Assessing business schools and business scholars

Recently, Benoit and Marsh assessed the research performance of political scientists in Ireland and Ruane and Tol did the same for economists. It is business’ turn now.

There are 8 business schools in the Republic of Ireland that claim to do academic research (and another 11 that only teach). Early September, the 8 research-oriented business schools employed 543 teaching and research staff. For comparison, Queen’s U Belfast and Ulster U are also included. This makes a total of 761 business scholars.

For that reason, a simple method is used. Data were collected from Scopus only. Four statistics were gathered: year of first publication, number of publications, number of citations, and h-index. People’s name, affiliation, specialization, degree, rank, and sex were also recorded. The results are here (5 people updated).

The data have been cross-checked with CVs when online. Other than that, the data are not validated. If you are a business scholar in Ireland, please check your entries and send me an email when something is amiss.

There are preliminary results that are likely to stand up to vetting of the data.

Some 60% of business scholars in the Republic and 50%  in the North have never published in a journal included in the Scopus database. This is the most comprehensive database available, covering all the main journals and many minor ones (e.g., Economic and Social Review, Knitting International) — but not all (e.g., Irish Journal of Management, Irish Marketing Journal, Irish Marketing Review). University lecturers are partly paid to do academic research and a large number appear not to fulfill this duty — including some who are full professors. The fraction of research-active people varies dramatically between institutions, from 10% to 80%. It also varies between specializations, from 30% (accounting) to 75% (management information systems).

The life-time achievement varies substantially between business scholars. The highest number of publications is 91, the greatest number of citation is 499, and the largest h-index is 13. This indicates that the top business scholars of Ireland perform on par with the top economists and political scientists. Productivity varies too. The largest number of published papers per year is 6, the greatest number of citations is 37 per year, and the highest h-rate is 1 per year.

The top 10 (life-time achievement) consists of Paul Humphreys (UU), Rodney McAdam (UU) , Tony Brabazon (UCD), John Addison (QUB), Ronan McIvor (UU), Tom Begley (UCD), Brian Lucey (TCD), Rob Gilles (QUB), Brian Fynes (UCD) and Frank Barry (TCD). For productivity, the top 10 contains Rodney McAdam (UU), Karan Sonpar (UCD), Paul Humphreys (UU), Tony Brabazon (UCD), Maria Annunziata Liguori (QUB), Ronan McIvor (UU), Frank Figge (QUB), Brian Lucey (TCD), David Collings (UCG) and Regina Connolly (DCU). Recall that individual data still have to be vetted.

The institutions are very different too. The smallest has just 10 faculty, and the largest over 150. If we rank the institutions based on the average number of publications (per head and per active researcher), citation and h-index, and the average number of publication, citations and h-index per year, the following order emerges: TCD, UCD, QUB, UU, UCG, DCU, UL, NUIM, DIT, and NCI.

QUB ranks 19th in the 2008 RAE; UU ranks 49th out of 90 business schools. Although the RAE uses a very different methodology, this suggests that TCD and UCD are on par with the best 20 business schools in the UK, while the other business schools in the Republic are more like the worst 40.

In terms of research, most of the institutions specialize in 2-3 (out of 6) areas; UCD and UL cover 4. If these were businesses rather than business schools, one would recommend that the institutions limit their activities to their core competences. As there are horizontal economies of scale in teaching the various aspects of business, mergers would follow.

69 replies on “Assessing business schools and business scholars”

congrats richard on this initiative. Its well worth examining the data in detail, and shows up some startling and sometimes worrying figures.

Publications, citations, h-index, tables, rank and percentages. A torrent of numbers, each as artificial as the last. It may come as a shock to some, but very often numbers and statistics are a very poor starting point on which to base objective decisions. Let’s start with the most striking statement.

Some 60% of business scholars in the Republic and 50% in the North have never published in a journal included in the Scopus database.

At least one of two things is obviously wrong here. One, the Scopus database is deficient (I suspect it to be another Anglophone journal nobility list.), or two, your definition of “business scholar” is deficient. I suspect foreign language faculty members and postgraduates and their publications have been counted or under-counted here. Simply put, why would you count someone as a scholar if you can’t confirm they’ve published anything?

Here’s another gem

The fraction of research-active people varies dramatically between institutions, from 10% to 80%.

How on earth do you define a “research-active” person and what does that have to do with the quality of the business school? The spread in the numbers is clearly caused by the nebulous nature of the question and the definition.

Moreover, in these times of recession, with more students trying to (re)educate themselves, isn’t having more “research” personnel vs teaching personnel a bad thing? Hasn’t research become a luxury the country can no longer afford? Shouldn’t producing skilled graduates be our priority now? Is that a part of this report?

I could go on, but this report is a long list of numbers followed by more numbers with no real analysis of either a) what the numbers mean, or b) what they mean for our policy towards business schools. You’ve set your meter stick to measure publication count as the be all, end all measure of business schools in this country. If you persist in that, empty shallow publications will be all you will get to the detriment of actual work in these schools. If you seek only stats, then the stats will be juked.

If these were businesses rather than business schools, one would recommend that…

But they’re not businesses; They are schools. Applying the failed ideology of the free market is not going to improve or save education in this country. It will destroy education as it has almost everything else it has been applied to here. Obviously schools and universities require money to run, and have budgets, etc, and need to be managed properly and prudently. But they are not private industries and turning them into numbers/stats factories is not going to lead an improvement in the education and research they provide.

As there are horizontal economies of scale in teaching the various aspects of business, mergers would follow.

If you can suggest a method for “merging”, say, the business schools in UCD, UL and UCC, while still allowing students to be educated and researchers to research—without shipping everyone up to Dublin—I’d be interested in hearing it. Again, education is not an industrial sector; it’s a—admittedly expensive—public institution.

What about UCC? Is it excluded because it retains the old-fashioned word “Commerce” instead of “Business”?


761 ‘business scholars’ on this little island!!!
Some teach and some do research – what contribution do they make to improved productivity within ‘business’?Or general ‘effectiveness’ of the design and delivery of services and/or manufacturing?
Within the ‘761’ have we any ‘Peter Druckers’?Or would that be ‘too commercial’?

“research-active” means “having published at least once”

With no time limits? In any case, that would mean that DIT has 145 people in its business school, of whom 130 have never published a single paper; while UCD has 76 people, only 20 of whom have never published a paper.

Are you even comparing like with like? How can these schools be said to be of the same type with such a huge disparity in numbers? On what basis did you include DIT in the report? It’s a significant outlier.

Moreover I note with some vexation that your figures from the different institutions are from different years, yet you sum them all for the year 2002 in the report. But it gets worse: Not only do you have nonsensical percentages (1300%,1200%) in the EcFin column in the schools sheet, you actually summed the percentages in the column to get a completely erroneous result. You cannot sum percentages of different entities! 60% of an apple and 50% of a car is not 110% of something else.

There are basic mathematical errors in this document, quite separate from any concerns about methodology. Fundamental errors in basic arithmetic which brings into question just about every number in the entire document. It’s very difficult to take this report seriously.

But what infuriates me the most is that this report will be taken seriously and echoed verbatim in countless newspaper articles and government reports. The deep irony here is that the cutbacks and layoffs in business schools that may result from this little excel sheet will ultimately undermine the very institutions which actually teach people how to avoid such errors and make reports properly.

As a mathematician, this kind stat-mongering and number worship—all too common in the modern world—is hugely depressing. Numbers and calculations are useless without understanding—without mathematics;and yet we are collectively building our society upon such a foundation of ignorance. And as we chase these meaningless figures, our institutions and lives become devoted to maintaining their stats and numbers; to causing a rise in a figure based on percentages without meaning, derived from flawed measurements of irrelevant quantities.

This sheet is a microcosm of western management; method without direction, results without meaning, and each devouring the tail of the other. Please don’t feed our schools and universities to this monster.

The years are the (average) first year of publication. The nonsensical percentages are not in spreadsheet.

DIT advertises itself as a university with a strong research focus. It’s the only business school with a substantial number (23) of scholars without any apparent teaching obligation.

You may want to lie down for a while.

Researchers researching researchers’ research… I like it.

Is the excel file not working for anyone else?

“DIT advertises itself as a university with a strong research focus. It’s the only business school with a substantial number (23) of scholars without any apparent teaching obligation.”
Eh? Wha? NO teaching? I thought the issue was the genuinely high teaching load?

Maybe this is just number-worship on my part but one can’t help notice the high correlation here between “posting anonymously” and “being barmy”. The suggestion that DIT might not be included because its a “significant outlier” is particularly touching. Clearly Richard Tol egregiously neglected to omit all observations away from the mean.

Lets be honest Academia is not for Researchers – highly paid, good pension, short teaching hours,long holidays, TV Tipster (usually manic depressive), write articles for the papers,write books for Royalties and with whatever time is left do Research. So it does not surprise me one bit that the Research output in the R of I is pathetic. It is practically impossible to measure the worth of most Academics except by the level of their Research writings and our Business Schools fail dismaly. UCD Smurfit is really a big surprise. Credit to Brian Lucey who seems to work his socks off in this area.

The “research” by Benoit and Marsh does not appear to be very scientific (unlike that of Ruane and Tol) – for example, a quick look at the web pages of DIT and DCU (haven’t got around to look at others yet) shows that they have included both Administrative Staff and Part-Time Temporary Teaching Staff (those who usually teach only one module). In contrast, the figures from TCD are only academic staff. It is therefore not surprising to see “The fraction of research-active people varies dramatically between institutions, from 10% to 80%”.

Agree with others why exclude The Republic of Cork!

I don’t follow that at all. Are you saying that people on this list are somehow, what, predjudiced or something? Sorry, really don’t follow
Fine by me…:)

@ Ernie
Do you leave loose definitions to suit your viewpoint?

Disinterested scholarship, if one was to look for a happy medium, would be a tempered interest in the results of scholarship and interest, as opposed to the danger or self interest corrupting the results of such scholarship.

Now, your postings on this blog dont resonate with disinterested scholarship, where at each oppurtunity you choose, you offer a tight classical interepretation of scholarship where all efforts that others make at scholarship in less classical disciplines dont count…

Is it a viewpoint that the disinterested scholar has no business, excusing the pun, in these areas of research, or, that, the disinterested scholar cant work in these areas without suffering corruption of values.

Is this, what we are seeing here, disinterested scholarship?

@ Al

Sorry, Al, didn’t follow that one at all.

@Brian Lucey

Not prejudiced, interested. Business studies is not geared toward studying the world as it is. It is geared toward finding ways to increase profit. As such, none of its research qualifies as scholarship which is above all disinterested. The fact that universities now have “business schools” and all manner of other perversions of their historical purpose is of no relevance.

@Richard Tol

I didn’t say business studies was subjective as opposed to objective. I said it was interested, which it manifestly is. We don’t go into the field to find out how the world is. If you want to know that, you become an economist. We go into business studies to find out how companies can best make money.

@ Ernie

God help us for all those:

Medical people who wasted their time discovering cures and vaccines
Agricultural people who developed sustainable crops

What were we at….

Don’t blame Benoit and Marsh.

Admin staff was excluded where known. In the case of one department, admin was not identified. The head of department was informed that all staff would be included as faculty, and did not protest.

In fact, the people who do the things in the first sentence “tv, newspapers etc” are also, in general, the people who publish a lot. Its the “if you want it done, give it to a busy person” syndrome. As for royalties…believe me, they aint, literally, worth a penny.

Why Smurfland is a surprise to you is a surprise to me- its big, led by a very prolific and skilled researcher in Tom Begley, and has recently moved to a situation where if you publish lots/in good journals you can earn teaching and I think admin remission. I on the other hand have had one term off teaching in the last 19 years. I did have a reduced load for a year while completing my phd…

Im not sure you can say “the research output is pathetic”. It is, in some, perhaps many areas, but not at the “top” schools or people. the question is what are the factors that cause differential performance or at least output- some are personal, some institutional, some generational, some disciplinary. A nice DEA study for some masters student would be to take this data, or a more comprehensive version of same, and try to explain it….my Idea, I get first dibs and claim co-authorship… contact me on my email…

whos this we?
“We don’t go into the field to find out how the world is. If you want to know that, you become an economist. We go into business studies to find out how companies can best make money.” Err…no. If you want to find out how the world is (and don’t want to do physics, or geography, or history) you study business. Economists, and I know, believe me, all to often suffer from a “should be” approach.
Hogwash squared. I submit that you haven’t a rashers the breath of areas studied in business. One black swan – social entrepeneurship. A second – Not For Profit Management. The people around me in TCD study – strategic management of very large firms, corporate governance, org behaviour with a focus on voluntary and non-profit bodies, marketing, internationalisation strategies…that’s just the bit of the corridor before the corner.

@All : having done this sort of thing before (Barrett, A., & Lucey, B. (2003). An analysis of the journal article output of irish-based economists, 1970 to 2001. Economic and Social Review, 34(2), 109-143 , see its never a precise science. Richard has taken one approach – there are others, but this one gives an invaluable insight into the broad, and pretty fine, grain of business scholars research output. There are other forms – books, chapters, case studies, but the gold standard is still peer reviewed journals. He is to be congratulated, and critiqued , as all research should be.

@Comrade Ernie:
““Business scholar” is an oxymoron.”

Indeed. All trades (their gear and tackle and trim) should be expelled from the universities. Medicine, law, the church, business, agriculture (apparently a subject of study in some of the modern colleges), sociology, modern languages: out with the lot of them. Does anyone need anything more than the grand old fortifying classical curriculum? What we want is the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric, logic, says Wikipedia) and the Quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, music, geometry).

But perhaps we should add Sociology.



I wouldn’t say medical researchers and agricultural researchers were wasting their time. I would, however, refrain from calling what they do “scholarship.”

@Brian Lucey

I’m afraid neither not-for-profit management and “social entrepreneurship” (another oxymoron) qualify as disinterested. Pecuniary profit isn’t the only kind of “interest” there is. Those studying these “disciplines” aren’t doing so to engage in the disinterested pursuit of truth. That’s not what these disciplines are about. Indeed, the very questions that get asked are always inflected by the irremediably practical and problem-solving nature of the fields. This is not to say that the people involved aren’t noble or otherwise delightful.

761 business scholars! Given they are business scholars and so it would be fair to measure output by results can anyone point me to a publication that has actually advanced/aided business? Being a business grad myself and now in business 25 years I don’t remember any!

So, surprise me – just who did Richard Tol’s paper conclude was the greatest economist in Ireland?

@Comrade Ernie:
I presume you’re struggling to bring about the Proletarian Revolution. If you’re not, I’ll be seriously disappointed and I’ll have to look for another hero.

Anyone know what Comrade Vipond is up to these days?


This kind of exercise can have some value in the aggregate, and it shows that UCD and TCD are on a par with QUB, which has a good ranking in the UK scheme. If two universities in the ROI were on a par with 20 in the UK that would be about pro rata and it suggests once again that Irish universities are in the game. One imagines though that public comment on this will focus on the negative on the basis that everyone in the public sector is a waster. Leaving out UCC is a glaring omission though.

But at the individual level these figures show litte, there are so many issues involved that you couldn’t conclude that someone at position 50 was better or worse than someone at position 75. These calculations with their decimal points imply a level of accuracy that is largely spurious and I would be concerned about misuse of these figures. The end result could be people working to manipulate the numbers rather than any real interest in scholarship.

I count six Professors on the list who have never published once in the jounals covered and they have zero citations. Again, zero and zero. These dudes are not part-time teachers or young scholars starting out. What do they profess? How do they mentor doctoral students? What do they do with their day? How did they get these gigs?

Took a closer second look, nine with the title “Professor” are double zeros. Several are in the so-called top schools including UCD.
How can this happen in 2010?

Took a closer second look, nine with the title “Professor” are double zeros. Several are in the so-called top schools including UCD.
How can this happen in 2010?

I’d be more inclined to consider problems in the research methodology of this study before leaping on these kinds of dubious facts. Once again, how can the study mark someone as a “business scholar” if it can’t verify that they’ve published anything? Just one of many issues I have with this report and others like it.

This isn’t a study. It’s an excel sheet with a few fancy macros, mulching a handful of dubious numbers into a wallpaper of largely purposeless digits. It is the spreadsheet equivalent of a wall of text, and I doubt these or any other arrays of numbers can ever give a real assessment of any institution. It gives the verisimilitude of a study of course, which is probably the whole point.

A proper report is made after serious inquiry. Interviews, personal inspections, consultation with experts, objective data gathering. It is unlikely a proper report on any major institution can be made by just grabbing numbers from the internet and throwing them into a spreadsheet blender. If people want to base their decisions on such things, they’re free to do so; but my opinion for what it’s worth is that such decisions will have a poor basis.

Omf: do you actually KNOW what scopus is/isn’t? If you don’t, then your points are weakened,’no?

By using Scopus alone-this is very limited. Looks at journals that are listed- for example if you published in Journal of Management or Journal of Marketing or lots of other journals that are good and high ranking journals that are not covered by scopus then it would seem that you have no publications which may be far from the truth. Any interesting exercise but flawed and very limited which i am afraid will be picked up as some form of objective ‘truth’.
These are the journals that i could find are covered by scopus and what i noticed that their is a huge amount missing from them.

Absolute silence from contributors on the productivity/effectiveness of ‘business researchers’ – says a lot……

Please disregard my last comment- it is incorrect but i did look at Scopus and there are some glaring ommisions from my field and i also looked at the list (which i am on) and for me anyway it was completely inaccurate both with regards to publications as well as other elements, even with the supposed full use of scopus. Not that this is not a good idea and exercise.

Universities have legacy issues. Tenure is a great institution, but it can be abused, particularly when there is little accountability.

You should also note, however, that there are a fair number of bright young things in the system.

Your questions are the right ones, but go far beyond this study. Business grads are generally well-paid, so the market appreciates the education they got. There is decent research on the impact of universities on firms and the economy at UC Cork and Queen’s. Discussing that is another day’s work.

The Journal of Management and the Journal of Marketing are covered by Scopus. Scopus’ coverage is much wider than the Web of Science. It may be narrowed that EconLit, but EconLit does not do citations.

If there is something wrong with your data, just send me an email with the specific omissions.

@Geronimo & others

Maybe somone can help me understand a few things

“I count six Professors on the list who have never published once in the jounals covered and they have zero citations.” – How did they get to be professors. My understanding was citations etc. were part of the criteria to get promoted – how can you do so without doing so?

“How do they mentor doctoral students?” – I thought that their name appears on the papers that their doctoral students produce – is this not included?

How does the overall output level etc. benchmark v non-business departments (e.g. medicine or veterinary or chemistry) compare? Is the investment/research funding required to produce output in the business disciplines less and should there be some amalgamation and concentration which would raise overall standards to overall world class (rather than the pockets that may exist) – being on par with the top 20 UK business schools is not something to be too proud of?

I suspect that at least some of the names with poor research on the list are in fact retired, although their names remain on websites. There is no doubt that standards were poorer in the past, but this cannot be used against modern institutions.

@Barry T if being on a par with the top UK business schools is not enough what is a reasonable benchmark? Especially as the Irish institutions will never get anywhere near the investment of top places. Irish government is cutting back and Irish business doesn’t see any need to invest, they’ll pay for a building if times are good but they wouldn’t fund research in a fit.

I don’t think the likes of UCD sees the Business School as an investment priority, but rather as a source of funds for Vice Presidential salaries and for “real” academics with test tubes. This is crazy, the contribution and reputation of a university can be enchanced by excellence in this field as in others.

This debate is all very nice in abstractum. The issue is of course one of productivity and if you measure productivity based on the number of papers produced then clearly the figures are somewhat appropriate.
However is such business research of any productive use to society?
Perhaps, the Government should eliminate the research element from academics job description and either increase their teaching hours or reduce their pay accordingly.
It seems like this forum has a significant number of academics with too much time on their hands!

This is typical of the sloppy (UCC omitted), lazy (Journals like Irish Journal of Management, Irish Marketing Journal etc excluded simply because they were not in the database) and non rigorous (data not verified or validated) Alice in Wonderland output from economists that has resulted in economics losing all credibility in the eyes of serious scholars today and further justifies the reference to economics as the dismal science.

In any credible academic discipline, the publication of such flawed work would warrant sanctions against the researcher responsible.

Have economists no shame?

@Ethicist’s “This is typical of the sloppy, lazy and non-rigorous Alice in Wonderland output … [that] further justifies the reference to economics as the dismal science.”

That’s a rather lazy and non-rigorous statement to make, given the actual origin of the “dismal science” reference.

(Unless you like slavery, of course.)

This blog post will lead to another blog post (with data corrected, completed and added), which will lead to a working paper, that will be submitted and published after at least one more round of comments.

@Enda H

How diligent and smart is it to make the same point over and over while saying nothing?

I don’t buy the explanation that the nine “double zero” Professors are old dudes or perhaps retired. Their own websites indicate that that is not the case — I took a very close look. Some were promoted to the rank of Professor less than 3 years ago!

How can that happen in any serious institution? Who is minding the store? These are among the very best paid senior academics in the world. There must be another explanation.

@Enda H

Your modesty in this regard is uncharacteristic.

Maybe your “much higher level of intellectual capacity” is confusing me but your posts consist of little except tedious backbiting so far as I can see.

I try to mix in a few statements relevant to the subject matter myself. Why don’t you prove me wrong and direct me to the many positive contributions of yours I’ve overlooked?

PS You’re not one of the Hs of Skibbereen by any chance? I went out with a H from there once.


Given that your mind can digest that “climate policy is…important, but not a priority” and simultaneously accept that it’s “larger more complex, and more uncertain than any other environmental problem”, I feel the lucidity problem lies with you.

@Richard Tol
@Brian Lucey

I am not sure where the 23 research scholars in DIT College of Business came from – if on a website somewhere it is quite an error. If on a DIT website somewhere can you advise so we can correct it. DIT had (no longer the case though) 3 business research scholars over a two year period, with teaching backfill resourced through external earnings. Even at that, the research scholars also continued some of their teaching obligations so they weren’t quite footloose and fancy free.

@Paul O’R

There’s 2 post-docs, 22 post-grads.

Research assistants (6) and teaching assistants (4) are listed separately.

These 22 “post-graduate research scholars” (whatever that may be) strike me as fairly junior. Although they cannot be expected to have published much by themselves, you would expect them to boost the output of senior faculty.

@Richard Tol

Thanks for your response. It explains why I hadn’t heard of them – your link is to DCU. Your earlier post and subsequent responses to it identified the research scholars as being in DIT. I expect the research scholars are research students and that might explain why they have no teaching loads but I will leave to DCU responders to confirm that.

This Business School rating is a very useful exercise. I think it could be more insightful if the only publications that were included were those rated on the Association of Business School journal rankings or even those journals that are ISI rated. This would give a better picture of who is publishing quality research. Many of the publications included at present are conference proceedings – not exactly a high standard.

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