New Vice Chairman doesn’t fully share the Academic Council's critique

Skrevet af Ole Stenvinkel NilssonFelix Kasperek, translation - Foto: Visual Storm - 7. marts 2013 - 15:350 kommentarer
The new Vice Chairman of the Academic Council, professor Keld Laursen of the Department of Innovation and Organizational Economics (INO).

In the week leading up to Christmas the Academic Council brought CBS’ Board of Directors a very critical annual report. The serious critique isn’t shared on all accounts with every member of the Academic Council. CBS OBSERVER has interviewed the new Vice Chairman of the council.

Problem that CBS’ research must do everything at the same time
CBS OBSERVER has interviewed Professor Keld Laursen, newly appointed Vice Chairman of the Academic Council, regarding the critique in the Academic Council’s annual report for CBS’ Board of Directors last meeting of 2012. In it, a number of dilemmas in CBS’ research strategy were pointed out, and the new Vice Chairman doesn’t unconditionally agree with the critique.

For example, the condition that CBS’ research should have societal relevance (as is expressed in the Business in Society strategy) was seen as conflicting with the wish for CBS’ researchers publishing their work in the most highly regarded scientific journals, which is necessary for both the international ranking of CBS’ research as well as the bibliometrically granted research funding.

At the same time it was argued that articles published in said scientific journals are usually based on mono-disciplinary research, rather than problem-oriented research which is usually interdisciplinary and therefore is usually harder to get published in the best scientific journals.

Necessity that CBS’ research does everything at the same time
According to Keld Laursen it’s probably problematic to aim for both, but inevitable that the challenge has to be faced:

- First of all, in spite of the dilemma, it’s necessary to aim for both. If we want to be able to attract the best researchers then international reputation is a prerequisite. And attracting world-class researchers is a prerequisite for being able to offer education on a world-class level, Keld Laursen points out, but also says:

- If we’re to be able to document additional societal value of the research – that is, in addition to the effect through the lectures - then some of the research results have to be directly relevant to practice.

Keld Laursen thinks that both goals can be realized simultaneously even though the tension between them is quite real.

- CBS has chosen six areas, the so-called World Class Research Environments (WCRE), that each represent excellent research, published in the best scientific journals, says the professor and goes on:

- At the same time, a number of BiS platforms have been established, in order to represent CBS’ societal dedication in the form of research of societal relevance.

Top scientific journals only being mono-disciplinary: False
According to Keld Laursen, the fact that the best scientific journals only publish mono-disciplinary research is a myth:

- Several of the publications that my colleagues and I have published in top journals combine research from fields such as geography, management, economics and sociology – that is, what you would call ‘mainstream with a twist’, says Keld Laursen and elaborates:

- The tension between top-publication and research for the researchers, in very specific issues is based on the fact that both call for a large effort and therefore compete for the limited time available.

The professor thinks that overall, CBS tries to balance its research efforts between the two by investing in both the WCREs and BiS platforms.
Assistant professors’ research time internationally competitive

- With regards to research, CBS is actually internationally competitive, in the case of the assistant professor-level, says Keld Laursen.

According to the professor, the normal international business school standard is that a researcher at assistant professor-level must give lectures 120 hours/year which amounts to two courses that include prep-time, planning, exam work and advising the students. All these ‘extra’ activities are usually separate at CBS, and when they’re subtracted from the total time allocated for lectures, then the requirement for teaching matches this number.

- CBS has no problems recruiting internationally at the assistant professor level, as long as we explain how much time the assistant professors have to spend teaching in a way the applicants understand; that is, number of courses and how many hours to be spent giving lectures, says Keld Laursen.

External financing is pressing – not administrative centralization
- It’s true that the pressure for external financing of the research ties up an increasing amount of time that would otherwise be spent on research but I myself rarely experience any directly negative effects from the administrative centralization, says Keld Laursen regarding one of the other points of critique and explains:

- Project descriptions in research funding applications have to be written by the researcher, while the administrative support mainly comes in the shape of budgeting and document management – and in that area I’ve gotten plenty of support from the specialized competencies present at the Dean’s Office, the department (INO, red.) and via student assistance in the department.

In the professor’s experience, one of the purposes of the centralization of support for research applications is to improve the quality and thereby increase the success rate.

- The decentralized model occasionally resulted in applications of a very heterogeneous quality that didn’t result in any funding. Earlier, CBS’ reaction was pressure to write more applications. Now, the strategy is to write fewer but better applications that have a higher success-rate. There’s no doubt that it’s a better strategy. Especially since it will improve CBS’ reputation in the research councils in the long run, says Keld Laursen but admits:

- But it’s obvious that organizational changes need time to get settled, and the Academic Council’s critique must be seen in that perspective. The same thing goes for the new self-service systems, e.g. the new system for travel reimbursement. Here, the critique has led to the researcher getting to choose freely between self-service or full-service from a finance consultant, so that issue has been dealt with.

CBS falling behind when it comes to sabbaticals
Keld Laursen doesn’t want to repudiate the report that the Academic Council, of which he’s a member, sent to CBS’ Board of Directors, and there are several points of critique that he fully agrees with.

An area where CBS, according to the professor, is yet to live up to the international standards is the rules for sabbaticals. Most top schools offer sabbaticals in the form of a semester exclusively dedicated to research, e.g. every fourth or fifth year. Some schools even offer a full year sabbatical every sixth year.

- At CBS, a sabbatical is taken on the condition that the researcher has ‘saved up’ enough hours by doing extra teaching in the previous years. At the same time, a sabbatical means that a coworker has to take over teaching your classes, which reduces the incentive to apply for one, says Keld Laursen, who thinks it’s a shame.

- It’s a shame, since time for immersion and international networks gained through stays at another institution can be a huge source of inspiration.
Support for international researchers must be strenghtened

And then there’s the problem with CBS’ service for the ever increasing number of foreign researchers – it’s lacking.

- Another area where CBS isn’t at an international level yet is the support for international researchers. Even though CBS already does a lot, our service still isn’t at the level of what’s offered internationally, Keld Laursen thinks and says:

- I have colleagues who have jobs abroad and they experience a totally different degree of support for finding accommodation, social integration and other practical challenges you experience as a foreigner who’ve just moved here. It could be a good idea for CBS to do some benchmarking with some of our stronger partners.