A study released by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) claimed that 50% of academic papers are read-only by their authors and journal editors and that 90% of these are never cited. This means that most, if not all, of the innovations that can be found in businesses, industries, and manufacturing have no academic basis and do not come from recommendations from business schools. According to this week’s guest, Professor Kambiz Maani, the findings of the AACSB signifies that no one finds much value in academic papers when it comes to innovations and best practices in various industries and that they look within the business space alone for innovations and best practices for just-in-time manufacturing, total quality management, and enterprise resource planning. It was this realization that made Professor Maani decide to start the Annual Research Translation Competition at Massey University with the intention of making business research more relevant and useful to the public and to business managers.
Professor Maani is an internationally acknowledged expert in systems thinking and complexity. His academic and consulting career spans over 30 years in the US, Asia, Australia, and South America. His academic portfolio includes being the Foundation Chair in Systems Thinking, and Practice at the University of Queensland, being the Division and Department Head at the University of Auckland, and being an Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor at Massey Business School. He has also held visiting positions at MIT, London Business School, Boston University, Cornell, and the Helsinki School of Economics.
Professor Maani’s work focuses on complexity management and group decision making and he has been the recipient of several research and publication awards from scholarly journals. His current projects include strategy and policy design in climate change and sustainability. He has advised numerous corporations and government agencies in Australia, New Zealand, the US, China, and Asia, and he also provides seminars in corporate training internationally. Professor Maani is the author of internationally acclaimed books that are used widely at universities, governments, and organizations around the world. His latest book, Multi-Stakeholder Decision Making for Complex Problems was published by the World Scientific press in 2017 which features his consulting projects for UNESCO Biospheres in Asia.
What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks
[00:39] Mark introduces his guest, Professor Kambiz Maani
[03:34] Why Professor Maani created the Annual Research Translation Competition
[11:02] Professor Maani discusses why academic research risk losing funding
[15:55] The importance of using jargon-free language when translating research
[17:45] What is systems thinking and why is it important?
[22:31] How Professor Maani became a pioneer of systems thinking
[28:06] Professor Maani shares success stories and the benefits of the application of systems thinking
Connect with Professor Maani
Why Academic Research Remains Abstract And Mostly Unusable
Research done by academia is fascinating. They have uncovered many different ways to improve on the way things work and offer a wealth of information on the ways to innovate and improve practices for businesses, industries, and manufacturing. But the problem lies in the ability of these research pieces to be translated into a narrative that regular folks will understand. Professor Kambiz Maani found out that the reason why innovations in businesses and industries do not use research provided by academia is that it’s full of jargon that does not resonate with people. And the problem is rooted in the definition of success for research which is measured by citations. This has made research studies into a massive industry where publishers are merely looking at citations as proof for journal quality and journal impact factors. Instead of becoming a resource of knowledge for businesses and industries, researchers have become unknowing contributors locked into a disconnected system.
So how then do we tap into the capability of research to be a useful resource for relevant solutions in addressing pressing issues in society? The answer, according to Professor Maani, is systems thinking.
Improving the way you do and translate research
With academia not being able to convey its findings properly with key stakeholders and with the general public, it faces the risk of having their funding significantly reduced. Therefore, it is crucial for academics to focus on research that addresses a significant issue in business and society, and then to turn their findings into a narrative that can be easily understood and grasped and implemented by the community.
One way to do this is to reduce the scientific jargon used in papers and instead use easy-to-understand yet accurate terms instead.
Professor Maani says that by refusing to be boxed into the idea that the primary audience for research are peers in academia, it opens up the vast opportunities for translation for academics. By embracing the idea that industry stakeholders and the public are the ultimate beneficiaries of research, it will be easier to adapt the research into a language that everyone can understand.
Why systems thinking is expedient for researchers
Although much of scientific discoveries and breakthroughs are hinged on reductionism by researchers, it is easy to lose the essence of each piece and parcel along the way. This then complicates the processes that should work as a unified whole and instead, creates a convoluted system that is inefficient and may even prove to be ineffective.
In society and policy, Professor Maani says that we have seen the effect of that mentality in isolated policies that create winners, losers, and trade-off decisions that are based on seeing things in isolation and rather than seeing the whole picture. For research to become more relevant to society, academics need to learn to practice systems thinking so that they can better bring together the pieces of a study that they have dissected in the process.
Learn more about Professor Kambiz Maani and his work on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.
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