Published: May 1, 2019 By

The Rise of Entrepreneurship ResearchAcademic research on entrepreneurship has emerged as a major focus area within business schools over the last 20 years. The Leeds School of Business has long sought to populate the field with highly-trained, effective researchers that have filled positions across the United States and the world.

Leeds was one of the earliest schools to train scholars specifically to understand entrepreneurship, from a strategic, organizational and individual level of analysis.

Perhaps it’s a byproduct of being surrounded by the thriving Boulder entrepreneurial ecosystem, the longstanding tradition of westerners constantly searching, or the inspiring beauty of the Colorado front range, but regardless of the reason, Leeds has consistently produced (and hired) some of the top scholars in innovation and entrepreneurship.

The value of PhD programs

From a business perspective, PhD programs might seem a bit odd. We dedicate years of time and money to develop scholars, then we send them away to other universities; indeed, traditionally almost no major research schools hire their own graduates. This tradition is one of ensuring diversity in thought amongst the faculty, as well as providing a public good through training scholars to be hired elsewhere. However, it is a mistake to underestimate the impact our PhD program has on fostering a greater knowledge base on how entrepreneurs think, act, and succeed. By training generations of scholars in entrepreneurship research, the Leeds school has made great contributions to the scholarly field of entrepreneurship.

The research and teaching conducted by these scholars continues to foster a proud tradition of entrepreneurial scholarship around the globe. We at the Deming Center support this tradition by directly funding and encouraging research on entrepreneurship by our PhD students and faculty. While our faculty and PhD students know about the contribution Leeds has made over the years, not as many of our non-PhD students, alumni, and other stakeholders are aware. Therefore, we are going to periodically focus at the activities of our PhD alumni in this newsletter.

Spotlight on a PhD alum

One of our PhD alumni, Jeff McMullen, is the Dale M. Coleman Chair in Management and Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Jeff is also Editor-In-Chief of the Journal of Business Venturing (JBV), widely considered one of the finest academic journals focused on entrepreneurship research. He has published multiple influential articles on the nature of entrepreneurial opportunity, social entrepreneurship, and the motivations of entrepreneurs.

Jeff’s recent editorial “A wakeup call for the field or entrepreneurship and its evaluators,” seeks to do more than make a research contribution. Instead, it highlights how far the field of entrepreneurship has come in recent years and explains that entrepreneurship journals are now on par with the best journals in other business school disciplines.

The field of entrepreneurship

While the scholarly field of entrepreneurship has grown roughly along the same time period as the internet (a coincidence?) as Jeff puts it we can sometimes “…fall into the trap of assuming that the past is still representative of the present. But just as technologies, companies and even entire industries rise and fall over time in the business worlds, so do journals and entire fields of research.”

And entrepreneurship has certainly risen as a field. There are now three entrepreneurship journals, including JBV, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice (ET&P), and Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal (SEJ) that are respectively ranked 10, 16, and 34 for influence and reach by the Web of Science, the common bar for determining scholarly impact. In one illustration from his article Jeff compares the journal impact factor, a yearly measure of citations of a journal across these three entrepreneurship journals and elite management journals.

journal impact factor

Two things to note from his analysis. First, the entrepreneurship journals (JBV, ETP, SEJ) compare favorably with the very best journals in strategy (SMJ) organizational behavior (JAP) organizational theory (Org Sci) and operations (Mgt Sci). Second, one can easily see that comparing journals in 2013 yields a very different result than 2017. While it was a valid observation in 2013 that entrepreneurship journals had less impact, that is no longer the case. Further, each of these entrepreneurship journals are included in the Financial Times 50, a list of publications often used in determining business school rankings.

The rise of entrepreneurship journals doesn’t just matter for the sake of the important knowledge produced in them (often by Leeds alumni) but also because they offer a legitimized outlet for scholarship in a field that was once a “niche” interest.

This is important news for non-scholars that care about entrepreneurship as a part of business schools’ faculty, curriculum, and focus. Without these journals, entrepreneurship faculty may struggle to find outlets for cutting edge work, and thus not get hired or promoted within business schools. Without these scholars, business schools cannot effectively teach, research, and contribute to entrepreneurship as a field. Jeff’s work as a leading thinker in the field and in advocating for its quality is just one example of how Deming’s support of PhD students yields long-term results far beyond the bounds of Leeds and Colorado.

With the support of all of our stakeholders we look forward to continuing to help foster great entrepreneurship scholars for a long time to come!

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