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Dr. Jeff McMullen, Editor-in-Chief of JBV Discusses the Rise of Entrepreneurship Journals

Wednesday, November 22, 2017  
Posted by: Shelby Solomon
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Entrepreneurship is on the rise across numerous metrics of scholarly success. Specifically, entrepreneurship journals are growing in quality and prestige—impact factors are climbing and acceptance rates have fallen to the single digits among the top journals. To learn more about the ascension of entrepreneurship journals, I spoke with Dr. Jeff McMullen, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Business Venturing (JBV).  In addition to his service at JBV, Jeff has maintained an impressive research platform with publications in essentially all of the top management and entrepreneurship journals.


So how has the journal changed over the past several years and what is Jeff’s approach to keeping JBV on top?


Jeff: There has been an ascendency of all the entrepreneurship journals.  The field has always been relevant, but it has definitely risen in prominence and rigor. And why is that the case? We now have 20 years worth of scholars who primarily see themselves as entrepreneurship scholars, not as a secondary interest area, but as their primary interest area. I also think that it is a function of—especially at JBV—the field’s deliberate attempt to be inclusive and take an open market approach. [Journals] have tried to go the opposite route of creating barriers to entry. At JBV, we have sought to avoid becoming a club by remaining open to new ideas and continuously looking for new scholars interested in the area. We are an entrepreneurship journal and the first step to that is to be entrepreneurial in how we run that journal. As a result, we embrace the new, wherever it comes from, instead of trying to circle the wagons and protect some arbitrarily determined domain or turf. Instead, we try to figure out how to adapt and respond to what is interesting, what is relevant, and what is new in social science and business. I think it is up to the editor-in-chief to continue to look and say, “where do we need new field editors that can give voice and representation to new crowds and new areas of research,” “where do we need a special issue to get a conversation started that isn't yet happening yet in the journal?” That takes some deliberate intent and willingness to respond to new opportunities.


Considering JBV’s mission to be inclusive of diverse perspectives on entrepreneurship, I went on to ask Jeff, “What are the hallmarks of a great JBV paper?”


Jeff: I would say there is no one formula, but there may be a combination of things. First, it entails a phenomenon that’s inherently interesting—I am not talking only theoretically, I am just talking about the phenomenon itself. Is it interesting? Does it involve a tension or a problem that happens to also be conceptually timely and timeless? Is the phenomenon representative of an issue that we see manifest over-and-over again but in different shapes and forms? Maybe people didn't recognize that something Uber is dealing with now is a repeating occurrence—a problem that has been addressed multiple times in the literature and because of that, the scholar goes ahead and asks a really interesting theoretical question that both refines and refutes what we thought we knew. By studying this interesting phenomenon we can learn a lot about theory in terms of creating organizations, being open to opportunity, or however you define entrepreneurship. There are some other basic ingredients. It is important that the paper  is well-written.  Obviously the study must be well-designed and well-executed, but the story of the paper must be engaging. People forget that these papers are not just science, they are telling a story.  Is that story asking a question that is worth answering and is it answered well? If your paper does that, then you may have a JBV on your hands.


The discussion between us ended with Jeff stating his interest in further legitimizing entrepreneurship as a discipline distinct from management and calling upon more scholars to openly identify as entrepreneurship academics.


Jeff: Entrepreneurship by its very nature is an even bigger tent than management—I see us as overlapping management heavily but not subsumed by it. At JBV we have scholars from everywhere. They're from economics, psychology, sociology.  Many don’t self identify with management, so we try to have field editors that speak their language to make them feel comfortable publishing in the journal. We do the same with functional areas like finance, accounting, or marketing. We traditionally have field editors that are from accounting or are from marketing reviewing those papers, so that we are not just importing ideas into management or into entrepreneurship.  It is essential that we develop  the capability of exporting knowledge to the functional areas or to those disciplines. I believe that has begun, and it is where I see the future of the journal: as an exporter of knowledge, not just as an importer of knowledge.

I encourage anyone who researches entrepreneurship to embrace that identity and own it. I think the time has come for people to say, “I am an entrepreneurship researcher and proud of it.” I think it is time to declare it and own it, and I think if you look at the metrics of the field.  It is something that is easy to be proud of.  There is a subset of scholars whose mental models are antiquated in thinking that the entrepreneurship journals may not be as rigorous as their preferred outlet from 20 years ago.  My guess is that these scholars have not tried to publish in JBV (or possibly anywhere else for some time).  My recommendation to them is to try – assuming, that is, they believe their work is strong enough to be published in JBV.  We welcome their input and offer the opportunity to update their antiquated mental model with real-time, scientific data experienced first hand.  There is room for anyone in entrepreneurship as long as he or she has something interesting to say.. Please join us!


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