We’re reading Arnott and Pervan (2008) for INFS 838. The authors perform a content analysis of over a thousand decision support systems research articles published from 1990 to 2004 in an effort to identify trends and concerns in DSS research.

Among the problems they find is a relative lack of exposure in “A” journals. On the whole, DSS is relatively well represented, but when Arnott and Pervan remove articles published in Decision Support Systems from the mix, they find DSS underrepresented. They recommend DSS researchers push to get more of their articles into the other big-dog journals.

I see a paradox here. Arnott and Pervan themselves note that the underrepresentation of DSS research in the big-dog journals may come from DSS’s tradition of design science, which is less welcome in the big-dog journals than positivist research. Arnott and Pervan see a trend away from design science in DSS research and suggest that decline may stem from efforts to win favor and publication in more journals. But might that paradigm shift be connected to the decline in relevance that Arnott and Pervan identify as another problem for DSS research?

It seems odd to suggest that DSS researchers should spend less time trying to get published in a journal dedicated to their subfield. It seems self-defeating to suggest they spend more time trying to get published in journals that may require of them a shift in methodology that could in turn hurt the relevance of the subfield. What good does being published in a big-dog journal do if it ultimately diminishes DSS?

I know, others will argue that getting published in top journals is worth all sorts of trouble. But there seems to be at least as much merit in having a specialized journal that compiles the best work in DSS in one place and does not demand of DSS a change or abandonment of the traditions and methods that distinguish and strengthen it.

Arnott, D., & Pervan, G. (2008). Eight key issues for the decision support systems discipline. Decision Support Systems, 44(3), 657‐672.

———Notes:

Problems identified:

  1. Relevance: DSS mirrors entire field in disconnect from executives and practitioners. five-year gap from start to publish hidners relevance, as understanding how well a system worked in 2004 doesn’t do much for managers making plans in the 2009 economy.
  2. Research paradigm: positivism dominates, but US DSS pos > US IS pos, while Europe DSS pos < Europe IS pos.
  3. Theoretical foundations… not a lot of emphasis, as we focus tech on already explored problems.
  4. IT artifact: micro (artifact) vs. macro (system, organization) view
  5. Funding: only a quarter get any; A&P see major problem here as “in the current global academic environment, any discipline that relies on implicit funding of research is unlikely to prosper, simply because implicit funding no longer provides adequate support for an academic’s research career” (664). Only 5% received industry funding, further supporting the argument that DSS needs more relevance.
  6. Inertia/conservatism: Enterprise reporting, analysis systems, and data warehousing are the dominant areas in practice, but researchers keep writing more about PDSS, GDSS, and IDSS.
  7. Exposure in A journals: A&P note that without DSS, DSS makes up a relatively low percentage of articles published in A journals. They urge “the discipline to increase its presence in all general IS ‘A’ journals” (665). However, it seems rather paradoxical. Doesn’t it make sense to have a concentration of DSS articles in a journal dedicated to the topic? Authors themselves note (668) that the underrepresentation may come from minority status of design research, and that the recent decline in design R. in DSS may come from researchers trying to get their work into the general A journals. So we had these roots in design research, which was a basis of our relevance, and now we move away from that relevance just to get play in the big journals? Which do we want?
  8. Field coherence: a little shaky. A&P id three subfields with distinct ref bases

Recommendations:

  1. Relevance: More interp. case studies to improve relevance, build links between academy and indsutry, and maybe even grease the grant wheels; also do more design R.
  2. Rigor: keep it tight, work on expanding theoretical base… but note that expanding the theoretical base requires some serious interdisciplinary and non-IS reading.
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