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IO Psychology Journals That Are Fixing IO Psychology

2015 December 16

One of the most significant challenges currently facing IO psychology researchers is ensuring the relevance of our research to real-world HR and OD practices. Unfortunately, over the last few decades, the IO research in our top journals has become increasingly specialized and decreasingly applicable to solving real world problems.

There are many potential causes of this problem. I personally blame the siren song of “methodological rigor.” By demanding only the absolute most rigorous tests of theories for publication in top-tier journals, authors are actively discouraged from investigating new, relevant organizational phenomena because the risk that such research will be unpublishable in those journals is extremely high. When rejection rates are around 95%, as they are currently for Journal of Applied Psychology, editors and reviewers use absolutely any weakness to justify rejection. As any IO psychologist can tell you, if methodological weakness is correlated even weakly with practical relevance, fewer relevant papers will be published.

More troubling, such practices also encourage researchers to engage in a wide variety of questionable research practices to get past such barriers.  When a paper could be rejected due to unsupported hypotheses, researchers may be inclined to modify or eliminate hypotheses or analyses based upon the data (i.e., p-hacking).  When a paper could be rejected due to lack of complex theory, researchers may be included to overdevelop theory to the point that it provides little real-world value.  When only new theory is published, the very foundation of science, replications, become actively discouraged.  When faced with developing a new theory or developing a new theory and empirically testing it, developing an untested theory becomes increasingly attractive – you can’t have flaws with your method, results, and their interpretation when you don’t have any data.  These are all significant problems for IO psychology, and most start and end with our publication process.

Fortunately, there are a few IO psychology journals making an active effort to fix this problem, in a variety of ways. The key for us is to prioritize these journals as both authors and consumers of research. If you’ll only publish in journals that actively work to repair the problems in our field, eventually those journals and their practices will hold the most influence over our literature. What follows is a brief and partial list of three, based upon the journals I’m regularly personally exposed to, so if you have more that qualify, let me know in the comments.

1. Journal of Business and Psychology
Editor: Steven G. Rogelburg

For me, JBP is the most prominent do-gooder in the area of IO publishing. As a few examples of the innovative initiatives pursued by JBP:

  1. These nuggets from their guide for authors are revealing: “We very rarely publish uninvited conceptual or theoretical pieces unless highly impactful and ground-breaking” and “The Journal of Business and Psychology is…dedicated to bridging the science/practice divide…striving to create interdisciplinary connections.” This ain’t no Academy of Management Review.
  2. Each year, JBP publishes a special feature edition, and some planned editions are directly targeted at improving the research-practice gap.  As described on their website, this planned edition is:

    a “State of the Practice” edition.  This edition would have about 12 pieces (around 3000 words each), typically written by well-known scientist-practitioners.  Each peer-reviewed piece would discuss best practices in a particular practice area that are extremely relevant in today’s business world.

    If you’re at all familiar with scholarly publishing, you’ll realize just how unusual such an effort would be.

  3. JBP did something completely unfamiliar to most IO psychologists when introducing its hybrid registered reports initiative. When taking this approach, researchers submit only the introduction and method for initial review. If the reviewers and editor approve the manuscript in this form, it becomes untouchable, like a dissertation proposal. If not one hypothesis is supported but the analyses are sound in the full version of the manuscript, that is still a publishable paper.

2. Personnel Assessment and Decisions
Editor: Scott Highhouse

PAD is a new journal, the official journal of the International Personnel Assessment Council (IPAC).  In addition to being open-access and therefore accessible to practitioners who often don’t have the journal subscriptions that universities do, PAD has a submission model unlike anything else in our field:

PAD is a unique short reports journal in industrial-organizational psychology. Its aim is to publish concise reports of empirical studies that provide meaningful contributions to our understanding of staffing organizations and assessing and developing its members. PAD strives to publish innovative, cutting-edge, and impactful research. It is geared toward a speedy review and publication process to allow innovative research to quickly become part of the applied and scientific discourse. Articles cannot exceed 4,000 words (excluding references), and may present new theory, new data, new methods, or any combination of these.

Short, impactful, practice, and cutting-edge. Not words commonly associated with scholarly publishing!

3. Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Perspectives on Science and Practice 
Editor: John Scott

IO Perspectives is the original “let’s try something different” journal in IO Psychology.  Its model is also quite unique:

Industrial and Organizational Psychology focuses on interactive exchanges on topics of importance to science and practice in our field. The journal features focal articles which present new ideas or different takes on existing ideas that stimulate conversation on an important issue for the field (or potentially a pair of papers taking opposite sides in a debate).

One of the side effects of the mainstream scholarly publishing model is that it’s much easier and thus more common to publish papers making small and incremental contributions. But sometimes what science needs is an about-face. IO Perspectives provides the opportunity for scholars to present controversial or tentative viewpoints, inviting other scholars to submit commentaries refuting or supporting that paper. Perhaps no opinions will change as a paper, or perhaps it will trigger a revolution. There’s only one way to find out.

Importantly, the current editor is a highly experienced practitioner. In that position, he can easily direct the journal toward those topics of most interest to both the academic and practitioner communities. And because access to IO Perspectives is an included benefit for membership in SIOP, IOs have no excuse not to read it!

The only way that new journals or journals with new initiatives like these succeed is if people like you read, cite, and submit to them. These are the journals to watch, and let’s hope more follow soon in their footsteps. As long as we hold in high esteem those journals that encourage a wider science-practice gap, that is exactly the sort of IO psychology research that will be published. Time to get to work!

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. December 17, 2015

    Thank you! Fantastic support for journals that have potential to shake up the industry.

  2. Richard Tonowski permalink
    January 5, 2016

    I just want to echo Paul and say thanks. The issue regarding the lack of practitioner relevance of our journals has been bemoaned for years, and there are folks in SIOP who have been working on it. But calling attention to journals that address practitioner needs is a real help, and citing to them is something we can all do.

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