“An A Is An A”: The New Bottom Line For Valuing Academic Research

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February 2020
Paper author(s): 
Herman Aguinis
Chailin Cummings
Ravi S. Ramani
Thomas G. Cummings

In sports, the phrase “a win is a win” refers to the bottom line in those competitions: winning a game. How the game was won is not as important as the fact that it was won. In many ways, we have reached a similar point in the management field. The increased pressure to publish in “A” journals means the new bottom line for valuing academic research is “an A is an A.” Faculty recruiting committees and promotion and tenure panels readily discuss how many A’s a candidate has published and how many A’s are needed for a favorable decision, while conversations about the distinctive intellectual value of a publication are often secondary to its categorical membership in journals. We describe reasons why this new bottom line has taken hold and delineate its positive and negative consequences. Also, we offer insights for a variety of stakeholders, including (a) nonspecialist academics in all management domains, including scholars from universities worldwide because the new bottom line for valuing academic research is a global phenomenon, (b) university administrators and funding agencies interested in evaluating research quality and impact, and (c) individuals interested in responsible scholarship and in addressing the current credibility crisis in management. Finally, we offer a forward-looking analysis and policy implications of how to address challenges associated with the new bottom line for valuing academic research.


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