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Looking back and moving forward: 50 years of the journal of supply chain management.

This issue marks the 50th volume, and year, of the publication of the Journal of Supply Chain Management. As such, this is an opportune moment to look back at the last 50 years and the more recent 2008-13 time period since the Journal's repositioning. It is also an opportunity to prospectively consider our steps as we move ahead as a scholarly journal and as a discipline. In doing so, we introduce the papers that appear in this 50th anniversary issue, and consider the current state and the future of research in supply management, logistics, and the broader supply chain management discipline. In addition, we provide our own perspectives concerning the future direction of supply chain management research.


The Journal of Supply Chain Management was first published in 1965 under the title of the Journal of Purchasing. The impetus for the creation of the Journal came from purchasing management academics, who recognized at the time a need for a scholarly journal to serve as an outlet for purchasing research, to broaden its appeal and impact and to enhance the legitimacy of purchasing as a profession and a scholarly discipline. The Journal's founding Editor, Dr. Harold Fearon, played a pivotal role in working with the National Association of Purchasing Agents (now the Institute for Supply Management, or ISM) in demonstrating the value and viability of creating the Journal. Dr. Fearon continues to serve the Journal as a member of its Advisory Board, as do Donald Dobler (editor from 1980-96 and editor emeritus), Phil Carter (editor from 1997-2001 and editor emeritus) and Alvin Williams (editor from 2002-07 and editor emeritus). In 1999, the name of the Journal was changed to the Journal of Supply Chain Management to reflect, "... the increasing emphasis on supply chain management as the overarching paradigm for research in purchasing and supply" (Carter, 1999, p. 2).

Drs. Craig Carter, Lisa Ellram, and Lutz Kaufmann assumed the editorship of ISCM and began to manage the review process in March 2007. This allowed the editorial team to be responsible for all content from the first issue of 2008 (Volume 44, Issue 1) onward. At the time of this transition, the editorial team was charged by ISM with the mission of making ISCM THE journal of choice among supply chain management scholars. In response to this charge, the team made a number of substantial changes to JSCM.

An Advisory Board was created, consisting of thought leaders in the broad supply chain management discipline. The members of JSCM's Advisory Board are not only thought leaders in the discipline, but serve as key resources who are actively engaged in supporting the Journal. The Journal's review process was also transformed through the creation of an Asso-date Editor (AE) Board. The use of AEs in the review process allows JSCM to provide authors with more rigorous and constructive feedback, as AEs can be assigned to manuscripts based on their specific areas of expertise, and was seen as a necessary step given the anticipated increase in submissions. In addition, the Journal's Review Board was significantly expanded during this repositioning period. The Journal's physical appearance changed beginning with the first issue of 2008, to match its stature and mission of being a premier scholarly journal. An online manuscript submission and processing platform, Manuscript Central, was developed and implemented in 2009. This has allowed for increased transparency for authors, Editors, and Associate Editors concerning the status of submitted papers. Finally, an application was made to Thomson Reuters to have ISCM included in the Web of Knowledge (formerly the IS!). The Journal was accepted and included in the Social Sciences Citation Index beginning with its 2008 content, with its first impact factor published in 2010.

We believe that these strategies, along with the truly amazing buy-in of the members of our Advisory, Associate Editor, and Review Boards and the broader community of supply chain management scholars, have allowed us to achieve ISCM's mission.


The Journal has made tremendous strides over the past several years and has consequently developed a record of sustained performance, impact, and global reach. ISCM has been ranked first or second among supply chain and operations management journals for the past 3 years based on its Thomson Reuters impact factor. This also places ISCM within the top 10-15 percent across all 174 management journals that are included in the Web of Knowledge. While this is only one metric, it provides evidence that papers published in the Journal are significantly impacting subsequent research in the discipline. As another example of the Journal's impact, articles published in /SCM have received the prestigious Emerald Citations of Excellence Award for 2012 (Roth, Tsay, Pullman, & Gray, 2008) and 2013 (PageII & Wu, 2009). This award is given to the 50 most outstanding and highest impact articles of the 15,000 articles published by the top 300 management journals. Emerald notes that in making this decision, it assesses impact based on "citations, usage, inclusion of research in courseware, media comment, implementation in practice, transformation of research for new audiences, (and) awards," (, accessed October 15, 2013).

The Journal of Supply Chain Management publishes research conducted by many of the leading scholars in the supply chain management discipline, as well as thought leaders from related disciplines whose work touches upon and overlaps with supply chain management, such as relationship marketing, strategic management, social network analysis, and economics. While the mission of the Journal is not to be cross-functional in terms of its research approach, it is the mission of ISCM to be the journal of choice not only within the core supply chain management discipline, but outside of the discipline for scholars who are engaging in supply chain management research.

This broad reach extends to the membership of our Advisory, Associate Editor, and Review Boards, which include the top scholars from a variety of disciplines and highly ranked universities worldwide. Over one third of the authors of papers published between 2008 and 2013 are from outside of the United States, as are over one quarter of our Review Board members. Lutz Kaufmann, Xiande Zhao, and Tom Callarman serve as our European and Asian Editors and have helped to increase the global reach of ISCM.

The number of submissions has more than tripled since 2007. At the time that we finished writing this editorial, we had received more than 250 submissions and were on track to receive approximately 300 submissions in total for 2013. Commensurate with the rapid increase in submissions, we added a Co-Editor- in-Chief, Chad Autry, in 2012 and have continued to carefully grow our Review and Associate Editor Boards, by inviting the best ad hoc reviewers to join the Review Board and the best reviewers to become Associate Editors.

Despite this phenomenal increase in submissions, the review process has continued to operate efficiently, with average first decision processing times in 2013 of 2.36 days in the case of desk rejections and 75.02 days for papers that were sent out for peer review. More importantly, we continue to offer substantive and constructive reviews to authors. These results are largely due to the diligence of our Associate Editors and Reviewers, and without a doubt the amazing work of Lynn Marstiller, who has been the behind-the-scenes oil that has kept the review process running so smoothly.

Our acceptance rates have been below 8.2 percent since 2008. While this is a measure that we certainly track, we do not have explicit goals surrounding this metric. For example, when Special Topic Forum (STF) Editors have asked us "how many" papers they can publish within an STF, our answer has consistently been to let manuscript quality and contribution be the criteria by which they decide. Similarly, we ask our reviewers and Associate Editors to use these same criteria when making their decisions.

Finally, while these are all tangible indicators of /SCM's ascendance to the level of an "A" journal, perhaps the ultimate test is to simply be able to place a copy of the Journal on the desk of a colleague, department chair, or business school dean and tell the colleague that the Journal of Supply Chain Management is an elite journal in your discipline. We believe that your colleague will agree.

An Update of Carter and Ellram (2003): 2008-13 Carter and Ellram (2003) performed a critical and rigorous review of the work published in the first 35 years of the Journal, examining the content, methodology, and theoretical approach of artides published during that time period. They also provided recommendations for future research, encouraging greater development and testing of theory, inducing inductive studies, theory building, and greater triangulation of research. We have recently applied a similar approach to examine the content appearing in JSCM during the 2008-13 time period. We chose this 6-year period because it represents content published in JSCM since its repositioning and because it provides a reasonably representative basis for the content, quality, and contribution of articles that will be published in future issues of the Journal.

We used three of Carter and Eltram's dimensions--type of research, research design, and analysis technique--and added a fourth dimension--theoretical lens--to assess the papers that were published in JSCM during the 2008-13 time period (for more information about these dimensions, see Carter 81 Ellram, 2003 and Mentzer & Kahn, 1995). Two coders independently coded each article across these four dimensions. The initial intercoder agreement rate ranged from 94 percent to 98 percent across the dimensions. Initial disagreements were settled through discussion between the coders. We present our findings in the following paragraphs.

As shown in Table 1, JSCM has seen a substantial shift in the nature of the research that has been published during the 2008-13 time period, compared with the 1965-99 time period examined by Carter and Ellram (2003). During this earlier time period, much of what the Journal published was normative, focusing on current practices and what could be done to improve them. Exploratory studies were also of significant interest, given that the field of purchasing was still a very new and emerging area of research inquiry. Conceptual theory building was relatively rare in the early years of the Journal and was not even considered as a separate category in Carter and Ellram's (2003) study. Another significant category in the earlier years of the Journal was methodological articles. These articles included applied methodologies that could be used by practitioners as well as a review of research methodologies used in the field of supply management. While these three categories have all declined significantly, there are three categories that have either emerged or grown significantly in the past 5 years.

Type of Research

Category                      1965-99  2008-13

Hypothesis testing               8%      53%

Normative literature            33%       0%

Conceptual theory building      n/a      21%

Exploratory                     39%      17%

Systematic literature review     3%       6%
(including meta-analysis)

Methodology article             17%       2%

Note: The 17% of "exploratory" (sic., inductive) studies
during the 2008-13 time period employed rigorous (often
qualitative) analyses, which met the Journal's mission of
empirical validity.

Given the increased methodological rigor of articles accepted in the Journal of Supply Chain Management since its repositioning, it is not surprising that hypothesis testing is the largest category in the past 6 years, representing over 50 percent of the articles published versus less than 10 percent in the early years of the Journal. This shift has been occurring in the broader supply chain management discipline as well, as hypothesis testing has been replacing less rigorous types of exploratory research. Conceptual theory building has emerged as a category in and of itself since 2008. In the prior review of published articles, some of these articles may have been included in the exploratory category. However, given the great interest of the Journal in contributing to theory building in supply chain management, this category has emerged as an important area of contribution for the Journal. In addition, the exploratory work continues, accounting for about 17 percent of the Journal's papers today. However, the nature of these exploratory articles is quite different. The exploratory articles included in ISCM today employ rigorous and often qualitative analyses that demonstrate empirical validity. While some of the papers published in the Journal prior to this 6-year period also met the criterion of empirical validity, it was not a requirement as it is today.

Research Design

Category                                 1965-99  2008-13

Survey                                     60%      43%

Conceptual theory building                          22%

Case study                                 18%      12%

Archival/secondary data                     9%      10%

Systematic literature review (including     0%       6%

Laboratory study                            4%       5%

Interviews                                 11%       2%

Simulation/modeling                         5%       0%

Note: Some papers employed more than one research
design, and thus the sum of each column is greater
than 100%.

The research design of studies published in JSCM has also changed significantly in the past 6 years (see Table 2). As has been the case with much of the research conducted in the supply chain and operations management area, surveys continue to be the most common method of research design. However, survey research in general is experiencing a decline as it becomes increasingly difficult to gain access participation of relevant audiences in cross-sectional surveys. Conceptual theory building has rapidly gained traction, perhaps in part due to the Journal's call for such efforts, including the publication of a conceptual theory building discussion forum in 2011.

As shown in Table 2, archival and secondary data account for approximately the same proportion of papers as they did in the past although the nature of these articles tends to be quite different. Due to the increased availability of many excellent databases and the evolution of data mining, the archival data articles that the Journal sees today tend to utilize a larger number of theoretically selected variables. We have also seen the emergence of a new category of research design referred to as systematic literature reviews, including meta-analyses. As our discipline has matured and the number of publications available for analysis has increased, the application of such a methodologically rigorous design has begun to allow researchers to use large, multistudy samples to address interesting research questions and further our understanding of supply chain management phenomena. While laboratory studies and experiments still represent a very small proportion of the total studies included in the Journal of Supply Chain Management, we expect this research design to become more prevalent as a complement to the other research designs displayed in Table 2.

Due to the changing landscape of data analysis techniques employed by supply chain management researchers, we did not make a direct comparison to the 1965-99 time period. The analysis techniques employed in papers published in the 2008-13 time period are shown in Table 3. The "Other" category included analyses such as logistic regression, hazard rate analysis, and latent class segmentation. In general, there is a movement toward much more rigorous analysis techniques. These are not limited to quantitative techniques but include rigorous qualitative analysis techniques.

Analysis Technique

Analysis Technique                             Percent

Structural equation modeling                     20

Conceptual theory building                       19

Regression                                       14

Factor analysis                                  13

Qualitative data analysis                        11

Content analysis (includes computerized text      3

Cluster analysis                                  3

MANOVA/MANCOVA                                    3

Meta-analysis                                     3

Partial least squares                             3

Other                                            12

Note: The term "qualitative data analysis"
includes the analysis of transcripts from case
study interviews and content analysis. All of
these qualitative techniques involved rigorous
analysis of the data that addressed multiple
facets of empirical validity.

In the analysis performed by Carter and Ellram (2003), the application of specific theories was not analyzed. Making a solid theoretical contribution by extending and deepening the understanding of existing theory or building new theory is an important requirement for papers that have been published in the Journal of Supply Chain Management in the past 6 years. Table 4 illustrates that papers published in the Journal from 2008 onward draw on a wide variety of theories from a great number of disciplines. For example, the Other category encompassed a very large number of theories from management, economics, and psychology. We view this as a positive sign, in that it suggests the ability of researchers to employ the most relevant and appropriate theory to their research question and also provides evidence that our discipline is relying on a broad swath of theories rather than over-relying on a small subset of theories. The editorial team continues to believe that there is a strong role for the Journal of Supply Chain Management in supporting theory development unique to the area of supply chain management as well as innovatively applying theory from other disciplines to better understand supply chain phenomena.


In conceptualizing this 50th anniversary issue of the Journal of Supply Chain Management, we identified supply management, logistics (and in particular, third-party logistics), and the broader conceptualization of supply chain management as three substantive areas to target. In addition, we acknowledged the burgeoning interest in sustainable supply chain management (SSCM) among both practitioners and researchers and agreed upon SSCM as a fourth area to include in this 50th anniversary issue. We then invited leading scholars to conceptually or empirically analyze the extant literature in these areas and provide their perspectives of paths that future research should take. In targeting these scholars, we selected researchers who have performed extensive work in each of these substantive areas and who have had a strong involvement with and knowledge of ISCM in particular. Based on these criteria, we invited Lisa Ellram and Martha Cooper (supply chain management); Tom Goldsby and--for his meta-analytical expertise--Rudi Leuschner (third-party logistics); Mark PageII (sustainable supply chain management); and Arjan van Weele (supply management). Several of these authors in turn engaged other authors in conducting their research and crafting their papers. All of the invited papers were subjected to a double-blind peer review, and all papers were revised and resubmitted prior to acceptance.

Ellram and Cooper (2014) develop a distinct set of perspectives of supply chain management--as a process, discipline, philosophy, governance structure, and function--over the 30-plus year period since the term supply chain management first appeared in print and became an industry lexicon. They examine the evolution of how supply chain management has been conceptualized in the literature, based on differing streams of research. Their conclusion is that while convergence is occurring concerning how supply chain management is conceptualized, there is still enough inconsistency such that both scholarly research and practitioner application are hampered. Ellram and Cooper suggest that rather than trying to develop a new, more descriptive name for SCM, supply chain management should be viewed as a domain. Within this domain, there are many areas of study, including purchasing, logistics, demand management issues, and more.

Leuschner, Carter, Goldsby and Rogers (2014) perform a meta-analysis of constructs surrounding third-party logistics (3131.) research, using 54 samples and over 9,000 observations. The purpose of their paper is twofold: (1) to develop and test a model of the relationships among relational governance structure, logistics customer service, and firm performance and (2) to summarize the empirical relationships among a broader set of constructs that have been examined in the 3PL literature. Their findings provide more granular insights into the performance implications of outsourcing to 3PLs--both from the standpoint of the 3PL service providers and the firms that purchase these services--and shed light on some of the "white space" that warrants future investigation.

In their provocatively titled article, "Why Research in Sustainable Supply Chain Management Should Have No Future," Page11 and Shevchenko (2014) identify the main issues that should be addressed by future research. Their premise is that sustainability should ultimately be an integral part of how supply chains are managed, rather than a specialized or "fringe" area of research. They also raise the thorny issues of trade-offs across the three pillars of the triple bottom line and the differences between being sustainable versus being less unsustainable in managing supply chains. Page11 and Shevchenko conclude by outlining future research opportunities based on these suppositions. van Week and van Raaij (2014) consider the progression of the purchasing and supply management literature and use the evolution of research in this area as a springboard in providing prescriptions for future supply management research. The authors focus on several theoretical perspectives that might help researchers better understand supply management strategy and its contribution to firm performance. Van Weele and van Raaij also provide several suggestions for improving the methodological rigor surrounding supply management research.

Finally, given the theme of this 50th anniversary issue of JSCM, we included a research note by Zach Zacharia, Nada Sanders, and Brian Fugate, titled, "The Evolving Functional Perspectives Within Supply Chain Management," which was originally slated to be published in a later issue of Volume 50. Zacharia et al. (2014) interviewed 70 supply chain management scholars and executives with the goal of understanding commonality of perceptions as well as their perspectives about future supply chain management research. They do indeed find a common understanding concerning the definition and scope of supply chain management, as well as common themes concerning future supply chain management research efforts.


We believe that it is important for JSCM to maintain its historical roots in supply management, and the Journal will continue to publish and encourage submission of high-quality work that focuses on procurement and supply management. At the same time, JSCM will remain a "big tent" journal that publishes articles relevant to all major facets of supply chain management--from its traditional roots in procurement and supply management, to distribution and management of the downstream supply chain, through broader conceptualizations of the supply chain and interorganizational networks.

We are encouraged to see a large increase in articles since 2008 that have employed a conceptual theory building methodology. We believe a next logical step in the maturation of the supply chain management discipline is the development of theory that is unique to our discipline. The Journal explicitly signaled the need for theory development in publishing the conceptual theory building discussion forum in 2011 (Volume 47, Issue 2). Our hope is that the guidance provided in that forum will both motivate and aid scholars in developing interesting and relevant theories of the supply chain and supply chain management. We are certainly not suggesting that we abandon theories that we have employed from other disciplines, but rather (1) consider how to assess the boundaries of those theories, in particular in terms of when those theories may not apply to supply chain management phenomena (for example, see Weyer, Wognum, Trienekens and Omta's (2012) extension of transaction cost economics), and (2) begin to develop our own, discipline-specific theories, based on a theory of the supply chain and theories of how to manage supply chains, as we inevitably discover the gaps in existing theories.

JSCM will also continue to be open to a wide variety of additional, methodologically rigorous empirical approaches. Certainly surveys, the most commonly used research method, are a viable means by which to collect data to test hypotheses or even develop propositions; however, we believe that survey research will increasingly be conducted with a smaller number of focal firms, using multiple informants both within and outside of these firms, as compared to a traditional, cross-sectional, random sample of a large number of organizations. We certainly anticipate an increased use of secondary data in supply chain management research, given the rapidly rising popularity of business analytics to analyze "big data."

While the use of a case study design decreased between the 1965-99 and 2008-13 time period, our hope is that well-performed case study and other qualitative approaches--such as ethnographies--will continue to be used to enhance our understanding of supply chain management phenomena.

Lastly, we want to briefly address the issue of manuscript contribution--an issue that seems to be increasingly raised by reviewers. Papers published in JSCM must not only be methodologically rigorous, but also extend or test existing theoretical bases and clarify and enhance managerial understanding. Most researchers are capable and in fact quite good at meeting the first criterion--methodological rigor. Thus, our focus in discussing contribution will be on the latter two criteria. First, a strong contribution should begin with an interesting problem and then use theory to inform and develop hypotheses prior to collecting data (in the case of deduction) or to enrich the development of, for example, frameworks, propositions, and typologies (in the case of induction). One mistake made by authors, which appears to be increasingly recognized by reviewers, is the attempt to form theory to fit data that have already been collected.

It is important to recognize that all journals have limited space. This means that top-tier journals, which presumably receive a larger proportion of high-quality manuscripts, can only publish the best of these papers. As an anecdote, one of the JSCM editors was recently talking with a researcher in the medical field. She had a manuscript under second review at one of the premier medical journals, but was concerned about whether the paper would ultimately be accepted for publication. When he asked her why, querying about methodological concerns or other issues that the reviewers might have raised, her response was that the study was sound in all areas; she was simply unsure whether the study would sufficiently pique the interest of the journal's readership, given the keen competition to publish in that journal.

Similarly, a paper that provides a strong contribution for ISCM must meaningfully inform our understanding of a phenomenon, including future research opportunities and managerial practice. Such papers must not only be methodologically sound, but also theoretically rich and interesting. The purpose of being theoretically rich, or in other words advancing theory, is not an academic, ivory tower exercise. Rather, the purpose of theory is to better understand why and how a phenomenon occurs and to provide richer insights to practice.

CONCLUSION When the current editors assumed their role, they stated that the mission of the Journal of Supply Chain Management is to be the Journal of choice among supply chain management scholars across disciplines, by attracting high-quality, high-impact behavioral research focusing on theory building and empirical methodologies. We believe that JSCM has made excellent strides toward achieving those goals, thanks to the work of the Journal's board members, authors, guest editors, and readership, and to the visionary efforts of our predecessors. Articles submitted by leading authors from other disciplines have played an important role in broadening the understanding of the supply chain management discipline, engaging scholars from other disciplines, and enhancing the theoretical understanding of supply chain management. The level of rigor has increased as noted by the types of research design, methodology, analysis, and theories employed in articles published in the Journal. The Journal has gained global visibility and has increased its status as indicated by its increased level of submissions, high-impact factors, and recent articles that have received the Emerald Citations of Excellence Award. We look forward to the continuing support from our boards, authors, readership, department chairs, and business school deans as the Journal proceeds on its journey.


Carter, P. L. (1999). A letter from the editor. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 35, 2.

Carter, C. R., & Ellram, L. M. (2003). Thirty-five years of the Journal of Supply Chain Management: Where have we been and where are we going? Journal of Supply Chain Management, 39, 38-50.

Ellram, L. M., & Cooper, M. (2014). Supply chain management: It's about the journey, not the destination. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50 (1).

Leuschner, R., Carter, C. R., Goldsby, T. J., & Rogers, Z. (2014). Third-party logistics: A meta-analytic review and investigation of its impact on performance. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50 (1).

Mentzer, J. T., & Kahn, K. B. (1995). A framework for logistics research. Journal of Business Logistics, 16 (1), 231-250.

Pagell, M., & Shevchenko, A. (2014). Why research in sustainable supply chain management should have no future. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50 (1).

Pagell, M., & Wu, Z. (2009). Building a more complete theory of sustainable supply chain management using case studies of 10 exemplars. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 45 (2), 37-56.

Roth, A. V., Tsay, A. A., Pullman, M. E, & Gray, J. V. (2008). Unraveling the food supply chain: Strategic insights from China and the 2007 recalls. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 44 (1), 22-39.

van Weele, A., & van Raaij, E. (2014). The future of purchasing and supply management research: About relevance and rigor. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50 (1).

Weyer, M., Wognum, P. M., Trienekens, J. H., & Omta, S. W. F. (2012). Supply chain-wide consequences of transaction risks and their contractual solutions: Towards an extended transaction cost economics framework. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 48,73-91.

Zarcharia, Z., Sanders, N. R., & Fugate, B. S. (2014). Evolving functional perspectives within supply chain management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 50 (1).


Arizona State University


Miami University


WHU--Otto Beisheim School of Management


University of Tennessee


China Europe International Business School
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Author:Carter, Craig R.; Ellram, Lisa M.; Kaufmann, Lutz; Autry, Chad W.; Zhao, Xiande; Callarman, Thomas E
Publication:Journal of Supply Chain Management
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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