In the 30 years since the establishment of BAM, the field of management has become more mature, however, the social sciences in general are much more mature, and as such may be deemed to have a first mover advantage. For example, economics, psychology, social anthropology and sociology were recognized as distinct social sciences and established key publications and academic journals to disseminate their research in the 19th century. By comparison, management as an academic discipline was not recognized until the 20th century, well after these other disciplines. Furthermore, the social sciences also have a longer history of producing PhDs – some of whom became the founding scholars of the management community. This may have a number of effects, including the fact that many management scholars today have PhDs in non-management disciplines. The process of research training (in social science departments) institutionalizes the student into the core discipline (or field) that may have enduring effects. A second major factor that is perhaps limiting the ability of management to influence the related social sciences may be perceptions of its nature as ‘applied’ or bounded to a greater extent than others. We might expect to find that management imports theory from related social sciences, empirically tests the theory, and then exports the results back to the social sciences (and to practitioners), leading to export through applied journals (such as Journal of Applied Psychology). Any major developments in theory, however, would be expected to be most often developed in the social sciences, because developing theories that have general application is a primary element of their activity. On the other hand, management scholars who develop theory would be focused on business applications, which may result in theory that is not of general interest to the social sciences and, hence, less likely to be exported. If management is inherently applied, we might draw parallels with the relationship between management and the related social sciences and the relationship between medicine and the natural sciences. John Kay has argued the following: “In the last fifty years, the application of scientific method to medical subjects, and the development and adoption of knowledge gained in physics, chemistry and biology, has transformed their (doctors’) effectiveness. (However) Medicine remains a practical subject.” Therefore, it may be a perfectly natural state of affairs that management imports from the core social sciences, much the same way as medicine has done from physics, chemistry, and biology. However, some business schools are bucking the trend, and are moving into being at the forefront of debates by re-connecting with the social sciences. Alternatives to the ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ metaphor of research include questioning whether the social science of any field (e.g. religion, social movements, politics, law, science etc.) are any more or less applied than any other, questioning whether there is any such thing as ‘applied’ research and the adoption of other epistemologies and methodologies which disrupt such frameworks of thought.
These issues will be explored at the Conference, fittingly to be hosted by Warwick Business School, where the first BAM Conference was held 30 years ago.