Reconsidering the rigour-relevance gap: the need for contextualised research in risk societies
The Irish Journal of Management
This paper addresses the debate on rigour and relevance in management research to identify barriers to progress and identify the challenges and opportunities in moving forward. We identify strong calls from both North American and European literatures for a move to close this gap. It has, however, been 20 years since Hambrick asked scholars 'What if the academy actually mattered?' during his Presidential address to the Academy of Management. Despite both the time and the consistency of calls,
... istency of calls, there has been only modest progress in closing this rigour-relevance gap. We argue that this is not because of any lack of willingness or capacity but is shaped by systemic issues. We find the narrative of the business school framed as either professional or social sciences a core issue. Each brings with them a tradition of different ontological perspectives and epistemological processes, protected by gatekeepers, which supports, even if unintentionally, the maintenance of the gap. We go on to discuss the challenge of management education and research in a postmodern context, the need to examine our conception of rigour, and to challenge the definition of management as a profession given its strategic win-lose orientation. We conclude with a discussion on the relationship between society and business and lay out the challenges ahead for richly contextualised scholarly work that may be defined as both rigorous and relevant.