Why being a ‘pure’ procurement academic is difficult

I've been been talking to an experienced and well respected procurement academic over the last couple of weeks about a piece of research he's doing - he also responded to my somewhat provocative comments about the lack of high-profile 'procurement academics' these days.

On that note, he told me something I hadn't appreciated and which goes some way to explaining perhaps why there are few 'pure' academics in this space.

Academics are now assessed much more rigorously than in the past, and part of this relates to getting papers published in learned journals and publications.  These journals are listed and given a 'star' rating by the Association of Business Schools, and that is used as a guide to how much weight an academic's published work carries.  So some good universities are only really interested in work published in 3 or 4 start journals for instance.

Looking at the list of journals, what is interesting is the paucity of serious procurement or supply chain journals.  Hence top level academics are drawn into looking for work that crosses the boundaries from procurement into wider topics; links to operation, IT or even HR.

There are no 4 star publications that show even a passing interest in procurement as far as I can see.  For a start, procurement and supply chain is lumped together with a range of other disciplines as "OPERATIONS, TECHNOLOGY AND MANAGEMENT".

Supply Chain Management: An International Journal is under this heading and is the top-ranked journal (with 3 stars)  to even feature procurement - and then it is only one of a number of topic areas ranging through logistics, risk management, organisational behaviour...

Journal of Purchasing and Supply Management is a 2-star publication; and this gets into the sort of issues I would recognise as part of my world, with some recognisable procurement academic names on the Editorial Board.

But, worthy though it is, remember; this is "only" a 2 star publication.  In terms of other business functions, Marketing has 5 journals rated at 4-star; Human Resources has four at that top level.

So is this a salutary reminder that procurement may not be quite as important as we think it is; or does it just say that academia takes time to catch up with the increasing importance of procurement that we perceive in the "real world"?  Perhaps the professional institutes like CIPS, practitioners and academics need to work harder to develop more  intellectual credibility for the profession?

And perhaps it explains why we haven't seen much 'pure' procurement research really driving procurement thinking lately (or at least I haven't noticed it).  Top academics will focus their attention on research that gets noticed and published in the top journals.  Now this isn't necessarily wrong of course; a wider, more holistic approach, seeing procurement as part of a set of wider business issues and challenges, is arguably exactly what we should want and expect.  (My friend is working on issues that combine procurement with Health, Finance, or Human Resources issues).

But one undeniable fact you can take from this, is that we still have some way to go as a procurement 'profession', despite the great strides we've made over the last 20 years.

First Voice

  1. Ken Rowe:

    As a practitioner and cosultant/trainer for the past 32 years I would say as a profession we have not invested wisely in training and educating those who enter our profession. Furthermore we have done an inadequate job of marketing our skills within our organizations.

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