About “Management Junk Science”

What is management junk science?  It is the body of social-science-based literature that typifies nearly all of the empirical research in the scholarly business and management journals, including the “top” journals.  The reason it’s junk science is that it follows the practices of terminally flawed social-science research methods and assumptions; I refer to these as the GASSSPP, explained on that page, and where I recommend readers start.

In the overwhelming majority of discussions of my views I get two responses to this assertion.  The first one is simply, “No—what we do is good science!”  One thing that is unfortunately all too clear is that many of our most talented, most highly motivated researchers have simply been incorrectly trained.  They’re genuine in their beliefs, and understandably upset by what I say, but the methodology literature on this subject is very, very clear—we do not do good science.  The second response is “Not me, you jerk!  I’m careful, know my methods and statistics, and don’t like the implication that I do junk!”  Again, this is very understandable.  The real tragedy is that junk-science methods are so pervasive and ingrained that even excellent research is crushed by the noise these methods generate.  I’m calling the whole body of work junk, not any individual’s; and in many cases those individuals are as much victim as villain in the perpetuation of junk.  We all have a major stake in stopping junk science, but too much of what I see indicates the problem is getting worse, not better.

There are many of us in academia and elsewhere who know about this, but we are largely excluded from consideration when there is open discussion of actually fixing the problems inherent in this research model.  This blog is for all of us, and I hope to do more than simply vent our frustrations.  The leaders of our professional organizations regularly don their hair shirts and call for change, but over the nearly 40 years I’ve been watching that happen, I find that the only thing that’s changed has been the level of my cynicism.  We will need to effect change through other mechanisms.  We might even hope that in some time they’ll join us in discussions of how to do research to better standards than we now follow.

For readers new to this subject, let me suggest a bit of a “road map” to guide you through the readings.  First, read the two pages on the GASSSPP and the Top Ten Reasons to be a Research Skeptic, in either order.  These will give an overview of the problems with the current social-science research model that dominates our literature.  Those who take personal umbrage at my words might want to look at what I’m not saying.  For those who need to be convinced, I recommend the reference list along with GASSSP the Destroyer.  The reference list is a long page containing nearly 140 entries on the shortcomings of statistical significance testing, many with abstracts; the “Destroyer” page summarizes how GASSSPP reduces our research to junk in simple terms.  If you need to see more information on the GASSSPP problem in paper form, you can download my recent paper (50 Lost Years) in pdf format and read it at your leisure.

The most important part of this blog, in my view, are the recommendations for change and improvement.  These will make sense after the reader understands the problems with the GASSSPP; otherwise, they probably sound unconnected to what we’re doing in the professional research.  Again, my intention is to encourage better science than we’re doing as a whole, and if anyone is upset by some of what I say, please accept my apologies in advance.  But I think our profession’s credibility is on the line, and that warrants some strong words.