Prof asks for a simple summary of major issues in DSS research, as discussed in Arnott and Pervan (2005, 2008) and Shim et al. (2002), and I have to go off advocating wholesale destruction of an industry….

The above articles appear to point to three pressing issues in DSS research: relevance, relevance, and relevance. Technology and business are changing fast. The increasing accumulation of data and easy access to it mean that those entrepreneurs who have the tools and talent to sift through that data and translate it into knowledge and action will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t… or even those who do but do so more cautiously. While the academic careers of researchers may hinge upon articles that take five years to make the grueling journey from inception to acceptance and publication, five-year-old data for practitioners is often laughably obsolete. The idea that a formal, published, and productive interchange between disagreeing scholars might take a decade for one cycle of publication-response-counter response in an era of Facebook and Twitter is equally ludicrous.

To illustrate measures DSS researchers might take to plug themselves back into practitioners’ needs, let us consider a radical approach and work backward from it. Rather than seeking increased publication in the “A” journals, as Arnott and Pervan recommend, perhaps DSS researchers serve their cause better by completely abandoning the quest for “A”-list publication and building a DSS wiki for all scholarly research. When DSS researchers conduct a study, they place their field notes and raw data online immediately. They post and revise their lit reviews, analyses, conclusions, and recommendations for future research live, online, in full view of anyone who cares to click in. Hyperlinks replace in-text citations. Peer review takes place in full public view, as every article now has a live and growing comment section. Arnott, Pervan, and the rest of us concerned about relevance to practitioners can shape research as it happens by constantly peppering the researchers with questions like, “So what does this mean for managers/IBM/universities/city planners/the military/NGOs? Who are the clients and users of the system you’re testing? Would this system work as well through an iPhone/in rural areas/in a non-profit organization?” Tag and categorize, slap on a Technorati badge or some other rating system, and you have a system that can automatically highlight for researchers and practitioners the articles with the greatest relevance to their needs and interests.

Would such a system degrade rigor? Quite conceivably. But such a system would also draw more immediate responses to failings of rigor. Errors might be caught sooner, by the review of more eyes than the three or four pairs of eyes typically drafted in the journal or conference paper review process. Online instead of in editorial offices, there is that much more chance that the constant critique and revision of articles would also engage non-academic practitioners. If DSS researchers can make systems of published journals and conference proceedings work, they can surely make an ongoing online publication and review system work to increase their relevance.

Of course, within the current academic culture, not to mention within the expectations of administrators and contracts, sudden abandonment of traditional journal publication would wreak havoc with tenure, promotion, and other practical realities of academic life. Pragmatically, DSS researchers would likely need to transition toward such a system, developing online networks to share findings and questions while still seeking formal publication of their best work. But we have already seen a movement toward increasingly collaborative production of knowledge as single-author papers become an oddity in a sea of papers with multiple authorship. It seems logical that, as the academy fills with a new generation of researchers who have grown up thinking in terms of seeking knowledge on an open global network, we will see researchers turn to and accept a DSS wiki (or some other form of online collaboration that will make wikis seem as quaint as phones with handcranks) to support open communication, collaborative knowledge construction, and a resulting increase of relevance to each other’s research agendae and the swiftly changing demands of the organizations who want to put new DSS to work.


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