Given that I’m currently a Professor of Marketing at Northern Illinois University and an Associate Professor of Marketing at Universidad Externado de Colombia (Externado), as well as a Fulbright Scholar in Nepal and Cambodia, I have some unique insights regarding how researchers in developing, and least developing nations, develop academic research projects. I want to emphasize that the goal of this article is to highlight challenges that researchers from Industrialized nations confront when working with colleagues from developing and least developed nations; my purpose is not to denigrate international universities by any means.
Verification Research vs. Interesting Research
When I work with international colleagues on brainstorming research ideas, I noticed that many naturally seek out verification studies. For example, a colleague may desire to test an established theory, such as one espoused by Michael Porter, the famous Theory of Planned Behavior, or the sacrosanct SERVQUAL model, in a new setting, say Bogota or Kathmandu. In fact, many international doctoral students assume that it is valuable research to test an established theory in their local markets. Their faculty advisors do not understand the limitations of publishing precise verification studies in leading journals. Thus, doctoral students replicate the established questionnaires, collect data, analyze the data with structural equation modeling, write the results, and then submit the study to top journals. Many students are shocked when they receive desk rejections due to a lack of a theoretical contribution. These initial rejections of doctoral research serve to dissuade many international researchers from every engaging in research afterwards, as they simply are perplexed and disillusioned with the journal requirements.
Verification studies do not get published in leading global journals. This is the bottom line reality and it’s not globally understood. A theoretical contribution is not a new sample site, no wonder how exotic the sample site may appear to be. International colleagues do not readily comprehend the meaning of a theoretical extension as opposed to theoretical testing. In my opinion, this limitation is the greatest challenge facing international marketing faculty and doctoral students and the reason why so many new academics shun global publications.
Where do I find the literature?
Another challenge facing colleagues and doctoral students, in developing and least developed nations, is that most libraries in these nations cannot afford to purchase database access. Thus, researchers are depending upon Google Scholar, ResearchGate, Open access, and email queries, to obtain articles. Anyone can easily imagine the challenge here in simply gathering extant knowledge; it’s cumbersome, incomplete, and even problematic if universities lack modern computers required to open Adobe files.
In both Cambodia and Nepal, the U.S. embassies in Phnom Penh and Kathmandu offer students the ability to use a handful of on-site computers that have database access, although somewhat limited to EBSCO and JSTOR. Although this sounds wonderful, rigorous security clearances and limited computers severely limits students’ participation at U.S. Embassy libraries. The Fulbright Office in Kathmandu offered a few computers with EBSCO access; however, working MBA students often cannot leave work during the day to work at a Fulbright office.
Although partnering with universities is always a possibility, many libraries are reluctant to grant access to non-student entities. In addition, although a colleague may often volunteer to serve as a conduit for literature, in practice, the article requests from international colleagues will become very cumbersome. Until university faculty can easily obtain contemporary research articles, their ability to engage in interesting research will be severely hampered.
I encourage researchers to use ResearchGate or Academia.edu to post articles, when permissible, in allowable forms, so that international researchers, who have limited database access, can easily obtain current research. I realize it takes time to post articles; however, faculty need to realize the extent to which they are assisting their global colleagues by doing so.
Passion for Research
University teaching in many developing foreign locales is a relatively low-paying job or one that is laden with administrative work. Unless a university is striving for accreditation (e.g., AACSB), in most cases, faculty will not have the time to engage in serious research endeavors or have the resources to do so. At best, these faculty may serve as research assistants with data collection; however, precise writing and analysis is likely not to come to fruition. Indeed, English as a second language further compounds the situation of a lack of available time and resources to engage in serious major research endeavors.
I hate to be the purveyor of negativity; however, the research challenges that I have confronted in developing and least developed nations has apprised me of the current situation. Many of us work in business schools where Deans sign memorandum of agreements with foreign universities to receive accolades. However, global faculty usually do not see the benefit of these agreements in terms of access to research faculty or to research tools. Perhaps, we may consider how we can globalize doctoral level education. Even if the coursework was placed on a webinar, many doctoral students and faculty in developing and least developed countries remain “minus mentored.” That is, they lack readily available access to faculty who can advise them on a research program.
I’m not entirely confident regarding a solution to this reality. I know that I can pitch the ideas of partnerships, of memorandum agreements, of webinars; however, I am afraid that most of these ideas will yield little, if any substance, change. Perhaps, the reality is that many of our colleagues and doctoral students in developing and least develop nations will remain “minus mentored” for years to come. Can we, as a discipline, and, as individuals, create opportunities, similar to those espoused by the Fulbright program, by encouraging faculty and doctoral students to complete research programs. I know that the costs of this idea would be quite high. Yet, I remain steadfast in my belief that change will occur when single individuals serve as research mentors, and their networks eventually expand. Indeed, it’s the only possible solution that I envision.
Dr. Mark S. Rosenbaum is a Fullbright Scholar and
Kohl’s Corporation Professor of Retail Marketing at
Northern Illinois University