Examining the Transfer of Academic Knowledge to Business Practitioners: Doctoral Program Graduates as Intermediaries

Examining the Transfer of Academic Knowledge to Business Practitioners: Doctoral Program Graduates as Intermediaries

Madora Moshonsky (Business Development Bank of Canada, Thunder Bay, Canada), Alexander Serenko (Faculty of Business Administration, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Canada) and Nick Bontis (DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/ijkm.2014070105
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Abstract

This study explores whether practitioners who hold a Ph.D. in business act as intermediaries in the transfer of academic knowledge from academia to practice. Twenty Ph.D. graduates were interviewed, and the data were subjected to deductive content analysis. It was concluded that the previous claims that academic research does not influence decision-making of industry practitioners are not fully warranted. Graduates of doctoral business programs act as knowledge-transfer intermediaries that aggregate, summarize, communicate, and implement findings reported in academic publications. Academic journals have the potential to disseminate scholarly knowledge beyond the academic world. Demand for evidence-based knowledge in the practitioner's environment determines his or her probability of applying academic knowledge. Not all academic knowledge is perceived as useful by practitioners, and limited access to academic literature is a major impediment to the application of scholarly findings in practice. The practitioners' connection with academia after graduation is also linked to their probability of using academic literature.
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Introduction

The debate about the perceived irrelevance of academic business research dates back to the 1980s when scholars, practitioners, and public officials started criticizing scholars for placing priority on scientific rigor over relevance to industry (Bennis & O'Toole, 2005; Knights, 2008; Van de Ven & Johnson, 2006). The disconnect between academics and practitioners has been deemed “the Great Divide” because the theoretical contributions of researchers are rarely implemented in practice (Rynes, Bartunek, & Daft, 2001). The very value and relevance of academic research has been called into question as a result of the perceived lack of applicability and generalizability of academic knowledge (Benjamin & O'Reilly, 2011). For example, the utilization of academic research on a regular basis by human resource managers is below one percent (Rynes et al., 2001), and information systems professionals are generally unaware of academic research in their field (Pearson, Pearson, & Shim, 2005). As a result, a flurry of papers has been published which reflects on this divide between academia and practice (Jennex, 2001; Rottman, 2008; Simmons et al., 2001; Starkey & Madan, 2001).

There are several factors that justify the importance of the transfer of academic knowledge to practice. First, in the current knowledge-based economy, organizations must utilize recent and relevant knowledge in their decision-making to remain competitive (Parent, Roy, & St-Jaques, 2007). Second, the volume of scientific research of a nation is positively correlated with its overall wealth (King, 2004; Rousseau & Rousseau, 1998). This correlation, however, becomes even stronger when a larger proportion of scientific discoveries reach practitioners. Third, the application of academic research has been shown to increase an organization’s sales and productivity (Fontana, Geuna, & Matt, 2006). Fourth, empirical evidence suggests a positive relationship between the commercialization of academic findings and organizational performance levels (Susanty et al., 2011). In order to ensure the success of an academic discipline, it must have an impact on the state of both theory and practice (Jennex & Olfman, 2005, 2006). Therefore, calls have been made for studies that examine possible transfer methods of evidence-based knowledge to practitioners (Rousseau & McCarthy, 2007).

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