Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 137, Issue 3, pp 507–520 | Cite as

Approving or Improving Research Ethics in Management Journals



Despite significant scholarly debate about knowledge production in the management discipline through the peer-review journal processes, there is minimal discussion about the ethical treatment of the research subject in these publication processes. In contrast, the ethical scrutiny of management research processes within research institutions is often highly formalized and very focused on the protection of research participants. Hence, the question arises of how management publication processes should best account for the interests of the research subject, both in the narrow sense of specific research participants and in the broader understanding of the subject of the research. This question is particularly pertinent in light of significant codification of research ethics within academic institutions, and increasing self-reflection within the management discipline about the “good” of management research and education. Findings from a survey and interviews with management journal editors (and others involved in journal publication) reveal a complex scenario; many editors believe that a formalized requirement within the journal publication process may have detrimental outcomes and, in fact, diminish the ethical integrity of management scholarship. Building on these findings, this paper argues that ethical concern for the research subject merely in terms of institutional rule compliance and avoidance of harm to individual participants is insufficient, and calls for explicitly positive engagement with both the individual and the collective subject of management research should receive due ethical consideration. An alternative model involving reflexive ethical consideration of research subjects across the publication process—with implications for role of authors, reviewers, editors, and research subjects—is outlined.


Research ethics Publication ethics Academic ethics Human subjects Ethics committees Research education Research training 


  1. Academy of Management (AOM). (2006). Code of ethics. Retrieved June 5, 2014, from
  2. Adler, N., & Harzing, A. W. K. (2009). When knowledge wins: Transcending the sense and nonsense of academic rankings. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 8(1), 72–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aldred, R. (2008). Ethics and political issues in contemporary research relationships. Sociology, 42(5), 887–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alvesson, M. (2003). Beyond neopositivists, romantics and localists: A reflexive approach to interviews In organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 28(1), 13–33.Google Scholar
  5. Bamber, G. J., & Sappey, J. (2007). Unintended consequences of human research ethics committees: Au revoir workplace studies? Monash Bioethics Review, 26(3), 26–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barry, M. (1988). Ethical considerations of human investigation in developing countries: The AIDS dilemma. New England Journal of Medicine, 319(16), 1083–1085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bauman, Z. (1993). Postmodern ethics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Bedeian, A. G. (2003). The manuscript review process: The proper roles of authors, referees, and editors. Journal of Management Inquiry, 12(4), 331–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bedeian, A. G. (2004). Peer review and the social construction of knowledge in the management discipline. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 3(2), 198–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bedeian, A. G., Taylor, S. G., & Miller, A. N. (2010). Management science on the credibility bubble: Cardinal sins and various misdemeanors. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 9, 715–725.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bell, E., & Bryman, A. (2007). The ethics of management research: An exploratory content analysis. British Journal of Management, 18(1), 63–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Borkowski, S. C., & Welsh, M. J. (1998). Ethics and the Accounting publishing process: Author, reviewers, and editor Issues. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(16), 1785–1803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brewis, J., & Wray-Bliss, E. (2008). Re-searching ethics: Towards a more reflexive critical management studies. Organization Studies, 29(12), 1521–1540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chien, W.-T. (2006). Letter to the Editor: Healthcare research without ethical permission should not be published in JCN. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 15(10), 1346–1347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark, T., & Wright, M. (2007). Reviewing journal rankings and revisiting peer reviews: Editorial perspectives. Journal of Management Studies, 44(4), 612–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. COPE. (2008). Guidance for Editors: Research, audit and service evaluations.
  17. COPE. (2011a). About COPE. Retrieved March 3, 2011, from
  18. COPE. (2011b). Code of conduct and best practice guidelines for journal editors. Retrieved May 5, 2011, from
  19. Cox Macpherson, C. (1999). Research ethics committees: A regional approach. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 20(1), 161–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cunliffe, A. L. (2003). Reflexive inquiry in organizational research: Questions and possibilities. Human Relations, 56(8), 983–1003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eden, L. (2010). Letter from the Editor-in-Chief: Scientists behaving badly. Journal of International Business Studies, 41(4), 561–566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freeman, R. E. (2002). Toward a new vision for management research: A commentary on “Organizational researcher values, ethical responsibility, and the Committed-to-Participant research perspective”. Journal of Management Inquiry, 11(2), 186–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Giacalone, R. A., & Rosenfeld, P. (1987). Justification and procedures for implementing Institutional Review Boards in business organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 6(5), 399–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goodyear-Smith, F., Lobb, B., Davies, G., Nachson, I., & Seelau, S. M. (2002). International variation in ethics committee requirements: Comparisons across five Westernised nations. BMC Medical Ethics,. doi: 10.1186/1472-6939-3-2.Google Scholar
  25. Grant, A. M., & Pollock, T. G. (2011). Publishing in AMJ—Part 3: Setting the hook. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 873–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haggerty, K. (2004). Ethics creep: Governing social science research in the name of ethics. Qualitative Sociology, 27(4), 391–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Halse, C., & Honey, A. (2005). Unraveling ethics: Illuminating the moral dilemmas of research ethics. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 30(4), 2141–2162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hardy, C., Phillips, N., & Clegg, S. (2001). Reflexivity in organization and management theory: A study of the production of the research subject. Human Relations, 54(5), 531–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hidegh, A. L., & Csillag, S. (2013). Toward ‘mental accessibility’: Changing the mental obstacles that future Human Resource Management practitioners have about the employment of people with disabilities. Human Resource Development International, 16(1), 22–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Holzhauser, K., Winch, S., & Henderson, A. (2008). Response to editorial: Watson, R. (2006) Editorial: Should studies without ethical permission be published in JCN? Journal of Clinical Nursing 15, 251. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 17(6), 837–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lincoln, Y. S., & Tierney, W. G. (2004). Qualitative research and institutional review boards. Qualitative Inquiry, 10(2), 219–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Long, T., & Fallon, D. (2007). Ethics approval, guarantees of quality and the meddlesome editor. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16(8), 1398–1404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. MacIntyre, A. (1999). Social structures and their threats to moral agency. Philosophy, 74, 311–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mamotte, N., & Wassenaar, D. (2009). Ethics review in a developing country: A survey of South African social scientists’ experiences. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 4(4), 69–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Prichard, C. (2009). Review: The black box of journal editorship still needs opening: Opening the black box of editorship. Management Learning, 40(5), 631–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Prichard, C. (2012). Introduction: What are we to do with Higher Education? Organization, 19(6), 879–880.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pullman, D., & Wang, X. (2001). Adaptive designs, informed consent, and the ethics of research. Controlled Clinical Trials, 22(3), 203–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Raelin, J. A. (2008). Refereeing the game of peer review. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 7(1), 124–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ramcharan, P., & Cutcliffe, J. R. (2001). Judging the ethics of qualitative research: considering the ‘ethics as process’ model. Health and Social Care in the Community, 9(6), 358–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rowan-Legg, A., Weijer, C., Gao, J., & Fernandez, C. (2009). A comparison of journal instructions regarding institutional review board approval and conflict-of-interest disclosure between 1995 and 2005. Journal of Medical Ethics, 35(1), 74–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scheurich, J., & McKenzie, K. (2005). Foucault’s methodologies: Archaeology and genealogy. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 841–868). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publication.Google Scholar
  42. Sin, C. H. (2005). Seeking informed consent: Reflections on research practice. Sociology, 39(2), 277–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Skubik, D., & Stening, B. (2009). What’s in a credo? A critique of the Academy of Management’s Code of Ethical Conduct and Code of Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(4), 515–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Stening, B. W., & Skubik, D. W. (2007). Do international management researchers need a code of ethics? Management International Review, 47(1), 103–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. ten Bos, R. (1997). Essai: Business ethics and Bauman ethics. Organization Studies, 18(6), 997–1014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Tinker, A., & Coomber, V. (2004). University research ethics committees: Their role, remit and conduct. London: King’s College London.Google Scholar
  47. Tolich, M., & Fitzgerald, M. H. (2006). If ethics committees were designed for ethnography. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 1(2), 71–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Uys, L. (2006). Response to editorial. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 15(6), 799.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Von Glinow, M. A., & Novelli, L, Jr. (1982). Ethical standards within organizational behavior. Academy of Management Journal, 25(2), 417–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Watson, R. (2006). Editorial: Should studies without ethical permission be published in JCN? Journal of Clinical Nursing, 15(3), 251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wegman, D. H., & Major, E. (2009). Protecting human subjects: How much responsibility falls to editorial boards? American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 52(2), 172–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. WMA (World Medical Association). (1964). Declaration of Helsinki—Ethical principles for medical research involving human subjects. Retrieved May 2, 2011, from
  53. Wray-Bliss, E. (2003). Research subjects/research subjections: Exploring the ethics and politics of critical research. Organization, 10(2), 307–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wright, T. A., & Wright, V. P. (2002). Organizational researcher values, ethical responsibility, and the committed-to-participant research perspective. Journal of Management Inquiry, 11(2), 173–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business and EconomicsMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations