Problems with the Peer Review System in Science

Frank Furedi has written a very thoughtful essay on the problems with current peer review system in science. In my view, the issues are a lot more serious in the social sciences where is much harder to formulate non-trivial general laws and make precise predictions that can be proven or disproven. The natural sciences require replication before something is accepted. There is very little exact replication in management research for example. Theories are accepted on very tenous grounds and when you write a paper that contradicts existing paradigms your data is not going to persuade your peers who have a vested interested in the status quo.  Read Furedi’s Essay.

Update 28. June 2010:Interesting Problem Case in Economics:  Copy URL into your browser:;1446947

Jeffrey Meyers on Writing Habits

CM: Having written 43 books, including more than 20 biographies, you’re nothing if not prolific. What’s your work routine?

JM: I work every day— it’s important to keep up momentum—from 9:30 to 1 in the morning and from 7:30 to 11 in the evening. In the afternoons I recharge by playing tennis (inexpensive psychotherapy), taking long walks, frequenting bookstores, going to the Cal library, and wandering around San Francisco. I do research and interviews with family and friends for six months. I then write by hand on yellow pads, type three pages a day and 100 pages a month on the computer, and finish a 400-page book in four months. Finally, I spend two more months revising.

When I’m done, I follow the example of my longtime friend, Iris Murdoch, who began her next novel the day after completing the previous one. (More momentum.) While the editor is reading my typescript, I do the research and write a ten-page proposal that secures the contract and advance for my next book.

From California Monthly.

Economics: Is the discipline in crisis?

Drake Bennett of the Boston Globe is reporting on the soul searching that is going on the field of economics and finance after the professions inability to foresee the crisis. 

THE DEEPENING ECONOMIC downturn has been hard on a lot of people, but it has been hard in a particular way for economists. For most of us, pain and apprehension have been mixed with a sense of grim amazement at the complexity of what has unfolded: the dense, invisible lattice connecting house prices to insurance companies to job losses to car sales, the inscrutability of the financial instruments that helped to spread the poison, the sense that the ratings agencies and regulatory bodies were overmatched by events, the wild gyrations of the stock market in the past few months. It’s hard enough to understand what’s happening, and it seems absurd to think we could have seen it coming beforehand. The vast majority of us, after all, are not experts. But academic economists are. And with very few exceptions, they did not predict the crisis, either. Some warned of a housing bubble, but almost none foresaw the resulting cataclysm. An entire field of experts dedicated to studying the behavior of markets failed to anticipate what may prove to be the biggest economic collapse of our lifetime. And, now that we’re in the middle of it, many frankly admit that they’re not sure how to prevent things from getting worse.

Read Full Story “Paradigm lost: Economists missed the brewing crisis. Now many are asking: How can we do better” on

Paulson on the diversity of firm in the financial industry

Trying to imitate high-status Newtonian physics, management scholars over the past fifty hear have tried to formulate general laws about the behavior of organizations.  In his statement after the passing of the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry, Paulson in my view correctly emphasized that the salient fact about most industries is the diversity and not the sameness of firms within them.


Charles Tilly 1929- 2008

I don’t know anyone who has come in contact with Charles Tilly and who was not inspired by him. For those who have never met him, here are wonderful tributes to this exemplary scholar.
Social Science Research Council Tribute Website
Tributes by Scholars
NY Times Obituary


Automatic Coding of Printed Materials

Traditionally most researchers working with printed data sources have entered data by hand to convert it into electronic format. If a research project involves large amounts of data from similarly formatted sources – for example, when one tries to create a longitudinal database of directory information spanning many years – entering this data by hand is a very labour intensive and tedious task. We wanted to automate the coding of printed directory information in order to cut down the time it takes to transfer this information into electronic data. Once the data is in electronic format, it can be further analysed with a plethora of software packages ranging from Microsoft Excel, FileMaker, SAS and SPSS, depending on the needs of the particular researcher. The purpose of this technical paper is to share with other scholars in a clear and practical way the methods we developed for automating the coding of printed information. Download article.

The Power of Richness IV: How Can Qualitative Methods Help us Ask Better Questions

Over 150 people came to the Power of Richness PDWs at each of the last three Academy meetings, drawing from many different divisions and interest groups.  With the demand for the workshop running so strong, Diana Day and I will try to organize an All-Academy PDW for the next meeting Annaheim. The format this past year proved very successful for learning how to do qualitative research well. The first part of the 2008 PDW will feature again a panel of leading qualitative scholars (Jane Dutton,  Royston Hinnings,  Martha Feldman and Ann Langley ), who will offer their insights qualitative research can help us ask the right questions. The second part of the workshop will have parallel sessions designed for people beginning or developing qualitative research and those trying to publish qualitative research.  Participants in the second part can have small group discussion with panelists, attend at least two of several tutorials, or sign up for a paper feedback session with experience scholars. For more up-to-date information on this Qualitative Research PDW, interested parties should go to our website PDW 2008 where we will post new information as the specifics of the PDW (tutorials subjects and leaders chosen), working paper discussion leaders, etc.

When and Where: Friday, August 8, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, Anaheim, California

Presentation slides from the event are now posted. Please click on this link.

The Power of a Good Meta-Analysis

Chinese scientists have carried out a powerful meta-analysis and created new knowledge about the chemical pathways that lead to addiction. Can social scientist imitate this model? I am not sure. But certainly we should strive to do so.

Dr Wei therefore ran her 396 genes through a database of all known pathways to see which involved several enzymes encoded by those genes. She found 18 that were involved in addiction to at least one type of drug. Five, however, were common to all four types, and these five pathways therefore look as though they are at the core of the process of addiction. Three of the five were already under suspicion. Dr Wei’s result provided strong statistical evidence to back up what had just been hunches. Two other pathways, however, had not previously been considered as being involved in addiction. The existence of these five central pathways helps explain a lot about addiction. First, it gives weight to the belief that some people are more susceptible to all sorts of addiction than others are. That contrasts with the thought that addictions are substance-by-substance phenomena, though the two ideas are not mutually exclusive since changes in the 13 substance-specific pathways clearly also result in addiction.

Full story is available at

Malcom Gladwell Reviews the Problems with IQ Measurements

This is an excellent piece that shows how important it is to actually understand how IQ measures are constructed. Any empirical researcher can learn from the New Zealander who showed how much the alleged genetic intelligence is socially constructed. Read NONE OF THE ABOVE: What I.Q. doesn’t tell you about race.

Charles Tilly’s Writings on Methodology now on the Web

Charles Tilly is one of the most innovative and productive social scientists alive.  His research know-how should be passed on to the next generation of researchers, not only to those who are fortunate to take his classes at Columbia University.  With the approval of Tilly, Sekou Bermiss and I made electronically available all his writings on methodology. You can search this archive by key word and topics.  Go to: Tilly on Methodology Archive

April 2008: Daniel Little Interviews Charles Tilly on YouTube

The Power of Richness III: Crafting Qualitative Research Papers

The large crowds that came to the Power of Richness PDWs in Atlanta and the year before in Hawaii have convinced us there is significant demand in the Academy for learning how to do qualitative research well. This year we will build on the success of our two previous qualitative methods PDWs and create an even more ambitious PDW. The first part of the PDW will feature a panel of leading qualitative scholars (John Van Mannan, Steve Barley, Andy Hargadon, and Bill McKelvey), who will offer their insights about how to craft qualitative research papers. The second part of the workshop will have parallel sessions designed for people beginning or developing qualitative research and those trying to publish qualitative research. For more up-to-date information on this Qualitative Research PDW, interested parties should go to our website PDW 2007 where we will post new information as the specifics of the PDW (tutorials subjects and leaders chosen), working paper discussion leaders, etc.

WORKSHOP REQUIREMENTS: Participants interested in submitting a working paper for feedback in the working paper discussion groups need to send their papers (more than 10 and less than 35 pages) to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) at by July 13. Each paper should provide several key words on the title page indicating the type of qualitative method, data, and analysis techniques used. Working papers will be accepted for evaluation and feedback in this part of the workshop on a basis of first-come, first-served until we fill all the slots we can make available. ONLY those participating in the working paper sessions need to register through submitting a paper. All other parts of the PDW are open to everyone.

When and Where: Friday, August 3, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm at Marriot Liberty Ballroom C.

Presentation slides from the event are now posted. Please click on this link

Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery

David Warsh tell the story of how the idea of increasing returns that was already present in Adam’s Smith’s Wealth of Nations transformed academic economics in the 1980s. Read Paul Krugam’s review in the New York Times.

Malcom Gladwell Reviews Charles Tilly’s New Book “WHY”

Gladwell writes: In “Why?” (Princeton; $24.95), the Columbia University scholar Charles Tilly sets out to make sense of our reasons for giving reasons. In the tradition of the legendary sociologist Erving Goffman, Tilly seeks to decode the structure of everyday social interaction, and the result is a book that forces readers to reexamine everything from the way they talk to their children to the way they argue about politics. Read the full review in the New Yorker.

The Power of Richness II: Exploring Qualitative Research Methods

Inspired by the large number of participants at the “The Power of Richness: The Why, When, Where and How of Qualitative Research Methods” PDW in Honolulu, Diana Day and I (Peter Murmann) decided to organize a follow-up workshop on qualitative methods at the academy meeting in Atlanta.  The workshop will again have a stellar group of scholars presenting their ideas about how to make qualitative reseach powerful. The confirmed presenters are: Kathy Eisenhardt (Stanford), Mauro Guillen (Wharton-U. of Pennsylvania), Sara Rynes (Editor of AMJ), Nicolaj Siggelkow (Wharton-U. of Pennsylvania), John Wagner (Associate Editor of ASQ), Karl Weick (Michigan). More details about the workshop will as we are getting closer to the event.

When and Where: Friday, August 11, from 1:30 to 4:30 pm at the Atlanta Marriott in International 4

Update March 17,2006: The workshop is being sponsored by virtually all divisions of the Academy: BPS/HR/MED/MOC/MSR/OB/ODC/OMT/ONE/PNP/PTC/SIM/CAR/CM/

Visit the Discussion Forum for the Event where you can now download the presentation slides from the workshop. 

Project on the Competitiveness of Firms in the Global Paper & Pulp Industry, 1805-2005

Together with two Finish scholars, Juha-Anti Lamberg and Jari Ojala, I started a comparative study of the paper and pulp industry. Human beings have been making paper from various raw materials for thousands of years. But in 1804 a Frenchman invented a continous paper machine revolutionized the manufacturing and started the modern paper making industry.

The goal of our project is to study shifts in competitive advantage from one country to the next and from firm to firm during the last 200 years.  We are starting our comparative analysis looking at Britain, Germany, Finland and Sweden. Our long-term plan is to study all the major paper producing countries in the word. If you are interested in participating in this study, contact us.


How Business Schools Lost their Way

Warren Bennis and James O’Toole just published an article in the Harvard Business Review that I wholeheartedly agree with. It is very fun to read because they are well-informed and don’t shy away from stating some unpleasant truths.  Good business schools have room for theoreticians, scientific empiricists, and practice oriented scholars.


The Stanley Reiter Lecture 2005

On January 26, 2005 I delivered the Stanley Reiter Award Lecture. The Reiter award is named for Stanley Reiter, Charles E. and Emma H. Morrison Professor of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences at Kellogg. It is presented to a Kellogg faculty member whose paper is judged by a panel of Kellogg professors across disciplines to be the best paper written in the preceding four calendar years. I received the award for my book Knowledge and Competitive Advantage: The Coevolution of Firms, Technology and National Institutions. You can also read the text of the lecture by clicking on “More” button or by downloading it as a Word file.  Alternatively,  you can watch a video (58 minutes) of the lecture with Real Player here: Lecture Video. If you watch the video, you should download the Slides that I presented during the lecture but which are not visible in the video.


The Power of Richness: The Why, When, Where and How of Qualitative Research Methods

Participate in the workshop on Qualitative Methods the Academy of Management in Hawaii, Friday afternoon from 1:00 to 4:00, August 5, 2005.  The Panelists are: Robert Burgelman, Diana Day, Deborah Dougherty, Charles Galunic, Johann Peter Murmann, Gabriel Szulanski, and Klaus Weber.

Visit the Discussion Forum for the Event where much additional information will be posted.


Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory

I am a big fan of explanations of social phenomena that set forth the precise causal mechanisms that produce them. This book edited by Peter Hedstroem and Richard Swedberg provides a very good introduction to the approach. The only think I don’t like about the piece its believe that all mechanisms in sociology need to refer to individuals.  You can download the overview chapter here:  Social-mechanism.pdf Click on “More…” for a Table of Contents.


Review of Jared Diamond’s New Book “Collapse”

The author of Guns, Germs, and Steel considers why some societies collapse when faced with environmental or political catastrophe, while others soldier on. Malcom Galdwell has published a useful review of the book in the New Yorker .

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