signifies using our resources with sobriety. In the case of M@n@gement, benevolent reviewers are our most valuable resource. We cherish the work you have done for the journal and the community, and we hope you will continue to conduct careful and constructive reviews. However, we cannot overuse our colleagues, so potential authors must understand that not all papers can be sent to review. Taking the time to develop a robust research question and design, to reflect, to write and edit a manuscript, to send it out to friendly reviews, and to present it in a seminar or conference ensures that the first submission is of enough quality that it will be sent out for a first round of review.

Ultimately, slow science also requires us to invent new ways, less polluting ways, of conducting our work as academics. We acknowledge the complexity and inherent contradictions of achieving sustainable academia, and the fact that there is no simple solution does not mean that we should not thrive to do better.


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