July 26, 2014

Commentary: How much fraud is too much?

The case of Ulrich Lichtenthaler began slowly two years ago, with three papers retracted for “statistical irregularities.” Perhaps the stern reaction of Research Policy suggested there was something more serious than the official announcements implied, but many at that point still believed it was just an honest mistake.

At this point, with 19 retracted or withdrawn papers, it would be impossible to argue with a straight face that the errors were inadvertent or unintentional. Instead, we have a pattern of intentional and systematic fraud that is the most serious such case in innovation studies in the past 15 years.

When a company has repeated failures, its credibility (and viability) suffers accordingly. Companies that poison babies or have cars that kill people lose their customers rapidly, and often go out of business. Passengers are understandably skittish to fly an airline that’s lost two jumbos full of passengers in six months (even if the 2nd case was just pure bad luck). Many people forget that it took only a single plane crash to respectively drive out of business two of the most storied brands in US aviation, Pan Am (1988) and TWA (1996), even though neither airline bore the primary blame for the resulting crash.

So how many retractions would it take for people to stop citing Ulrich Lichtenthaler? Apparently more than 20, if submissions to our upcoming open innovation conference are any indication. Slightly less than 14% (1:7) of the submitted papers cite one or more Licthenthaler papers.

Three of these submissions even cite a retracted paper: two a JET-M paper retracted in June, and a third the AMJ paper retracted last December. One submission cites 7 Lichtenthaler papers, another cites 5; both cite more Lichtenthaler than Chesbrough, even though the latter has written more (and more highly cited) papers than Licthenthaler. (Google says Chesbrough has 11 OI studies that are more cited than Lichtenthaler’s most-cited OI paper).

As I've noted before, some of my friends say “I’ll never cite Lichtenthaler” while others say “As long as it’s not retracted, I’ll cite it if it makes a contribution”.

I think there’s enough evidence to deduce a pattern. We don’t need any more priors to calibrate our Bayesian probabilities. Fool me twice — let alone sixteen times — shame on me.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of any website, conference, journal, book or special issue.

July 17, 2014

User and Open Innovation Conferences 2014

This has been a busy week for me. Tuesday was the final day for submissions to December's 1st Annual World Open Innovation Conference, which meant a flurry of last minute correspondence, fighting with EasyChair, cat-herding and general administrivia. (This doesn't count several meetings at work and time spent trying to write an NSF grant application).

We were deluged with submissions, a testimony to the ongoing interest in open innovation. Maybe it was the reputations of the conference co-chairs: Henry Chesbrough, Frank Piller, Chris Tucci. Perhaps it was the opportunity to publish in the ICC special section. Or maybe it was Henry’s choice of the Napa venue. Whatever the reason, we have divy'd up our assignments and hope to notify authors of the decisions by (around) August 15.

The same day that dozens of authors were sending in their WOIC 2014 submissions, I received the final schedule for the 12 Annual Open and User Innovation (July 28-30) from its conference co-chairs (Carliss Baldwin, Karim Lakhani, Stefan Thomke, Eric von Hippel and Benjamin Mako Hill). The new format has 122 papers and posters, with 16 parallel sessions in two parallel tracks. The latter should provide the presenters a good audience for their work.

Ironically, I'll probably be doing my WOIC 2014 reviews while in a hotel room killing time between Marshall van Alstyne and Geoff Parker's Platform 2014 conference (at Boston University) and the OUI 2014 at HBS the following week.

June 15, 2014

Two years later, Lichtenthaler count stands at 16

Just after posting the 14th and 15th retractions of Ulrich Lichtenthaler — in Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice — I received emails from two faithful readers pointing to his 16th retraction, in the Journal of Engineering and Technology Management (JET-M).

As with one of the ETP articles, it was co-authored with Miriam Muethel, who overlapped at WHU with Dr. Lichtenthaler when they both completed their habilitation.

The article was published in the April-June 2012 issue of JET-M. The retraction notice states:
This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy).

This article has been retracted by agreement between the first author (Ulrich Lichtenthaler), and the Editor-in-Chief. The retraction has been agreed based on discussions about the presentation of the empirical results following an investigation conducted by the Journal. The second author was not involved in the empirical analyses. The first author assumes full responsibility.
The editor in chief of JET-M is Jeremy Hall of Simon Fraser.

Lichtenthaler Retractions: Two Years Later

The first retraction of any article by Dr. Lichtenthaler began in June 2012 with an article retracted by Strategic Organization. At the end of 2012, I summarized the first calendar year of retractions of Licthenthaler articles, when the retraction count stood at 8 articles.

Of the subsequent 8 retractions, two came from LES studies and two came from papers that seemed to use the LES data but didn’t say so directly (as did the SMJ retraction).

The two Lichtenthaler & Muethel articles — one in ETP and one in JET-M — used the LES data, but sampled only the smaller companies. As the JET-M article said
To avoid overlaps with earlier empirical studies (e.g., Lichtenthaler et al., 2010), we selected companies that are ranked on ranks 201–500 of the largest firms in terms of revenues in each of the following three industries: automotive, chemicals, and electronics.
While 16 articles by Dr. Licthenthaler have been retracted, at least 35 have not — a considerable output. Six of the 35 articles are literature reviews. Seven of these articles are in journals that have already retracted at least one Lichtenthaler article — implying that these articles in their journal have been vetted and passed the test.

Of the 22 remaining articles, 17 were published in six journals that have published multiple Licthenthaler articles but not yet retracted any:
  • California Management Review (2)
  • IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management (2)
  • MIT Sloan Management Review (2)
  • R & D Management (5)
  • Research-Technology Management (2)
  • Technovation (4)
I don’t have any information about the process at any of these six journals. Perhaps the two managerial journals (CMR and Sloan) are different, in that they aren’t about statistical tests, the managerial novelty of each article was vetted prior to publication, and that overlap with academic articles is a common and accepted practice.

As for the four academic journals, I don’t know the status of their evaluation of the Lichtenthaler papers — or whether they are even doing an evaluation. From a strictly Bayesian standpoint, I think it unlikely that none of the 13 articles in these four journals demonstrate defects comparable to those of the 16 articles retracted thus far.

Update Sunday 10:30am: According to a reader who studied the methods in more than 20 of the Licthenthaler papers, none of the four of the Technovation papers had problems similar to those of the retracted papers.

Bibliography

The full list of Lichtenthaler (or Holger Ernst) retracted papers (not including the three withdrawn papers):
  1. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Holger Ernst (2009). “Technology licensing strategies: the interaction of process and content characteristics,” Strategic Organization, 7 (2): 183-221. doi:10.1177/1476127009102672 (Retracted by the authors and editor, June 2012)
  2. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). “The role of corporate technology strategy and patent portfolios in low-, medium- and high-technology firms,” Research Policy, 38 (3): 559-569. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2008.10.009 (Retracted by the editors, July 2012)
  3. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2010). “Determinants of proactive and reactive technology licensing: A contingency perspective,” Research Policy, 39 (1): 55-66. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2009.11.011 (Retracted by the editors, July 2012)
  4. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Holger Ernst (2012). “Integrated knowledge exploitation: The complementarity of product development and technology licensing,” Strategic Management Journal, 33 (5): 513-534. doi: 10.1002/smj.1951 (Retracted by the authors, August 2012)
  5. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). “Product business, foreign direct investment, and licensing: Examining their relationships in international technology exploitation,” Journal of World Business, 44 (4): 407-420. doi: 10.1016/j.jwb.2009.01.003 (Retracted by the editor and author, August 2012)
  6. Ernst, Holger, Ulrich Lichtenthaler & Carsten Vogt (2011). “The Impact of Accumulating and Reactivating Technological Experience on R & D Alliance Performance,” Journal of Management Studies, 48 (6): 1194-1216. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2010.00994.x (Retracted by the authors, editors and publisher, August 2012)
  7. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, Holger Ernst & Martin Hoegl (2010). “Not-Sold-Here: How Attitudes Influence External Knowledge Exploitation,” Organization Science, 21 (5): 1054-1071. 10.1287/orsc.1090.0499 (Retracted by the editors, November 2012)
  8. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2008). “Externally commercializing technology assets: An examination of different process stages,” Journal of Business Venturing, 23 (4): 445-464. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2007.06.002 (Retracted by the editor and author, November 2012)
  9. Holger Ernst, James G. Conley, Nils Omland (2012). “How to create commercial value from patents: The role of patent management,” Research Policy, published online 21 May 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2012.04.012 (Retracted by the authors and editor prior to print publication, February 2013)
  10. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, Eckhard Lichtenthaler & Johan Frishammar (2009). “Technology commercialization intelligence: Organizational antecedents and performance consequences,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76 (3): 301-315. doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2008.07.002 (Retracted at the request of the authors, March 2013)
  11. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Johan Frishammar (2011). “The Impact of Aligning Product Development and Technology Licensing: A Contingency Perspective,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28 (S1): 89-103. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2011.00863.x (Retracted by the authors, editor and publishers, May 2013)
  12. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2012). “The Performance Implications of Dynamic Capabilities: The Case of Product Innovation,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, published online 12 June 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2012.00957.x (Retracted by the author, editor and publisher prior to print publication, May 2013; originally published online with Holger Ernst as co-author)
  13. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2010). “Outward knowledge transfer: the impact of project-based organization on performance,” Industrial & Corporate Change, 19 (6): 1705-1739, doi: 10.1093/icc/dtq041 (Retracted by the editors, publishers and author after an investigation by the editors, May 2013)
  14. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). "Absorptive Capacity, Environmental Turbulence, and the Complementarity of Organizational Learning Processes," Academy of Management Journal, 52 (4): 822-846, doi: 10.5465/AMJ.2009.43670902 (Retracted by the editor-in-chief, December 2013)
  15. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, and Miriam Muethel (2012). "The impact of family involvement on dynamic innovation capabilities: Evidence from German manufacturing firms." Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36, (6): 1235-1253, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00548.x. (Retracted June 2014)
  16. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2012). "Technological Turbulence and the Impact of Exploration and Exploitation Within and Across Organizations on Product Development Performance," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, published online 5 June 2012, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00520.x. (Retracted by the author, executive editor and publisher, June 2014).
  17. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, and Miriam Muethel (2012). "The role of deliberate and experiential learning in developing capabilities: Insights from technology licensing," Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 29 (2): 187–209, DOI: 10.1016/j.jengtecman.2011.10.001. (Retracted by the first author and the editor-in-chief, June 2014)

June 13, 2014

L'affaire Lichtenthaler still not over

Two years after his first retraction — and six months after his most recent retraction — this week Ulrich Lichtenthaler received his 14th and 15th retractions from Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice.

One is for an accepted article published online a year ago (5 June 2012), but not yet in print. The Wiley website says:
The above article from Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, “Technological turbulence and the impact of exploration and exploitation within and across organizations on product development performance,” by Ulrich Lichtenthaler, published online on April 2012 in Wiley Online Library, DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00520.x, has been retracted by agreement between the author, the Executive Editor, D. Ray Bagby, and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. The retraction has been agreed before print publication based on discussions about the presentation of the empirical results.
This paper appears to have no citations, even in Google Scholar.

The other, entitled “The Impact of Family Involvement on Dynamic Innovation Capabilities: Evidence From German Manufacturing Firms,” was published online last September and appear in print in November’s special issue on family business. The article was co-authored with Miriam Muethel, who then (and today) is at the WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. Dr. Muethel received her habilitation at WHU in December 2011, not long after Lichtenthaler completed his habilitation there.

There is no explanation (yet) for the decision to retract this article, which apparently ETP has been considering for more than a year. It has 10 citations in Google Scholar, but only one of them from a major journal (a citation by the introduction to the ETP special issue).

Although Prof. Lichtenthaler lost his license to teach nine months ago, no official announcement has been made about his position as a chaired professor at the University of Mannheim. However, according to hearsay, he has been recently investigating other career opportunities.

Bibliography

The full list of Lichtenthaler (or Holger Ernst) retracted papers (not including the three withdrawn papers):
  1. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Holger Ernst (2009). “Technology licensing strategies: the interaction of process and content characteristics,” Strategic Organization, 7 (2): 183-221. doi:10.1177/1476127009102672 (Retracted by the authors and editor, June 2012)
  2. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). “The role of corporate technology strategy and patent portfolios in low-, medium- and high-technology firms,” Research Policy, 38 (3): 559-569. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2008.10.009 (Retracted by the editors, July 2012)
  3. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2010). “Determinants of proactive and reactive technology licensing: A contingency perspective,” Research Policy, 39 (1): 55-66. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2009.11.011 (Retracted by the editors, July 2012)
  4. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Holger Ernst (2012). “Integrated knowledge exploitation: The complementarity of product development and technology licensing,” Strategic Management Journal, 33 (5): 513-534. doi: 10.1002/smj.1951 (Retracted by the authors, August 2012)
  5. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). “Product business, foreign direct investment, and licensing: Examining their relationships in international technology exploitation,” Journal of World Business, 44 (4): 407-420. doi: 10.1016/j.jwb.2009.01.003 (Retracted by the editor and author, August 2012)
  6. Ernst, Holger, Ulrich Lichtenthaler & Carsten Vogt (2011). “The Impact of Accumulating and Reactivating Technological Experience on R & D Alliance Performance,” Journal of Management Studies, 48 (6): 1194-1216. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2010.00994.x (Retracted by the authors, editors and publisher, August 2012)
  7. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, Holger Ernst & Martin Hoegl (2010). “Not-Sold-Here: How Attitudes Influence External Knowledge Exploitation,” Organization Science, 21 (5): 1054-1071. 10.1287/orsc.1090.0499 (Retracted by the editors, November 2012)
  8. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2008). “Externally commercializing technology assets: An examination of different process stages,” Journal of Business Venturing, 23 (4): 445-464. doi: 10.1016/j.jbusvent.2007.06.002 (Retracted by the editor and author, November 2012)
  9. Holger Ernst, James G. Conley, Nils Omland (2012). “How to create commercial value from patents: The role of patent management,” Research Policy, published online 21 May 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2012.04.012 (Retracted by the authors and editor prior to print publication, February 2013)
  10. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, Eckhard Lichtenthaler & Johan Frishammar (2009). “Technology commercialization intelligence: Organizational antecedents and performance consequences,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 76 (3): 301-315. doi: 10.1016/j.techfore.2008.07.002 (Retracted at the request of the authors, March 2013)
  11. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich & Johan Frishammar (2011). “The Impact of Aligning Product Development and Technology Licensing: A Contingency Perspective,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, 28 (S1): 89-103. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2011.00863.x (Retracted by the authors, editor and publishers, May 2013)
  12. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2012). “The Performance Implications of Dynamic Capabilities: The Case of Product Innovation,” Journal of Product Innovation Management, published online 12 June 2012. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2012.00957.x (Retracted by the author, editor and publisher prior to print publication, May 2013; originally published online with Holger Ernst as co-author)
  13. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2010). “Outward knowledge transfer: the impact of project-based organization on performance,” Industrial & Corporate Change, 19 (6): 1705-1739, doi: 10.1093/icc/dtq041 (Retracted by the editors, publishers and author after an investigation by the editors, May 2013)
  14. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2009). "Absorptive Capacity, Environmental Turbulence, and the Complementarity of Organizational Learning Processes," Academy of Management Journal, 52 (4): 822-846, doi: 10.5465/AMJ.2009.43670902 (Retracted by the editor-in-chief, December 2013)
  15. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich, and Miriam Muethel (2012). "The impact of family involvement on dynamic innovation capabilities: Evidence from German manufacturing firms." Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 36, (6): 1235-1253, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00548.x. (Retracted June 2014)
  16. Lichtenthaler, Ulrich (2012). "Technological Turbulence and the Impact of Exploration and Exploitation Within and Across Organizations on Product Development Performance," Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, published online 5 June 2012, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6520.2012.00520.x. (Retracted by the author, executive editor and publisher, June 2014).

June 6, 2014

Research in 3D printing innovation

Frank Piller (photo by Joel West)
On Tuesday, Frank Piller and I hosted a successful workshop on 3D printing at RWTH Aachen. About 30 people attended the workshop: half from RWTH Aachen, the rest from other academic venues and a few from industry.

In many ways, 3D printing research reminds me of open source software research in 2001 or 2002. Frank says there is an explosion of research on 3D printing (i.e. more like OSS in 2005): I'm guessing this is concentrated in Europe because I’m not seeing it in the US. (But then, some of the early OSS research was phenomenon-based, which tends not to count much in U.S. business schools).

We had a deep dive into the science with Reinhart Poprawe, who's both managing director of the Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT and a professor at RWTH Aachen. With the rise of RepRap, MakerBot and other consumer technologies, most of us are familiar with the plastic (mostly FDM) 3D printing, but his focus is the high-quality, high-speed production of metal parts for industrial uses — which are the future of 3D printing as a manufacturing technique.

Joel West (photo by Frank Piller)
As an economic historian, I gave an overview of the first 30 years of 3D printing, outlining the path from the industrial prototyping companies of the 1980s (notably 3D Systems and Stratasys) through to the dozens of consumer-focused startups of this century. I noted three trends fueling the latter movement: the “maker” movement, open design communities and the expiration of a key patent. (Alas, I gave the talk in casual clothes, without benefit of the suitcase that AirBerlin delivered 24 hours after I arrived in Aachen.)

The RWTH Aachen business school (Frank) and the Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing (Simon Ford) summarized their respective research agendas. Not surprisingly, Frank’s group is interested in mass customization while Cambridge is using UK money “to examine the reality and the potential of digital fabrication for the UK economy.”

Thierry Rayna described how 3D printing is changing business model innovation, while Letizia Mortara talked about classifying 73 different maker spaces into 13 categories. Christian Weller of RWTH described experiments of allowing consumers to customize products and how they felt about their willingness to pay.

In our debrief, I noted the need to build a community of researchers that (as with the early days of OSS) read and build upon each other’s work. We don’t (or won’t) have a management journal, but there are several conferences. The best is Frank's track on “Open Innovation and Additive Manufacturing” at the annual (von Hippel) Open and User Innovation Conference (where I hope to present). In June 2016, the Cambridge IfM group will be hosting the R&D Management Conference, so that’s another natural fit.

European OI researchers have also been fond of the annual ISPIM conference: the program for next week’s conference in Dublin mentions “open innovation,” including a plenary session on OI led by Wim Vanhaverbeke and a talk by Wim on the forthcoming New Frontiers in Open Innovation (Oxford, 2014). While 3D printing and additive manufacturing are nowhere mentioned at this year’s conference, there’s always next year.