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A New Critical Paper is Published in Management Learning

Manifestation of academic rackets in management research through early career sessions at academic conferences

by P. Matthijs Bal, Yvonne van Rossenberg, & Mehmet A. Orhan

More often than not, it is forgotten that scholarly journals primarily serve as channels for communicating research findings. However, a fetishized belief persists that scientific careers hinge solely on publications in 'top' journals, creating increasing pressures and perverse incentives. In this environment, journal editors often wield significant influence, shaping and sometimes dictating how research should be conducted. They hold absolute power by controlling access and sometimes boast about high rejection rates as an arbitrary proxy of quality. Consequently, publishing can devolve into a political game, marked by power struggles.

But how does this system become entrenched in arbitrary prestige? How do academic elites maintain a status quo while relying on unpaid labor? How do they form alliances to dominate the system? What constitutes an academic racket, and how does it operate? We endeavored to address these questions by shedding light on the hidden political discourse within 'Meet the Editors' sessions, particularly those aimed at Early Career Researchers (ECRs), where power differentials are pronounced and practiced.

This article investigated elite maintenance in the field of management and how early career researchers are taught to behave to become part of the elite. We develop insights into how the elite reproduces itself through socializing subsequent generations of scholars into the norms and hegemonic practices of the elite. Through analysis of sessions for early career researchers at a major academic management conference held online in 2021, we investigated how the elite functions as a racket, instructing the next generations of scholars how to enhance their chances of entering this racket. Relying on role modeling and specific behavioral advice, the elite reproduces itself by laying out the basic rules for the next generations on how to behave as the elite. This includes overemphasizing how early career researchers can join the academic elite while neglecting the discussion of how we could improve the academic system itself. We discuss the implications of racket-like manifestation of academic disciplines, including the control of a rather small group of elite scholars over an entire field of scientific investigation through which alternative voices are suppressed.

Read the full article in open access here.

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