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Dominance of SIOP Membership by Online Degree Holders Coming

2017 July 19
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by Richard N. Landers

If you haven’t checked out the July SIOP Newsbriefs, there’s some interesting details buried via the “SIOP Membership Trends” article about I-O psychology online degree holders.  If you open that article (in PDF form, gag) and then delve deeper, you can find a series of visualizations put together by viz master and all-around great guy Evan Sinar.  The first two of this visualizations show the distribution of SIOP members by both country and by local area within the United States, which is pretty interesting on its own.

For example, I can zoom into southeast Virginia and see there are 39 registered I/Os in my vicinity.   Assuming this includes student members, that leaves about 15 SIOP members not affiliated with ODU living nearby.  Who are you people and why don’t you offer my students more internships so they don’t have to move across the country and stop working on our research projects for a whole summer!!!


Even more interesting to me is the third visualization in that PDF, which I’ve copy/pasted here.  (Hopefully Evan won’t mind!)


Current SIOP members by date of degree earned, taken from this PDF.

If you stare at this long enough, you’ll discover a few interesting but generally unsurprising tidbits: Akron dominated I/O graduations from 1980-2010, there are a bunch of Minnesotans from the 1960s hanging around, etc., etc.

But if you stare at it a little longer, you’ll notice something interesting on the right side: online institutions are generally replacing non-online as the most prolific institutions in terms of graduates.  Capella and Walden not only appeared but immediately achieved high rankings in the 2010s, and among current students, Grand Canyon, Phoenix, and the online Chicago School all appear.  Most of the “big name” schools that are generally synonymous with I/O psychology disappear entirely.  These programs are also a mix of Master’s and Ph.D., so these schools aren’t necessarily just churning out 2-year degrees (although that certainly contributes).

Are we staring in the face of a massive cultural shift in I/O psychology given this influx?  Or will differences in training mean that these students have a much harder time breaking into “real I/O jobs” and disappear from the SIOP membership ranks later?  I’ve talked about online programs and their rankings in my I/O graduate school series before.  I’ve also heard a few stories from people it has happened to that generally go like this: a student gets a degree from a online program without the training or culture of traditional programs, finds themselves locked out of most I/O consulting firms, and ends up taking a vanilla HR position somewhere for a much lower salary than an I/O degree is traditionally worth.

Online I/O degrees are not necessarily worse than in-person degrees, but the training does tend to be part-time, and as a result, it is on average much less intense preparation despite an equal number of years spent studying.  I’ve also met a number of online students who only came to the SIOP conference for the first time after graduation when they discovered they couldn’t get a job.  Many of these students would have excelled in a brick-and-mortar program if they’d had the opportunity/time, too.

So what do you think will happen, both to SIOP and to this influx of online students?

Journal of Applied Psychology Not Most Cited I-O Psychology Journal

2017 June 21
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by Richard N. Landers

2016 impact factors for academic journals across all of science were released last week by Clarivate Analytics (formerly Thomson Reuters), as part of their Journal Citation Reports database. There are a couple of interesting tidbits, particularly in relation to Journal of Applied Psychology.

Here is the top 15 of the list for the “applied psychology” category of journal and their impact factors:

Artist's rendering of the current struggle.

Artist’s rendering of the current struggle. And I really struggled with whether Ryu should be punching JAP or PP.

  1. 7.733: Journal of Management
  2. 6.959: Annual Review of OP and OB
  3. 4.783: Organizational Research Methods
  4. 4.362: Personnel Psychology
  5. 4.130: Journal of Applied Psychology
  6. 3.607: Journal of Organizational Behavior
  7. 3.400: Work and Stress
  8. 3.385: Journal of Consumer Psychology
  9. 3.139: Journal of Occupational and OP
  10. 3.125: Media Psychology
  11. 3.094: Leadership Quarterly
  12. 2.917: Intl Review of Sport and Exercise Psych
  13. 2.809: Psychology of Sport and Exercise
  14. 2.722: Applied Psych-Health and Well Being
  15. 2.694: Journal of Business and Psychology

Impact factors are a really coarse metric of success – the average number of citations to articles within a journal – so they only give a general sense of how “impactful” a journal really is. Remember, articles are also often cited because they’re both highly visible and highly flawed.  You might also notice that JOM is not really “applied psychology”, and that other types of applied psychology, like media psych and consumer psych, are also in the list.

The list led me to two observations:

One, Personnel Psychology is now more highly cited than Journal of Applied Psychology.  Considering JAP is I-O’s flagship APA-published journal (PP is published by Wiley), this is particularly interesting. What practices do you think have led JAP to lose ground to PP?  My suspicion is that JAP slightly more frequently publishes theoretical advancements that no one except the people researching them care about. After all, the narrower your topic, the fewer people will find it relevant to their own work, and theory in both JAP and PP is pretty narrow these days.  That doesn’t imply that the quality of the work is poorer, just that I-O theory is increasingly irrelevant to anyone except I-Os.  Whether that’s a “problem” or not is a matter of perspective.

Two, Journal of Business and Psychology appears at 15th in this list, with an IF of 2.694.  This is dramatically higher than it was last year and I think is a great reflection of the progressive editorial practices put in place by editor Steven Rogelberg. Among “core general audience I-O publications,” this means it’s in third place, behind PP and in front of Journal of Vocational Behavior.  If I were to make a wager, I’d bet that it will be even higher next year. Is it on track to surpass both JAP and PP one day?

SIOP 2017: I/O Reformist vs. I/O Traditionalist

2017 June 16
by Richard N. Landers

One of the little things I noticed at SIOP this year – a little thing, but consistent across sessions and the people I talked to – is that there are two opposing stances toward the existential issues currently facing I/O psychology, and how to respond to them, at least among those aware of those issues: those of the traditionalist and the reformist.

First, the traditionalist.  I/O traditionalists tend to assume that everything’s okay and that this is a lot of noise about nothing important. I heard a lot of lines like, “We’ve been through this before” or “Practitioners don’t realize why theory’s so important” or “This too shall pass.” Traditionalists are not uniformly academics though; many practitioners believe in their tried-and-true-methods and think they are perfectly sufficient, that academia will continue to churn out small refinements, and that’s enough. Most of the foundational I/O techniques, like job analysis and basic scale design, were developed half a century ago, of course, and in general they still work great.

The most deeply entrenched traditionalists also seem to be the most deeply embedded in our current approach to publishing and have benefited in their own careers from mastering the approach: creating new theory is more important than any other goal, such as providing practical conclusions or using rigorous research methodology.

The second of these, and the side I fall on, is the reformist. Reformists tend to be a little younger, although not exclusively, perhaps more recently and first-hand having seen how broken our publishing system is. I met several mid-tenure Assistant Professors who when trying to publish their own work have realized that the standards for publishing are not precisely what they’d been taught. I could see their bubbles having recently shattered, and it is depressing. There are also overwhelmingly more practitioners in this group, people frustrated with how academia has seemingly ignored their pleas for years.

Reformists are a bit less uniform in their specific beliefs than traditionalists, but they all agree “something is wrong that need fixing.” Perhaps we need to better integrate science and practice. Perhaps we need to reach across the HR aisle. Perhaps we need to reach across the computer scientist aisle. Perhaps this is all the responsibility of SIOP leadership, or perhaps it can only be solved with a grassroots effort. So there is significant disagreement on what precisely is wrong, what precisely needs to be fixed, and how. The reformists I talked to also tended to be frustrated and disappointed that it became this broken before anyone in a position of power said anything publicly and attributed the magnitude of our current problems to that delay.

I also heard a couple of people resigned to no change, believing that our current momentum toward mediocrity will keep us moving that direction, that we are condemned to simply watch as I/O slowly fades from world relevance to an even less influential role for our field than we already hold. As a reformist, I’m not quite that pessimistic, myself.

What I was very happy to hear from both of these groups was a continuing desire to maintain the I/O community.  To me, this is the core strength of I/O; there is a strong “I/O psychologist” identity, as if the fact that we can’t call ourselves “I/O psychologists” to our clients and customers strengthens our awareness of that identity behind the scenes. To clients, we’re people analysts, or HR specialists, or senior consultants, or data scientists, or whatever other buzzword you might want. But to each other, we’re all I/Os. We’re all in this together, and so it’s together that we need to find a solution.

As for me, I don’t know what the solution is, where to find the right balance between reinventing ourselves and staying true to our traditions. But as a reformist, I’m confident there is one, if only we’ll try to find it together.