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Reflections on the so-called value-free ideal: A call for responsible science in the business schools

Anne Tsui (Department of Management, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA)

Cross Cultural & Strategic Management

ISSN: 2059-5794

Article publication date: 1 February 2016




Value-free science is an ideal that is neither possible nor desirable, especially for social sciences. The subject of social sciences is individuals and groups; hence social, moral, ethical, or political values are inherent and unavoidable in all steps of the scientific process. Further, the authority of science requires the scientist to be responsible experts in ensuring the reliability of knowledge and in assessing the risks in applying the research findings in social policies and practices. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the role of values in business school research.


The author explains the two primary types of values relevant for science: epistemic – norms and standards to ensure good science – and social – criteria not relevant for discovering the truth of knowledge but may influence decisions related to science especially in evaluating the cost of wrongful conclusions from the research evidence. Based on an analysis of published criticisms of business school research and the author’s own analysis, the author describes how business school research is infused with social and political values, undermining the objectivity and quality of science by business scientists.


The author endorses the idea of responsible science – science that recognizes the mutual dependence between science and society, and that aims to satisfy both epistemic and social values. The author offers a modest proposal to encourage transformation of business school research to meet both rigor (valid and reliable knowledge) and relevance (useful for practice) – the hallmark of responsible science.

Research limitations/implications

The ideas in this essay have implications for further work on identifying the relevant epistemic and social values to guide business school research.


The idea of responsible science can potentially transform business school’s research to become both scientifically rigorous and societally relevant.



Tsui, A. (2016), "Reflections on the so-called value-free ideal: A call for responsible science in the business schools", Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 4-28.



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