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The practitioner-researcher divide in Industrial, Work and Organizational (IWO) psychology: Where are we now, and where do we go from here?

   Industrial and organizational psychology's major challenge for the future
   is to convince both our academic and non-academic patrons to develop a more
   complex and multifaceted definition of what constitutes our own performance
   effectiveness ... then, our impact on both the science and practice of
   industrial and organizational psychology will be far more profound and will
   no longer be so dependent upon simply counting publications or on promoting
   faddish techniques that have often been prematurely foisted upon
   organizational systems. (Dunnette, 1990, p. 21)

Following almost 100 years of research and several decades of flourishing practice in the field of Industrial, Work and Organizational (IWO) psychology, growing concerns are being expressed across a number of European countries (e.g. Britain, Germany, The Netherlands) and in the United States that there is an increasing divide between researchers/academics and practitioners opening up within our discipline (e.g. Anderson, 1998a; Dunnette, 1990; Hodgkinson & Herriot, in press; Rice, 1997; Sackett, 1994; Weinreich, Barandon, Franko, Lubahn, & Nutzhorn, 1997). In this, the Centenrary Special Issue of the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology (JOOP), it is timely to take stock of the current state of relations between the scientific and practitioner wings of our discipline, particularly in view of the concentration of all other papers in the present issue upon key knowledge and practice areas in IWO psychology. One of the defining characteristics of IWO psychology, from its inception, has been the high level of synergy between research and practice (Anderson, Ones, Sinangil, & Viswesvaran, 2001; Cooper & Locke, 2000; Shimmin & Wallis, 1994; Viteles, 1959). As demonstrated by the other articles in this Special Issue of JOOP, throughout much of its history, robust research has informed best professional practice, whilst simultaneously, informed practice in the field has stimulated new directions for research and theorizing in IWO psychology. However, we believe that researchers and practitioners are currently moving further apart. In this article, we seek to establish that this is the case, to explore why it is happening, and to propose an approach to address the issue, based upon this analysis.

Rigorous research and relevant practice

Practitioners and researchers have often held stereotypical views of each other, with practitioners viewing researchers as interested only in methodological rigour whilst failing to concern themselves with anything in the real world, and researchers damning practitioners for embracing the latest fads, regardless of theory or evidence. These stereotypes have received academic support in analyses of the nature of the production of knowledge. Such analyses have led scholars to propose a set of binary dimensions along which disciplines differ. For example, Becher (1989) suggests that there are four such dimensions:

(i) hard vs. soft, defined in terms of the degree to which a single agreed paradigm exists;

(ii) pure vs. applied, or the degree of concern for application to practical problems;

(iii) convergent vs. divergent, or the degree to which common assumptions and values are shared; and

(iv) urban vs. rural, or the degree to which the discipline addresses relatively few, well-defined research problems.

Whilst the first-mentioned pole of each of these continua is more characteristic of the physical sciences, some applied social scientists have also aspired to move towards them. Pfeifer (1993), for example, argues that only when the supporting science is `secure' (i.e. towards the first-mentioned poles) can professional practice become effective. Clearly, this analysis of the creation of knowledge takes a traditional view of the relationship between sound, generalizable, fundamental science and its transitory, specific application. It is an account that many on the academic side of our discipline have embraced, asserting that research in the sub-discipline of applied psychology is followed by its dissemination, which in turn results, in time, in the application of its findings in the real world.

In reaction, some theorists of science have proposed two contrasting modes of research (Gibbons et al., 1994; Tranfield & Starkey, 1998). The first, `scientific inquiry' or `Mode 1', follows the above physical-sciences model, whereby theoretical models are tested against empirical data, each successive study adding to previous findings. This corresponds to Kuhn's (1970) model of normal science. The second mode is termed `problem solution' or `Mode 2', and adopts a more action-centred approach. Mode 2 research constitutes a more socially distributed form of knowledge production in which knowledge is generated in the context of application by multi-stakeholder teams, drawn from a range backgrounds that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, and results in immediate or short time to market dissemination/exploitation. The origin of the problem to be addressed is likely to be found in working life and experience rather than in the extant scientific literature, and the process of knowledge creation involves continuous feedback between eclectic theory and the outcomes of various interventions. Problem solution is arrived at directly rather than subsequently inferred, but is not necessarily transferable to other situations.

These two modes of knowledge production are often put forward as alternative accounts of the knowledge creation process, and proposals for science policy are based upon the assumptions of one or the other model.

Rigorous practice and relevant research

It is against this backdrop that we propose a simple 2 x 2 working model (see Fig. 1). This model does not require us to choose between practical relevance and methodological rigour. On the contrary, we argue that both requirements are of crucial importance to our discipline, but that they are not always both met.


Where practical relevance is high but methodological rigour low, Popularist Science is generated (Quadrant 1). Studies falling within this category address a theme widely recognized as relevant, but fail to do so with sufficient rigour to permit any reliance upon their findings. In the USA, research of this sort has been termed `junk science', and has been viewed as inadmissible evidence in a court of law. It is typically executed where fast-emerging business trends or management initiatives have spawned ill-conceived or ill-conducted studies, rushed to publication in order to provide a degree of legitimacy and marketing support. Another characteristic of popularist studies is that fields in which they proliferate fail to apply appropriate peer review and refereeing procedures prior to publication, resulting in a notable absence of quality control over reports of studies available in the public domain. Several examples of Popularist Science afflict IWO psychology currently, including popularist books on emotional intelligence, unvalidated claims in respect of team-building and OD interventions, and self-produced `validation' studies by less reputable test publishers that have been dashed into press to support recently published psychometric tests. Popularist Science, of course, can be dangerous if practice is founded upon such badly conceived, unvalidated, or plain incorrect research, since ineffectual or even harmful practical methods may result (Levy-Leboyer, 1988). Moreover, such work illustrates only too clearly the importance of the anonymous review procedures applied by all of the reputable journals in IWO psychology to the robustness of the research base which underpins our discipline.

Quadrant 2, where both practical relevance and methodological rigour are high, we term Pragmatic Science. Such work simultaneously addresses questions of applied psychological relevance and does so in a methodologically robust manner (Hackman, 1985). Clearly, we believe that this particular form of research is the form that should dominate our discipline, and many excellent examples are described in the rest of this issue of the journal. It is difficult to overstate the importance of basing our practical interventions in IWO psychology upon a strong foundation of Pragmatic Science, and any balanced review of the current state of our discipline would need to acknowledge that examples of this happening litter our history and indeed present-day practice. For instance, the area of selection and assessment can be cited as one of the most flourishing sub-areas within IWO psychology, which, for many years, has benefited from a symbiotic relationship between good science and good practice (Salgado, Viswesvaran, & Ones, 2001). The use of assessment centres, tests of cognitive ability and personality, structured interviewing techniques, and biodata forms are all examples of this symbiotic relationship between robust research and practice in selection, and it is important that any critical self-reflection over the state of health of our discipline acknowledges these undoubted strengths built up over the years by researchers and practitioners being sympathetic to the views and objectives of one another, both groups being mindful of the superordinate goals of the longer term development of the profession internationally. Nevertheless, we would not wish to be accused as a profession or as professionals of becoming complacent; hence, we feel that the time has now come to engage in a process of constructive self-appraisal.

Where methodological rigour is high but practical relevance is low (Quadrant 3), Pedantic Science is generated. We employ this term in respect of studies that are fastidious in their design and analytical sophistication yet fail to address an issue of current organizational or psychological relevance. Such research usually derives its questions from theory or from existing published studies, the sole criterion of its worth being the evaluation of a small minority of other researchers who specialize in a narrow field of inquiry. Again considering the area of selection and assessment as an exemplar, Herriot and Anderson (1997) have criticized utility theory studies on precisely these grounds. Utility theory, in its original conceptualization, was intended as a comparatively simple, rational, cost-benefit-driven method to persuade organizations to use more reliable and predictively valid techniques of employee selection, the formulaic calculations of utility value being only a part of this process. Regrettably, the field has witnessed an ever-increasing pre-occupation by some researchers active in this area over the minutiae of formulaic expressions and the calculation of job performance standard deviation estimates, with successive papers becoming ever more myopic and technical in nature. This reductionistic, pedantic orientation was only thrown into some turmoil by more recent studies casting doubt upon the basic effectiveness of utility theory as a means for persuading selection practitioners to adopt different methods. Indeed, it can be argued that the march of technically pedantic scientific papers was abruptly curtailed by these recent studies, which returned to the crucial question of the practical relevance of utility theory--a rare example perhaps of robust Pragmatic Science halting the drift towards Pedantic Science. (See Herriot & Anderson (1997) and Hodgkinson, Herriot & Anderson (2001) for an extended debate of this example, and Hodgkinson & Herriot (in press) for a similar discussion in relation to the criterion problem in personnel selection research.)

Finally, in Quadrant 4, what we term Puerile Science can emerge. Here, misguided authors have pursued issues of unacceptably low practical relevance, and have done so using research designs and methods lacking in rigour. Such research incurs huge opportunity costs, ruins the reputation of IWO psychology, and will have damaging effects if actions are taken as a result. Finding clear examples of Puerile Science in the field of IWO psychology to denigrate at this point is, thankfully, quite problematic. However, many journal editors and reviewers will have had the unfortunate experience, as we ourselves have experienced, of receiving papers addressing irrelevant problems through studies or experiments that lack even the basic foundations of scientific robustness. Most are summarily rejected for publication by all of the reputable journals, but we should be conscious of the fact that there are plenty of outlets for such studies and that Puerile Science does exist in our field; the question is how to minimize its existence and its impact upon organizational practices. Unfortunately, it also has to be acknowledged that Puerile Science can gain exposure through professional and other media and influence indirectly the organizational Zeitgeist.

Defining practical relevance and methodological rigour

Our four-quadrant model identifies practical relevance and methodological rigour as the two key dimensions underpinning the entire research endeavour of IWO psychology. More problematic, however, is to define precisely what is meant by each of these terms.

Even if we accept as a given that our ultimate goal, as a knowledge-based profession, is the enhancement of employee well-being and organizational effectiveness, it has to be recognized that these are socially constructed phenomena, with fundamentally different meanings across differing stakeholder groups. Consequently, the question of relevance is multifaceted. We need to consider the question of relevance in relation to several other questions, not least relevance for whom, for what ultimate purposes, and to what ends? What constitutes `practically relevant research', therefore, is the subject of a series of ongoing negotiations between the various stakeholding parties concerned and will vary at any given point in time, depending upon which particular stakeholders are involved in the research process. For this reason, it is difficult to offer a categorical definition of `relevance'. Nevertheless, as we shall seek to demonstrate shortly, the range of stakeholders directly and indirectly involved in the research process has widened considerably over recent years. Clearly, therefore, any research in our field that fails to consider this broader, evolving context is likely to meet a similar fate to that of personnel selection, as discussed above.

The question of `methodological rigour' is fraught with similar difficulty. Standards of evidence vary according to the ontological assumptions and epistemological orientations underpinning particular schools of thought. In keeping with our earlier discussion of Mode 1 and Mode 2 approaches to knowledge production, historically, many researchers in IWO psychology have tended to follow the lead of their counterparts in the other areas of psychology in defining methodological rigour. In turn, researchers in these other areas have tended to follow the physical sciences, attempting to establish general laws and cause-effect relations, mostly, although by no means exclusively, through the adoption of laboratory experimental research methods, which permit the control and manipulation of variables in isolation from their context.

As noted by Hodgkinson and Herriot (in press), many of the most pressing problems confronting contemporary organizations do not necessarily lend themselves to the wholesale adoption of this conventional, Mode 1 approach, and there is a need to broaden our search for, and acceptance of, methodological alternatives that meet the twin imperatives of rigour and relevance. One such alternative, identified by Hodgkinson and Herriot, is `scholarly consulting' (Argyris, 1999), major elements of which have been termed action research. This approach entails the development of propositions that are both valid and actionable; they are both generalizable and applicable to the specific case. Such propositions are generated in the context of solving particular organizational problems. However, the fact that alternative outcomes to those intended in the implementation of the propositions are both possible and tested for means that falsification, the bedrock of scientific method (Popper, 1962), is central to this whole approach. Hence, scholarly consulting and closely related approaches, such as action research, fall within our definition of pragmatic science and illustrate the fact that pragmatic science is much broader than the overly narrow conceptions of science characteristic of the natural science model of knowledge production that has historically underpinned the development of so much of the work in our field.

The drift from pragmatic science

We contend that there are current trends away from the conduct of Pragmatic Science, and towards the other three approaches outlined in Fig. 1. These movements are represented by means of the various arrow-headed pathways in this figure. First, we seek to establish the existence of these trends.

One form of evidence relates to the degree of involvement of practitioners in the publication process. Although it is only one indicator of a general structural problem, the decline of such involvement is an important concern (Dunnette, 1990). When we consider three refereed journals, the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, the Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP), and Personnel Psychology (PP), a clear trend emerges over five decades (see Table 1, which is developed from Sackett, Callahan, DeMeuse, Ford, & Kozlowski, 1986, cited in Dunnette, 1990). First, there has been a sizeable increase in the proportion of papers where all authors are academics, especially in JAP and PP.

Second, there has been an equally strong decline in papers where all authors are practitioners, to the point of virtual extinction. Collaborative papers between academics and practitioners have remained at a low, but relatively constant, level.

When we consider the origins of those questions that published research addresses, we find a similar picture. The vast majority of studies follow on from other published studies, with relatively few aimed at testing theory, and even fewer at addressing a relevant problem issue (Anderson, 1998b; Sackett & Larson, 1990). Sackett and Larson (1990) carried out a careful content analysis of all papers published in JAP, PP, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes (OBHDP) over three years--1977, 1982, and 1987. The 577 published papers were coded on a number of dimensions, including the origin of the research question, under three sources: (i) questions derived from theory; (ii) questions derived from real-world problems; and (iii) questions derived from existing studies, so-called `coupling' research or `replication-extension' studies (Anderson, 1998a). Their findings are somewhat unsettling: 13% of studies were theory-driven, and a paltry 3% addressed real-world problems, whereas an overwhelming 84% were replication-extension studies. Of course, the original studies on a given topic may have been relevant to real-world issues, but later additions often engage in ever more methodologically refined and analytically sophisticated research, which soon loses any relevance for practitioners. The continued proliferation of studies investigating outmoded research questions and refinements of measurement procedures in relation to peripheral methodological concerns exemplifies this trend (cf. Herriot, 1993; Herriot & Anderson, 1997; Hodgkinson & Herriot, in press), as does the withdrawal of researchers from field studies back into laboratory experiments and the excessive use of student participants in such laboratory manipulations. Clearly, such trends are indicative of a general drift away from Pragmatic Science towards Pedantic Science.

The move from Pragmatic to Popularist Science is also clear, though harder to evidence unambiguously. Urgent needs have been expressed, for example, to evaluate Human Resource Management processes in terms of their organizational impact (Huselid, 1995; Schuler, 1998). Clearly, the perception by HR professionals of the need to evaluate is very welcome, given the sequence of unevaluated management fads practised in organizations over the last two decades. However, such is the pressure for rapid results that the establishment of causality by means of longitudinal research designs has been the exception rather than the rule. Journal editors have been forced to make explicit policy statements pointing to the undesirability of relying upon cross-sectional designs (Sparrow, 1999; Zjilstra, 2000).

More generally, there is considerable pressure to engage in research that draws upon concepts or methods that constitute currently fashionable solutions to issues. These often have little theoretical underpinning, and hence it is very difficult to establish any degree of construct validity. Arguably, much of the recent research in the areas of emotional intelligence and managerial competencies exemplifies this trend.

Finally, the trend towards Puerile Science may be construed as the further decay of Pedantic and Popularist Science, respectively. Pedantic Science rapidly becomes Puerile when academics engage in self-indulgent mental jousting over questions of dubious epistemological or pragmatic value, even over the longer term. The increase in the number of journals published by and for specific partisan groups of academics points to a growth in Puerile Science. Popularist Science, however, deteriorates into Puerility when the choice of topic is not based upon what practitioners feel to be important, but is rather aimed at achieving media attention. True popularization, that is, the clear communication of Pragmatic Science to a wide audience, is one thing; its perverted version, the attempt to provide a story that will heighten one's media profile, is quite another.

There are other indications that the trends away from Pragmatic Science are gathering pace. One such indication is the formation in several countries of professional groups that claim to represent only the interests of practitioners, asserting that the interests of academic members predominate, to their own disadvantage (St Ather, 1999). Another, is the growth of special interest groups of practitioners, exchanging specific, local information and methods without reference to broader areas of practice or to sources of validation.

As depicted in Fig. 2, we can envisage these trends continuing in the centrifugal directions outlined above, unless we act now to reverse them. Left unchecked, the results will be catastrophic for our discipline. Within this doomsday scenario (McIntyre, 1990), we may expect to see Pedantic and Popularist Science, often descending into Puerility, pursued by academic and practitioner groups, respectively. Links between the two groups will be largely severed, with untheorized practice and irrelevant replication--extension studies as the unavoidable consequences. When not engaged in producing Pedantic and Popularist Science, the two groups will spend what remains of their time and energy fighting internal and/or external battles (based largely upon mutually reinforced stereotypical views of one another) in a quest for supremacy. Practitioner groups will subdivide into sects, each enjoying the luxury of believing fervently in specific methods, which, in the absence of sound research, cannot be evaluated. Academics, however, will engage in increasingly internecine theoretical disputes, unencumbered by any imperative to relate to the real world of work. Pockets of Pragmatic Science will survive only in a few applied academic departments and in those large consultancies that base their services upon sound research and evaluation. In sum, left unchecked, the growing divide between academic and practitioner groups will result in the wholesale fragmentation of our field, a wide range of highly disparate subgroups emerging on both sides of the divide.


Stakeholder claims

So how might the centrifugal forces depicted in Fig. 2 be replaced by the centripetal ones shown in Fig. 3? We contend that unless we recognize the existence of the various stakeholders in our professional environment, and understand the ways in which they are exercising their power, we will not address the real issues that face us.


Many of the remedial recommendations that have been made so far address the symptoms rather than the causes. For example, Hyatt et al. (1997) invite academics and practitioners to communicate more using information technology, to exchange speakers, to exchange sabbaticals, to both be involved in graduate training, to provide graduate projects inside organizations, and to form collaborative research groups. Whilst all of these initiatives are worthy they will not have the desired effect unless political issues of stakeholder power are addressed.

First, we need to define what we mean by stakeholders. Stakeholders are `any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of objectives' (Freeman, 1984, p. 24). In this case, we are referring to the objectives of an institution, i.e. the profession of IWO psychology. Stakeholders, in other words, are those who have an interest in our activities and their outcomes. Note that there is no normative element in this definition; stakeholders are not defined as those with a legitimate interest in our activities. The implication is clear: if we are to pay attention to our environment in order to discover how we might survive in it, we have to review it as it is, and as it is becoming, not as we would like it to be. Hence, arguments about academic independence are important in their own right, but not of great relevance at this juncture. Indeed, we would argue that as an applied discipline, those who do the applying and those in receipt of the application are legitimate stakeholders.

When we examine those stakeholders who both have an interest in our objectives and who also exercise considerable power in their efforts to maintain those interests, an overarching generalization is immediately apparent: different key stakeholder groups, in varying ways, have exerted pressures upon academics and practitioners (see Fig. 4). In the case of academics, a nexus of government, universities, and the academic discipline community exercise power, represented by powerful academic decision-makers. In the case of practitioners, the client is undisputed king (although, of course, there is often some ambiguity as to who is or are the clients). If the perceived interests of these two sets of stakeholders are different, then the strong resource power that they each wield will pull in different directions. The results, we suggest, are the centrifugal forces depicted in Fig. 2.


Stakeholders in research

First, we examine the stakeholder influences upon academics. Governments are under increasing pressure to ensure that taxpayers are receiving value for their money. Hence, a major increase in the auditing of public services has recently occurred, including that of universities (where these are funded partly by the state).

Aware of the value placed upon academic independence and integrity, governments have tended to allocate most auditing functions, except the financial functions, to other academics. Thus, for example, in the UK, powerful academics review the research performance of other departments in their subject discipline (e.g. psychology). Traditional academic criteria, especially publications in the most reputable refereed journals, are used in the evaluation, as a result of which, research ratings are awarded and resources allocated, with more going to those rated more highly.

This process handicaps IWO psychology in the following ways. First, it normally takes longer to do real-world research than laboratory studies, since access has to be negotiated and participation is normally very low on employers' and employees' lists of priorities. Second, the most reputable journals are considered to be American, and these journals set stringently high standards for methodological rigour and expect research to be designed in particular ways, which few research groups outside the USA are accustomed to. Given that the career progression of academics is also dependent upon the extent and `quality' of their publications list, the pull towards Pedantic Science becomes overwhelming. Moreover, departments of psychology have often decreased the numbers of IWO psychologists in favour of cognitive neuroscientists and experimental cognitive psychologists, who can produce more research that is published in journals with higher citation impact factors. The higher impact factors enjoyed by these journals, of course, are determined, to a certain extent, by the fact that there are more active researchers in these subfields. A key consequence of this dysfunctional resource allocation process has been the growth of mass teaching in IWO psychology, since it is the area most in demand by students, yet understaffed in many research-led psychology departments. As a result, hard-pressed academics are being forced to retreat into more Pedantic and less Pragmatic research. The situation is little better in many business schools. Again, demand for IWO psychology teaching often outstrips supply, with a consequent negative impact on research performance. In this environment, however, academics are increasingly faced with additional pressures: to pursue consultancy opportunities, both as a means of generating additional sources of income for their paymasters, and in order to add to their credibility as executive educators.

Whilst the picture in Europe resembles to a degree that of the UK, the USA, easily the largest and most influential producer of research in IWO psychology, is somewhat different. There, the power exercised by academics over the production of knowledge is even greater. The resources for research are generously bestowed by a wide variety of governmental and voluntary agencies, but the advisory function for their allocation and monitoring is, to a considerable extent, in the hands of a relatively small number of elite academics.

Stakeholders in practice

Whilst their primary stakeholders pull academics towards Pedantic Science, practitioners' stakeholders exercise their considerable reward power towards Popularist Science. The primary stakeholders of practitioners are their clients, an ever greater proportion of whom are private sector organizations as the privatization of previously public sector services proceeds apace. Every management text (e.g. Hamel & Prahalad, 1994) recounts the litany of changes in the business environment that profoundly affect organizations and the people who work within them. Globalization, competition, deregulation and technological change combine to make organizational survival ever more dependent upon the skills and motivation of employees (Cascio, 1995; Cooper & Jackson, 1997; Herriot & Anderson, 1997; Hodgkinson & Herriot, in press). How to engage employees in an employment relationship that enhances their contribution and the organization's performance has become one of the most urgent problems facing clients (Herriot, 2001). In response, organizations have lavished resources on those who lay claim to be able to help them with these pressing problems, to the extent that consultancy is one of the fastest growing and most profitable sectors in business.

A host of suppliers has developed to compete for this rich market. Areas of professional practice, which historically have been considered the territory of IWO psychologists, have been annexed by others. Assessment services, for example, previously the jewel in the crown of IWO psychologists, are offered by Human Resource consultants, recruitment agencies, outplacement agencies, IT consultants, and accountancy firms, among others. Other Human Resource interventions, such as organizational change management and employee development, are offered in a bewildering variety of forms by a host of different suppliers (Cascio, 1995).

Given this degree of competition in the provision of services, clients are able to demand that their criteria be met stringently by suppliers. Amongst the foremost of these criteria are speed of response, solutions tailored to their own issues, the thorough implementation of these solutions, and cost-competitive service. These criteria often militate against Pragmatic Science. The requirement for speed often precludes the gathering of the evidence over time that methodological rigour requires. The expectation for tailored solutions implies that well-established and valid instruments and procedures may have to be adapted in unvalidated ways, or that new solutions will have to be designed without the faintest hope of prior validation. The emphasis on implementation highlights processual skills, such as political influencing and project management, rather than analysis, design, and evaluation, the strengths of Pragmatic Science. Finally, when cost is of prime concern, it will always be cheaper (though not necessarily more effective) to engage in Popularist, rather than Pragmatic, Science.

Self-harm by stakeholders

We have argued that it is primarily the resource power of the two key sets of stakeholders (Pfeifer, 1981) that is pulling the two wings of our discipline in different directions away from Pragmatic Science. Does this spell the death knell of our profession? We argue that it does not, for the following fundamental reason: both sets of stakeholders are currently exercising their power in ways that are detrimental to their own longer term interests. Instead of causing the drift to Pedantic or Popularist Science, as they are at present, they both need to support Pragmatic Science if they are to realize their ultimate, longer term interests. Only when they both do so will the centrifugal process be replaced by a centripetal process.

First, we argue that stakeholders are damaging their long-term interests by the ways in which they exercise their resource power at present. Powerful academics in the applied social sciences are currently the main arbiters of what research is valued, published, and funded. At present, they use their resource power to enable them and their colleagues to continue engaging in activities that they enjoy and at which they excel. This they achieve through their role as gatekeepers of what gets published, who gets appointed to academic positions, which areas of work get funded, and who receives academic awards. This is yet another case of professionals regulating themselves and acting as though they were the only stakeholders in their own activities.

However, there is increasing evidence that more distal stakeholders, such as governments, are becoming less inclined to entrust the policy, management, and evaluation of research to academics alone. For instance, the UK Government has recently become far more directive in its stance towards social science research. It has directed its funding towards specific, nationally relevant issues, such as innovation, for example. Moreover, it has rewarded collaboration between academics and external organizations, and has included representatives of such organizations in its regulating committees.

These political developments place a check upon the descent into Pedantic Science, and applied social science academics who continue to engage in research that is perceived as irrelevant are unlikely to receive Government funding. Governments as stakeholders in research are impelled by a greater expectation from their citizens of accountability in the expenditure of their taxes. They are also sometimes driven by a belief that social science should be able to help to devise solutions to the immense political, social, and economic problems that they face.

Similarly, organizational stakeholders may not be serving their own best interests in the ways in which they influence practitioners through their resource power. Their use of the criteria of speed, cost, and ease of implementation in local settings in their selection of practitioner suppliers may be inimical to their interests over the longer term.

Specifically, the following areas are likely to suffer:

* the clear analysis of what the real problems are, on the basis of reliable, current evidence;

* the search through the records of previous attempts to understand and address these issues;

* the choice or development of interventions that are validly based on theory and research;

* the monitoring and evaluation of the processes and outcomes of interventions in terms of their total systemic effects;

* the incorporation of the theory and practice of the interventions into the capability set of the organization.

All of these key success factors of organizational interventions are apt to suffer, and so as a consequence are their outcomes. The drift towards Popularist Science, therefore, is not helpful.

Finally, there is the sensitive issue of scientists and researchers in IWO psychology themselves damaging the health of our discipline by engaging in excessively self-interested agendas, to the harm of the wider profession. Any widening of the divide between academics and researchers we would argue is going to be necessarily detrimental in the longer term to both groups; yet the stakeholder pressures identified earlier in this article may already be irreversibly forcing apart practitioners and researchers. One reason for this is the qualitatively different sets of objectives held by each group--researchers striving for generalizable cause--effect relations, often using longitudinal designs, practitioners needing immediately applicable techniques and methods, which have `faith validity' for clients in the short term. The stakeholder pressures towards these different objectives have become more intensified over recent years, making it almost impossible to cope with the model of being a scientist-practitioner, able to contribute to both `sides' of the discipline (Anderson, 1998a). Early career specialization, either as a researcher or as a practitioner, has become the accepted norm in IWO psychology. Indeed, this occurs for most immediately upon completion of their Masters degree, whereupon the decision is taken over whether to continue studying to complete a Ph.D. or to gain practical experience as a junior consultant or as an in-house IWO psychologist. We seriously doubt whether such early specialization is healthy for the development of a profession that has exalted the model of the scientist-practitioner as one that should be striven for by younger recruits entering our field, hoping to make a career in it.

The management of stakeholder relationships

If the drift towards Pedantic and Popularist Science is a consequence of the influence of key stakeholder groups with resource power, then it follows that it can only be reversed if that power is reduced or redirected. Our discipline can pursue these political objectives directly or indirectly (Wood, 1994).

Directly, we can attempt to influence the key stakeholders themselves. Thus, for example, we might point out to organizational stakeholders the costs of Popularist Science and the benefits of Pragmatic Science. This rational persuasion, together with other sorts of influencing activities, may well result in a redirection of their resources towards suppliers who use or practice Pragmatic Science. In another form of political influence, we could seek to replace Pedantic academics in funding bodies, or on editorial boards of journals, or as heads of department, by Pragmatic academics. The direct management of each stakeholder relationship is an important activity worth pursuing.

However, the sources of power and its exercise are complex and inter-related. Stakeholders are frequently involved in power relationships with each other. It is very possible that more distal stakeholders have a very strong influence over more proximal stakeholders. Moreover, there may be organizations or institutions that are not stakeholders at all themselves, but which exercise considerable influence over those who are.

We have already cited an example of the first of these two cases. The Government is a more distal stakeholder in academic research than are powerful academics, yet Government already exercises considerable influence over them as a consequence of its resource and its legitimate power. It can bypass them by appointing more amenable academics to its funding and policy committees, for example; and it can reduce their power by refusing to fund Pedantic Science. Hence, influencing such distal stakeholders may be more profitable than targeting the more proximal stakeholders. Pragmatic Scientists will be influencing Government by indicating that they are capable of helping Government address relevant issues, but only if they are permitted to practice sound science.

Additionally, our influence attempts can be directed through third parties, who have little apparent stakeholder status, but nevertheless can have a powerful influence on the key stakeholders themselves. For example, trade unions and professional associations can affect organizations profoundly, as can pressure groups and shareholders. The media notoriously influence Government and organizations, both directly and indirectly.

In sum, the only way in which to reverse the current trend away from Pragmatic Science is to engage in political activity. Unfortunately, political activity, defined as furthering our interests and our values as a united discipline, has not hitherto been considered the most important of activities for IWO psychologists. On the contrary, such activity has historically been criticized, on the grounds that it is likely to compromise our independence and integrity. The precise opposite is true. The more actual and potential stakeholders with whom we engage, the more likely are our activities to exemplify and promote our values. For example, if trade unions, Government, and private-sector companies all have a stakeholder input, then we are less likely to engage in work that benefits one group at the expense of another.

Summary and implications

Recently, a number of commentators (Gibbons et al., 1994; Tranfield & Starkey, 1998) have identified two contrasting forms of knowledge production within the natural/physical and social sciences alike. Mode 1, characterized as the `scientific inquiry' approach, comes closest to the way in which knowledge has traditionally been developed and applied within the field of IWO psychology, corresponding to the Kuhnian model of normal science. Concerns that IWO psychology may be perpetuating an excessively normal science in the face of fundamentally changing environmental circumstances have been voiced by the present authors elsewhere (Anderson, 1998b; Herriot & Anderson, 1997; Hodgkinson & Herriot, in press). According to Gibbons and his colleagues, in recent years and across a wide variety of fields, the Mode 1 approach to knowledge production has increasingly been giving way to a second approach, characterized as `problem solution' or `Mode 2' research. The latter approach constitutes a more socially distributed form of knowledge production in which knowledge is generated in the context of application by multi-stakeholder teams, drawn from a range of backgrounds that transcend the boundaries of traditional disciplines, and results in immediate or short time to market dissemination/exploitation.

In this article, we have presented evidence that suggests that there is a divide opening up between the researcher/academic and practitioner wings of our profession. Left unchecked, the trends that we have identified in our analysis of the ways in which knowledge is produced and consumed within the field of IWO psychology can only lead, over the longer term, to our ultimate demise. On the basis of the evidence that we have presented, it is tempting to conclude that the wholesale adoption of Mode 2 methods and tactics is the one best way forward for the long-term health of our field as a whole. Since real-world problems seldom come discipline-shaped, it makes sense to involve a wider range of stakeholders, from a variety of backgrounds, in the research process. Moreover, the adoption of a problem-led approach might well resolve some of the growing tensions we have identified between the various disparate subgroups within our profession. However, we contend that a closer examination of the underlying issues we have identified reveals that such a simplistic prescription is clearly unwarranted.

Undoubtedly, a greater involvement of a wider range of stakeholders in all aspects of the research process, from the initial stages of problem definition to final dissemination, is not only desirable, but also essential at this juncture. Historically, as our analysis has shown, the fact that we have not involved a sufficiently wide range of stakeholders in our scientific endeavours has been very much to our own detriment. Many of the complexities and uncertainties facing modern organizations are simply too great for IWO psychologists alone to provide all the answers. In a number of key areas, both as researchers and as practitioners, we do not even fully appreciate what are the most appropriate questions that need to be addressed, let alone what form the answers might take. Such are the complexities involved, that the same is true of managers and other key stakeholders. Nevertheless, by involving these wider stakeholders in the research process, from the outset, we maximize the likelihood that, in future, we will pursue research that addresses problems of pressing concern to those who ultimately fund our scientific endeavours, through taxation and other mechanisms.

However, it does not follow from this analysis that the wholesale abandonment of Mode 1 in favour of a Mode 2 approach to the production of knowledge is either necessary or desirable. As Huff (2000) has observed, there are considerable benefits to be gained from seeking to combine the virtues of both approaches, while minimizing the associated weaknesses of each, a strategy that she has aptly termed Mode 1.5. This approach shares several features in common with what we have presently characterized as `Pragmatic Science'. Crucially:
   Mode 1.5 should accommodate fault finders as well as facilitators. Critical
   observations ... have a particularly important role to play ... However,
   the critic's role cannot be undertaken credibly without familiarity with
   Mode 2 practices. Critics who adopt a Mode 1.5 position add an important
   element of diversity (Huff, 2000, p. 292).

Our analysis also has considerable implications for the ways in which we train and develop researchers and practitioners in the field of IWO psychology over the longer term. Not least among these is the need to ensure that both groups possess the requisite socio-political skills to develop the new negotiated order that we undoubtedly require as a professional body of scientist-practitioners. Unfortunately, the development of finely honed, highly practical, processual skills has not, hitherto, featured highly in the curricula of our specialist Masters and Doctoral degree programmes. Historically, we have tended to regard the development of a critical awareness of the limitations of the extant knowledge base in the main substantive topic areas of our field (purely at a conceptual level), together with a thorough grounding in research design and statistical analysis, as the vital pre-requisites for pursuing a successful career either as a researcher and/or as a practitioner. Whilst such content-based skills are undoubtedly essential, it is equally clear that the development of key social and political skills (especially negotiation, leadership and influencing skills) is also required, if we are to remain viable as a profession over the longer term. However, given the increasing numbers of students being accepted onto Masters programmes, to meet targets imposed by universities seeking to maximize fee income, it is difficult to see how the teaching of these much needed processual skills might be accommodated.

As noted by Hodgkinson and Herriot (in press), the widespread development of process know-how (and the accompanying social and political skills necessary to put this knowledge to good use), throughout the academic and practitioner communities alike, is one key to ensuring that our scientific endeavours remain centred on issues that matter. Moreover, if we are to survive the rigours of competition and, thus, remain intact as a knowledge-based profession in these turbulent times, it is vital that such skills are deployed with immediate effect by our leading academics and practitioners. Only then can we hope to heal the researcher--practitioner divide that has become apparent over recent years.


We began this article with a quote from Marvin Dunnette, one of the founding fathers of modern IWO psychology, in which he challenges us to re-appraise the criteria against which we ourselves and others measure our own success (Dunnette, 1990). In the 11 years that have elapsed since Dunnette and Hough published their four-volume Handbook of I/O Psychology (1990-1994), his words have become even more poignant--academics are being evaluated on the quantity (and quality) of their publications, and consultancies are becoming ever more pressured to achieve financial targets set by non-psychologist owners and/or shareholders. Have we as a profession, therefore, failed spectacularly in the challenge that Dunnette laid down for us with such foresight little over a decade ago? Undoubtedly, the increasing separation of the practitioner and academic wings of our discipline has not been a positive development, and the likelihood is that the underlying stakeholder pressures toward potential fragmentation will not subside without our fighting them in mutually constructive and effective ways. The consequence of our historical unwillingness as a professional institution to engage politically is that we are unused to exercising what power and influence we have. We are not always aware of the nature and extent of the power that we possess, we are not in the habit of exercising it, and institutionally (though perhaps not individually), we have failed to build up an extensive network of allies. Yet, we have the resources to do so, and we have already developed some islands of excellence. Failure to attend to the centrifugal forces discussed in this article will surely hamper the development and societal impact of IWO psychology well into the future. What remains for the coming decades into the 21st century, therefore, is for IWO psychologists to exercise their political will and skill in such a way as to ensure that Pragmatic Science dominates our field, to the benefit of individuals, teams, and organizations alike, in this period of major organizational and social change.
Table 1. Changing practitioner involvement in scientific journal

                            Journal of Applied Psychology/
                                 Personnel Psychology

                            1949-1964 (a)   1967-1982 (b)

All authors academics            63%             77%
All authors practitioners        31%             15%
Mix of academics and
  practitioners                   5%              8%

                              Occupational Psychology/
                              Journal of Occupational

                            1949-1964 (c)   1967-1982 (c)

All authors academics            78%             81%
All authors practitioners        17%             13%
Mix of academics and
  practitioners                   5%              6%

                            Journal of Applied    Personnel
                                Psychology        Psychology

                              1990-2000 (d)      1990-2000 (e)

All authors academics              96%               92%
All authors practitioners           1%                3%
Mix of academics and
  practitioners                     3%                5%

                            Journal of Occupational
                              and Organizational

                                 1990-2000 (f)

All authors academics                89%
All authors practitioners             3%
Mix of academics and
  practitioners                       8%

(a, b) Figures from Sackett et al. (1986) reproduced in Dunnette

(c) Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology was formerly
titled Occupational Psychology until 1973, then Journal of Occupational
Psychology until 1991.

(d) Figures cover February 1990 [75, (1)] to October 2000 [85, (5)] and
include JAP research reports.

(e) Figures cover Spring 1990 [43, (1)] to Autumn 2000 [53, (3)] and
include scientist-practitioner forum papers.

(f) Figures cover March 1990 [63, (1)] to September 2000 [73, (3)] and
include JOOP Short Research Notes introduced in 1996.


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Neil Anderson *

Psychology Department, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Nero Cross, London, SE14 6NW, UK

Peter Herriot *

The Empower Group, 23 Buckingham Gale, London, SW1E 6LB, UK

Gerard P. Hodgkinson * Leeds University Business School, The University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK

* The authorship of this article is strictly alphabetical, reflecting the fact that this work is the product of a joint and equal contribution on the part of all three authors. Correspondence and/or requests for reprints can be addressed to any of the authors, as indicated above.
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Author:Anderson, Neil; Herriot, Peter; Hodgkinson, Gerard P.
Publication:Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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