Purpose – The authors investigate the interpretations of senior university decision-makers on three questions: (1) What constitutes “relevant” research? (2) In what ways is the relevance of research typically measured? and (3) What alternative ways might be adopted in measuring the relevance of research?
Design/methodology/approach – This exploratory study adopts an inductive approach, informed by data collected from semi-structured interviews with senior research-related university leaders and archival sources in five Australian and eight US universities.
Findings – There is considerable convergence in the conceptualization as well as the operationalization of the notion of relevance between the Australian and US universities participating in this study. The evidence supports a relational rather than currently prevailing transactional approaches in operationalizing the concept of research relevance. This relational approach emphasizes the importance of stakeholders, their needs and expectations, and their engagement in the articulation of measures that demonstrate the relevance of research in both the short and longer terms.
Research limitations/implications – The evidence is primarily based on the views of university senior management drawn from a relatively small number of universities leading to questions about the representativeness and generalizability of the findings. Moreover, the findings have been informed by leaders at the most senior hierarchical levels. Although consistent with the aim of the study, the views of university leaders provide only one view on our research questions.
Originality/value – The authors provide a conceptual view of research relevance from the perspective of one pivotal group – university senior management – that has been largely and surprisingly overlooked in discussions of the relevance of academic research.
We express our appreciation to the VCs, DVCs and RDs who participated in this study. This article has benefited greatly from the insightful and constructive comments of Jane Broadbent, Cheryl McWatters, Tanya Monro, Julia Mundy, Lourdes White, Justin Bielby, David Lloyd and Lee Parker, as well as participants at the 9th Conference on Performance Measurement and Management Control (EISAM, Nice, September 2017) for their helpful comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this article.
Malina, M.A. and Tucker, B.P. (2020), "A Performance Measurement Approach to Defining and Measuring Research Relevance: Evidence from University Senior Management", Burney, L.L. (Ed.) Advances in Management Accounting (Advances in Management Accounting, Vol. 32), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 117-150. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1474-787120200000032005
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