Tips for Kenyan scholars on publishing business research
Kenyan business researchers face an uphill battle in producing high-quality rigorous research that benefits local, regional, and international economies, generates cutting-edge breakthroughs, and improves quality of life in rural and urban communities. Unfortunately, publisher Elsevier states that less than one per cent of the world’s research originates from Africa. Last week, Business Talk highlighted struggles with low corporate sponsorship rates and severe government bureaucracy the stifles researchers. Now, this week we take a critical look at institutional and global forces affecting our research impact.First, we should move away from copy-cat research and seek instead to forge new business research never before conceptualised, tested, or published. As an example, the 24 most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom belong to a consortium called the Russell Group. The group requires certain quality levels in research among its members. It looks at research from member institutions that is either “world-leading” or “internationally excellent”. The best performing British university, Oxford, scored “48 per cent of its research rated world-class and a further 39 per cent rated internationally excellent”.
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Researchers Ken Kamoche, Amon Chizema, Kamel Mellahi, and Aloysius Newenham-Kahindi delineate that sub-Saharan Africa remains dramatically understudied compared to elsewhere in the world in terms of business research. But because we are less researched, does not mean we should lower our research threshold for rigour and relevance. As an example, the 1990s saw an explosion of organisational behaviour research including how employee job satisfaction increases one’s commitment to the organisation.The linkage between the cause and effect of job satisfaction on organisation commitment is widely proven now for decades.However, we see full professors and doctoral students alike across Kenya still studying the linkage in isolation and stating the statistical relationship.Such research certainly does not qualify as world-leading or internationally excellent. One would instead need to relate job satisfaction and organisation commitment to some entirely new constructs in order to qualify as internationally excellent. Testing some theoretical linkage of cause and effect in a new industry is also not cutting edge. If no one in the world has yet investigated job satisfaction’s effect on organisation commitment among flower farms workers, then that would be an interesting study, but it would not be world-leading or internationally excellent.Only 13 per cent of Oxford University’s research output fall into this category, yet nearly all of Kenya’s business research fits in this space or even lower thresholds.
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Second, Kenyan researchers often struggle with knowing where to publish. Many sadly resort to predatory journals whereby one must pay to publish in non-peer-reviewed publications. Predatory journals do not spread knowledge and actually diminish a researcher’s CV.Many non-predatory journals in Kenya are also of low-quality even ones done by some universities. If the journal is a print edition only and does not post anything online or appear in Scopus, then do not publish in it. A ranking of the top 1,000 academic business research journals in the world may be found at this link — https://www.scimagojr.com/journalrank.php?area=1400. Additionally, the most credible business school accrediting body, AACSB, gives resources advising researchers on where to publish — https://www.aacsb.edu/knowledge/resources/journal%20rankings.Third, many universities do not retain sufficient faculty and doctoral training for research success.Most Kenyan business quantitative research uses basic three independent variables, one moderating variable, and one squeezed together dependent variable.Further, most business doctoral programmes require students to publish with no mediating variables and force them to include one moderating influence. Learners must cram definitions about mediators but not how to incorporate them into conceptual frameworks. Prolific researchers Reuben Baron and David Kenny state that a moderator affects the direction and/or strength of the relationship between variables while a mediator accounts for the indirect relationship between the independent and dependent variable.In a review on articles in the world’s most famous and prestigious business journal, the Academy of Management Annals, in its February 2019 edition, nearly all of the articles utilised mediating variables in quantitative research or qualitative frameworks. Only one used any moderating variables but actually linked the moderators to mediators. If we in Kenya do not teach or use indirect mediators in business research but instead usually just simple direct relationships where the rest of the social science world does utilise them, how can we compete?Fourth, institutions also incorrectly instruct their research students to mash dependent variables together into one construct. Instead of accurately incorporating a higher level of statistical analysis such as structural equation modelling that allows for multiple dependent variables in a robust conceptual framework, most universities in Kenya force doctoral learners to squish different psychological constructs into one dependent variable in undergraduate-level statistics.This is not statistically accurate and cannot be published anywhere in the world in credible journals. If a researcher publishes quantitative research, then more than a rudimentary understanding of statistics must form the foundation of the article. Sadly, most universities do not teach business statistics properly or comprehensively. We can and we must do better. In Kenya, we have the brains, we have the will, now we need our institutions to give us the tools for business research success.Read Business Talk next week to see how Kenyan researchers face international bias in attempting to publish and how the Commission for University Education feeds the culture of quantity not the quality of research.