July 29, 2012

User (and open) innovation: three days in Boston

Monday marks the beginning of #oui2012, the Open and User Innovation Workshop 2012. It marks the 10th annual meeting of the conference founded by Eric von Hippel and his colleagues. This year the workshop is being hosted by Harvard (as it was in 2008), but has grown from 55 papers to 140 120 and more than 200 participants.

The plenary sessions include talks by some of the usual (Eric von Hippel, Carliss Baldwin) and not so usual (Michael Tushman, Shane Greenstein) suspects.

The various tracks/session groupings are
  • User entrepreneurship: 6 (Monday); Toolkits: 4 (Tuesday); Lead users: 8 (Wednesday); other user innovation: 4 (Wednesday)
  • IP: 7 (Monday)
  • Innovation contests: 6 (Monday) and Crowdsourcing: 10 (Tuesday)
  • Search and open innovation: 6 (Monday)
  • Online communities: 7 (Monday); Firms & communities: 4 (Monday)
  • Open innovation in firms: 8 on Tuesday, 12 on Wednesday
  • Policy & government: 6 (Monday)
  • Motivation: 6 (Tuesday)
  • Evaluation: 4 (Tuesday)
  • Innovation theory: 3 (Tuesday)
  • Open source software: 5 on Tuesday, 6 on Wednesday
  • Innovation in health and medicine: 6 (Wednesday)
  • Mass customization: 3 (Wednesday)
The 30 papers in sessions that mention either “firms” or “open innovation” are a rough proxy for OI papers, although I think at least half of the innovation contest/crowdsourcing papers are more OI than UI. So perhaps one-fourth of the papers are about OI, perhaps half have a UI theoretical (or philosophical) framing, and the rest are either both or neither.

With growth comes growing pains. Some of the crowdsourcing, open innovation and lead user authors are in competing sessions, which will make it more difficult to follow all the relevant research. Also, with a variable number of papers per session, it will be harder to jump between competing sessions (as was encouraged in 2008). As with any conference, some of the groupings are approximate: my paper (being presented Tuesday by co-author Jonathan Sims) on firms working with online communities is not grouped with either one. At least paper I’m presenting Wednesday (comparing open source in software and biology) is with OSS if not the other biomedical papers.

A number of my academic friends are surprised that (since 2008) I make a point to attend OUI every year but often skip the Academy (including this year). Even at its larger size, OUI is more focused on open and distributed models of innovation whereas even the TIM track of Academy is a hodgepodge of just about everything. The sessions of OUI offer a body of researchers on OSS, community, cumulative and related innovation processes that are only rarely found at even the best Academy session.

So I’m looking forward to returning to Boston, hearing interesting work and meeting old (and new) friends. Of course I’m also hoping to use the knowledgeable feedback to improve my own work, but that will at most be only 45 minutes of nearly three days of sessions.

July 27, 2012

Publishing in the RP special issue

At the end of last month’s #oi2012 workshop, the special issue editors gave some recommendations to those interested in publishing in the special issue. I summarized a few key points for those at the conference. Below are my notes on the process (delayed until after we got caught up with our promised feedback for conference authors).

The editors are looking for strong, RP-quality papers to fill the special issue. The added considerations are that the paper fits in the special issue — both by fitting the theme and complementing the portfolio of articles that we’ve selected. (The 2003 open source and 2006 Teece special issues are good examples of such portfolios.)

I offered these four recommendations to prospective authors:
  • Write about an important issue in open innovation. Some authors start with an issue they find interesting and then add a few cites to “fit” the paper to open innovation; given the large body of OI papers, this is often less successful than starting from what’s already been said (or not said).
  • Start with the most relevant literature, which will be both inside and outside open innovation. As Ammon Salter reminded conference presenters, don’t write a history of open innovation — in a conference (or special issue) you are writing for people who already know about open innovation.
  • Make it interesting — for the reviewers, editors and eventual readers.
  • Finally, what’s new? What can we do now that we couldn’t do earlier?
Many of these would apply to publishing in any context.

The deadline remains August 31. Each paper will be assigned one of the four guest editors — due to subject matter, workload or avoiding conflicts of interest. If we get more papers than available reviewers (we got 78 papers on April 15), then the editors will have to decide which ones go for review and which ones don’t (desk reject).

One thing I didn’t think to mention at the conference: The editors have the option of considering a “Research Note,” which RP defines as
Research Notes - typically of 3-5,000 words, this category is a vehicle for specific types of material that merit publication, but do not require all the 'normal' components of a full research article. This might cover, for example, specific aspects of methodology that have broad relevance for RP readers, or short reports about specific sets or types of data (and their access and use) that merit publication without the full set of requirements for a normal article. It might also be relevant, for example, for updating an earlier RP paper, where it is not necessary to repeat the literature review, methodology etc.
The advantage for RP (and the special issue) is that a research note can make a narrower point more succinctly and not use up as many pages; I personally think this could work well to support our portfolio strategy. The disadvantage is that the editorial review process for a note — soliciting and monitoring reviewers — is as much work for the editors as for a full article, even if it’s slightly easier for the reviewers; thus, in the first round the note is competing with full-length articles for a limited supply of reviewers, even if the final acceptance bar could be lower.

Finally, on to unpleasant subjects: unethical behavior. At the closing session, Ammon Salter reminded us of the earlier presentation by Ben Martin. In his talk on “20 challenges for innovation studies,” Martin mentioned that Research Policy has been dealing with a variety of cases of academic dishonesty, including plagiarizing others and self-plagiarism (which Ben called “salami slicing.”) [This was three weeks before Martin published the retraction of two RP papers on patent licensing.]

Here is an excerpt of the RP policies:
Research Policy and Elsevier adhere to the highest standards with regard to research integrity and in particular the avoidance of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism. It is therefore essential that authors, before they submit a paper, carefully read the Ethics Ethical guidelines for journal publication - see http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/intro.cws_home/ethical_guidelines#Duties of Authors. Particular attention should be paid to the sections under 'Duties of Authors' on 'Originality and Plagiarism' and 'Multiple, Redundant or Concurrent Publication'.
RP expects that authors will fully disclose any multiple, redundant or concurrent publication. Ammon reminded authors to include any such disclosure in their submission letters.

July 19, 2012

L'affaire Lichtenthaler, Part Deux

Among open innovation researchers, the past 24 hours seem to have been spent discussing Ulrich Lichtenthaler and his three retracted articles, including two in Research Policy.

I’ve only met Dr. Lichtenthaler once, He certainly is a prominent open innovation researcher: Google Scholar says he has published 15 articles with "open innovation” in the title. When I review an OI paper, usually I find 1 or 2 cites to his work, and sometimes as many as four. But the rate at which the news has spread — via Twitter, Facebook, even Skype — hints at the number of people who’ve been waiting for confirmation of what they long suspected (or perhaps hoped).

Today, Olaf Storbeck of Handlesblatt (the German equivalent to the FT or WSJ) reports on the story in a blog article that supplements his German-language news article:
Top-flight German business prof faces severe accusations of academic misconduct

One of the most successful German business professors is currently facing awkward questions about his scientific conduct. Ulrich Lichtenthaler, who is affiliated with the University of Mannheim, has come under suspicion of inflating his publication record using unethical methods.

Additionally, a number of his published papers apparently contain severe mathematical errors and methodological inconsistencies.

In the last couple of weeks, two academic journals – “Research Policy” and “Strategic Organization” – officially retracted three papers by Lichtenthaler. “This is only the tip of the iceberg”, asserted a researcher familiar with the investigations speaking to me on the condition of anonymity. “There is much more to come.”

Several people who looked into the matter are convinced that the whole affair has the potential to turn into a major academic scandal. One academic told me that “Industrial and Corporate Change” and the “Strategic Management Journal” are also preparing retractions.
(The original German article seems to have attracted considerable discussion online.)

Storbeck’s blog posting also included a written response from Dr. Lichtenthaler, as well as oblique references to how “a small group of academics privately started to question this academic flight of fancy,” analyzed his work and sent their findings to various journals. Given the rumors I’ve heard over the past 18-24 months, I suspect I either know some of these academics or know people who know them.

I would disagree that this “has the potential to turn into a major academic scandal,” because (barring some major exculpatory revelation) it seems like we’re already there. How did we get here?

In his paper from the Lundvall festschrift (also presented at Imperial last month) Ben Martin talks about how the field of innovation studies was lucky for a long time:
As a field, we were truly fortunate in our ‘founding fathers’ – individuals such as Chris Freeman, Richard Nelson and Nathan Rosenberg, who, besides making immense intellectual contributions, also shaped the culture and norms under which we operate. In particular, these individuals personified a spirit of openness, integrity and intellectual generosity.
I think when innovation studies was a small community when everyone knew everyone else, there was an element of social norms and sanctions that would deter authors from thinking they could blatantly game the system. (Conversely, more benign forms of gaming the system still seems to be OK: we all know senior respected scholars who’ve been very clever at squeezing one more paper out of a given dataset.)

Certainly the system of letter writing for tenure should catch most abuses. I can think of about 5-10 people senior to me who know my work well, and if they had my papers in front of them, they’d quickly spot any violations. However, not all schools require outside letters for tenure, and this does nothing for hiring decisions, where generalists review the work of a prospective colleague, supported by cherry-picked friendly letters and an occasional phone call to a former coworker.

Storbeck note the irony of some of the previous praise of Lichtenthaler given by Handlesblatt:
The thirty-three-year old used to be the undisputed shooting star of business science in Germany and has an incredible publication record. Since 2004, Lichtenthaler has published more papers in international renowned journals than almost any other German business professor. The database used for the Handelsblatt research ranking lists a total of 50 publications. 21 of them were published in 2007 and 2008. …

Given his amazing productivity, in 2009 the German association of business professors (Verband der Hochschullehrer für Betriebswirtschaftslehre) awarded a prestigious prize for young researchers to him. In the same year, he topped the Handelsblatt list of the most productive business researchers below 40 albeit he was one of the youngest academics in the list. …

In 2009, we published a portrait about Lichtenthaler’s amazing career in Handelsblatt. With the benefit of hindsight, the headline seems to be ironic: “The boy who gets everything right”. He told my colleague Anja Müller that despite his striking research output, he wasn’t considering himself a workaholic and that “academic enthusiasm” keeps him going. …
Alas, what Storbeck doesn’t discuss is the role that Handlesblatt has played in encouraging (if not creating) such behavior. My German-speaking academic friends can quote to me where they stand on the Handlesblatt rankings of business faculty, the ranking of well-known researchers and the date when the next rankings will be published. German (and Swiss and Austrian) deans hire, promote and reward faculty based on this one article that comes out every year.

In the US, strong individual incentives like this gave us Enron, Worldcom, Fannie Mae and numerous other ethical scandals. However, while the MBA rankings (by Business Week, FT, US News and the WSJ) distort the behavior of business school faculty and administrators, they don’t seem to have produced the pressure (yet) that encouraged individuals or an organizational conspiracy to out-and-out cheat.

If Handlesblatt really wanted to get to the bottom of this scandal, it would look in the mirror. Or, as cartoonist Walt Kelley said in Pogo 41 years ago: “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

PS: The reader comments at the bottom of the blog post point out Handlesblatt’s role in creating this problem, but Storbeck vehemently denies any responsibility therein.

July 17, 2012

Three less papers on patent licensing

Research Policy today announced the retraction of two papers on patent licensing, a month after a third paper was retracted by Strategic Organization. The blog “Retraction Watch” summarizes the announcements:
Ulrich Lichtenthaler, a management professor in Germany, has had three papers retracted by two different journals, after readers noticed statistical irregularities.

Lichtenthaler was at the WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management when he published the papers in 2009 and 2010. He is now at the University of Mannheim.
These are the three articles that were retracted:
  • Ulrich Lichtenthaler and Holger Ernst, “Technology licensing strategies: the interaction of process and content characteristics,” Strategic Organization 7, 2 (May 2009), 183-221, doi:10.1177/1476127009102672
  • Ulrich Lichtenthaler, “The role of corporate technology strategy and patent portfolios in low-, medium- and high-technology firms,” Research Policy 38, 3 (April 2009), 559-569, doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2008.10.009
  • Ulrich Lichtenthaler, “Determinants of proactive and reactive technology licensing: A contingency perspective,” Research Policy 39, 1 (Feb. 2010), 55-66, doi: 10.1016/j.respol.2009.11.011
Three years ago, the German newspaper Handelsblatt ranked Lichtenthaler as their top economics researcher under 40 years old. Retraction Watch reports that his previous employer has been investigating the matter:
We are aware of the retractions. When the underlying problems of the publications of Ulrich Lichtenthaler were brought to our attention WHU decided to establish an investigation committee with external experts to look into these matters. As WHU condemns all forms of academic misconduct, we are very interested in complete transparency on the issues and, depending on the findings of the committee, we will then take appropriate actions.
In his talk last month to our London conference for the OI special issue of Research Policy, editor Ben Martin alluded to this in his talk on “20 challenges for innovation studies.” Now we know what he was talking about. Here are excerpts from Martin’s written paper:
20. Maintaining our research integrity, sense of morality and collegiality

There are many in the academic community who like to think that ‘the Republic of Science’ remains one last shining bastion where misconduct is rare, generally low-level and self-correcting, where any serious misconduct is quickly detected by peer review and stopped, and where the risk of being caught and the severe repercussions that follow are such that few researchers are tempted to err (Martin, 2012b). However, the growing incidence of plagiarism (Martin et al., 2007) as well other forms of research misconduct throws all this into question.

Occasionally, perhaps because of the pressure of a deadline to produce a conference presentation or to publish a journal article, individuals may succumb to the temptation to engage in outright plagiarism. Fortunately such cases appear to be rare, although there are some indications that serial plagiarisers such as Hans Werner Gottinger† are becoming more common (Martin et al., 2007, p.910, footnote 32). Moreover, by definition we only know about the incidence of detected plagiarism – how much more remains undetected is what the noted American philosopher, Donald Rumsfeld, would term “a known unknown” (quoted in Boardman, 2005, p. 783)

Rather more common, and certainly on the increase, is the phenomenon of ‘salami publishing’. With the growing use of publications as a performance indicator comes escalating pressure to exploit one’s database, survey or study to the full with as many articles as possible. Hence, some authors resort to ‘slicing the salami very thinly’. The resulting papers are often sent to different journals. In some cases, the author may cite the other parallel papers. However, it is very difficult to persuade referees to read not only the paper in question but also the other parallel papers (which may not have been published yet and therefore are difficult to access) in order to establish whether the former represents a sufficiently substantial and original contribution to merit publication in its own right. In other cases, the author simply ‘forgets’ to cite the parallel papers. Sometimes, this may be picked up by a diligent referee. Other times, it may only be discovered after publication, leaving journal editors with a difficult decision as to whether or not that article should be withdrawn or subject to a ‘corrigendum’. In the worst cases, ‘salami publishing’ shades into self-plagiarism, where the author re-uses material from one or more of his earlier publications without drawing the attention of the reader to the existence of the earlier work.
(†In 2007, Research Policy retracted Gottinger’s 1993 article, and published a long explanation of what happened and how it was caught. Wikipedia and Der Spiegel talk about Gottinger’s plagiarism at RP, Nature and other journals.)

A quick search of the Research Policy database lists only the one Gottinger and two Lichtenthaler articles as retracted thus far. However, I believe that Martin’s passion here (both in his paper and the oral presentation at our conference) is driven by more than just these two serial offenders; if so, there are more shoes yet to drop.

July 15, 2012

CFP: OI in Web 2.0

Call for Papers
Communications & Strategies
Open Innovation II
Unsolved Challenges for Open Innovation in the Context of Web 2.0

Edited by Gilles FONTAINE, Anna Maria KOECK & Denis LESCOP

Open Innovation is increasingly used as an instrument to enhance the creation of ideas and the development of solutions in innovation projects. The active integration of external stakeholders into an organisation's innovation processes independently of their institutional affiliation can take different forms – from the generation of ideas and the development of concepts to participation in the realisation of an innovation.

The following list shows suggestions for possible topics to be addressed:
  • The role of Web 2.0 in interactive value creation
  • Crowd Sourcing - integrating swarm intelligence in Open Innovation
  • Integrating mobile applications into Open Innovation activities
  • Open Innovation and social networks across nations: challenges concerning intellectual property rights
  • Customer integration via the web: Positive and negative side effects on internal processes
  • Strategic controlling and the measurement of Open Innovation activities
Please send submissions (in the form of full papers) by November 1st 2012 to: s.nigon@idate.org. Proposals must be submitted in Word format (.doc) and should not exceed 6,500 words.