Category Archives: Business Economics and Informatics

Thriving at different stages of an academic career

Professor Morten Huse discussed making an impact at different stages in the scholarly life cycle in his second talk for Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics.

On Tuesday 15 March, Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics was delighted to welcome back Professor Morten Huse for the second talk in a series discussing ‘How to become and thrive as an impactful scholar.’

The series, organised and chaired by Dr Muthu De Silva, Assistant Dean (Research), aims to develop Birkbeck’s scholarly community and to support academic colleagues in their research endeavours. The second talk, ‘Thriving at different stages of an academic career’ draws on insights from chapter 9 of Morten’s book ‘Resolving the crisis in research by changing the game’.

Morten encouraged attendees to consider their academic career as a life cycle, reflecting on his own experience of being affiliated with many different universities and the lessons learned along the way. He reflected on some key philosophies that have guided his academic career:

  • ‘Ritorno al passato’ – the need to reconsider the modern approach to scholarship.
  • ‘From POP (publish or perish) culture to a sharing philosophy’.
  • ‘Life is too short to drink bad wine’ – we don’t have unlimited time, so it is important to prioritise what matters most.

What is true scholarship?

Morten commented: “It is easy to think that we are measuring scholarship by publications,” arguing that, as early as the 1990s, academics were already feeling pressurised to publish in certain journals. This has resulted in ‘hammer and lamp syndrome’, where scholars address problems that are already under the lamp, i.e., where data is already available, instead of seeking out difficult problems, as this is an easier route to getting published. Similarly, Morten explained: “If you have a hammer, you see the world as a nail and will look for the easiest way to getting published.”

Reflecting on Boyer (1996), Morten argued that scholarship is not what scholars do, but who they are. When aiming for excellence in research, the goal should reach beyond getting published to thinking about the impact research is having. According to the European Research Council, excellence in research involves:

  • Proposing and conducting groundbreaking and frontier research
  • Creative and independent thinking
  • Achievements beyond the state of the art
  • Innovation potential
  • Sound leadership in training and advancing young scientists
  • Second and third order impact.

Defining your scholarly ambition

Morten noted that academic careers can look different for everyone and that scholarly ambitions are personal and will vary. Career paths can take a teaching, administrative or research route and reach could vary from local, national, to global.

Morten reflected: “It’s easy not to do the proper reflections, integrations and scholarly enquiry. It’s easy not to make a contribution to developing the scholarly community. It’s easy not to give priority to doing something for society. In reality, the scholarly life cycle is not just about getting published; there is so much more that is needed.”

He shared an image of what the scholarly life cycle could look like, enabling senior scholars to give back to junior colleagues:

Graph showing the different stages of an academic career.

We would like to thank Professor Huse for a thought-provoking presentation and discussion. The next event in this series will take place in May, where we hope to have the opportunity to bring our community together in person. Details to follow soon on the Department of Management events page.

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International students tour London’s legal landmarks

Birkbeck’s international students took a well-earned break from their studies to tour the iconic sites of London’s legal history.

On 16 March, Birkbeck’s international students braved a wet and windy Wednesday to explore the legal heart of London.

From The Old Bailey, to the chapels and squares of Lincolns Inn, this walking tour gave our students an insight into London’s most iconic legal landmarks.

Beginning at St. Paul’s, this tour showcased archetypal London architecture, with stories of pubs, writers and barristers along the way.

Valeria Giannoli, an Italian MSc Management student, said: “The walking tour is a fantastic way to socialise and learn something new at the same time. We had a lot of fun while walking around the historic legal buildings of London. Tim Kidd explained to us the past and the present history of the most important courts in London (e.g. Central Criminal Court, Wine Office Court, Central London County Court) and the role of the most notable people in the legal framework of the UK. Will, responsible to plan this event, is extremely kind and helpful should you have any questions or concerns (he won’t let you get lost in the city while you are looking for the meeting point 😉). That one was my first walking tour and I am so glad that I dedicated a little bit of my time to learning something more about this gorgeous city as well as meeting some beautiful people from our University! I hope more people will be able to join this events, you don’t want to miss these out!”

Yasaman Samadian, an Iranian BSc Data Science and Computing student, said: “This walking tour with Mr Tim Kidd was a brilliant experience to learn about legal history of London, to have a different point of view about old mysterious buildings and to consider the meaning and philosophy behind those valuable status and signs. I would love to participate in any upcoming events like that in the future, as it’s a nice adventure between busy hours of study and work”.

We would like to thank the very knowledgeable Tim Kidd for leading this tour.

 

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BEI Welcomes International University of Catalonia to Experience Birkbeck Life

Will Richards from BEI’s international team reflects on a recent visit from delegates of the International University of Catalonia – complete with cream tea and Friday fish and chips!

On the week of 1 March, Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics was delighted to host a visiting delegation of prospective partnership students from Spain.

Birkbeck’s close relationship with the International University of Catalonia (UIC) brought six visiting students to the heart of Bloomsbury, with Andrea Williams and Will Richards from BEI’s international team on hand to greet them. Joining them was Nicoletta Occhiocupo and Marta Segura Vacarisas, of the university’s faculty.

Visitors attended sample lectures on Financial Economics by Dr Ken Hori and Marketing by Dr Nick Pronger and were given a campus tour. Although an emphasis was placed on the academic opportunities at Birkbeck, there was an opportunity for students to enjoy some classic Friday fish and chips and even a cream tea at the British Museum!UIC delegates enjoying afternoon tea at the British Museum.Birkbeck’s partnership with the International University of Catalonia allows UIC students to achieve a dual-degree, with an academic year spent in London.

This experience allows our partnership students to experience British culture in our great city, whilst also allowing them to achieve a prestigious University of London degree.UIC delegates standing outside the Marquis Cornwallis pub.In October 2022, we look forward to welcoming our second – and largest-ever – cohort of UIC partnership students. With Birkbeck’s ever-expanding international student community, we look forward to developing our special partnerships.

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Are you truly sustainable? An investigation of de-certified B-Corps

Dr Silvia Blasi and Professor Silvia Rita Sedita shared insights from their research into B-Corps and the tendency towards de-certification in this Responsible Business Centre Seminar.

In response to the growing challenges of social and environmental issues, an increasing number of companies are looking to use business as a force for good to solve society’s big problems, not just for profit. B Lab, a not-for-profit organisation, has taken the lead in providing the necessary infrastructure for this shift.

However, as of April 2019, at least 930 registered B Corps were no longer certified on the B Lab database. What is the reason for this tendency towards de-certification, and what could be done to support businesses to improve their social and environmental impact?

On Tuesday 22 February 2022, Dr Silvia Blasi and Professor Silvia Rita Sedita joined Birkbeck’s Responsible Business Centre for a seminar on their latest research into this phenomenon. The paper discussed in this seminar is part of a project exploring B Corps funded by the University of Padova.

What is a B-Corp?

The B-Corp movement was launched in 2006 by B Lab, an American not-for-profit organisation, with the aim of creating an infrastructure for a new sector that would use the power of private enterprise to create public benefit.

The first 19 B Corps were certified in 2007 and the movement has rapidly gained momentum, with high-profile names such as Patagonia, Danone and Unilever becoming B-Corps. At the time of writing, there are now 3682 certified B Corps in over 70 countries and 150 industries.

The B Corps movement is accelerating a global shift to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Certification helps entrepreneurs to measure, capture and legitimise their social efforts (Woods, 2016). To obtain certification, an organisation must achieve a B impact assessment of 80 or more out of 200.

The growth of a movement

Since 2016, the number of companies that have used the B Impact assessment around the world has grown exponentially. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of B Corp certifications increased by 26%.

Dr Silvia Blasi noted that a rise in the number of B Corps has corresponded with increased scientific outputs in this field. A recent paper by the presenters conducts a literature review in this area and provides a clear-cut academic explanation of B-Corps.

Why is there a tendency towards decertification for B Corps?

Despite promising statistics showing the rise in new B Corp certifications, Silvia highlighted that in 2019, 930 B Corps were no longer certified. Her research aims to explore the reasons behind decertification.

Although there are no studies to date which explore decertification specifically, an analysis of the literature points to three main causes of decertification:

  • Financial problems – there is a high cost associated with (re)certification that poses a barrier to organisations.
  • Low economic benefits – organisations that do not see an increase in income as a result of certification are more likely to decertify in the future.
  • Perceived complexity of the certification process – perceptions of the certification process as a barrier and uncertainty about future requirements are a key factor behind decertification.

The presenters identified three further factors to explore that could impact on likelihood to decertify:

  • Size – small and medium-sized enterprises are at higher risk of decertification than larger companies. This could be due to limited resource and legitimacy challenges faced by smaller and younger firms.
  • Sustainability performance – research to date suggests that sustainability performance does not impact whether an organisation will become decertified.
  • Financial performance – Cao, Gehman and Grimes (2017) underline that de-certified companies have lower average sales compared to certified B Corps.

The study so far

Silvia shared insights from the presenters’ work-in-progress research paper exploring the reasons for decertification.

The research aimed to answer two questions:

  1. In comparison with currently certified B Corps, what are the main features of companies that did not maintain their B Corp certification?
  2. Are there any relationships between their decertification decision with their financial performance and sustainability performance?

The study sample comprised 1,272 companies, whose data was gathered from B Lab impact data and financial data from Orbis. Logistical regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between social, environmental and financial performance outcomes and B Corp decertification status.

The researchers found a theoretical assertion that B Corp decertification is susceptible to company size, with SMEs being particularly vulnerable. Organisations from Global South or developing economies also had a higher likelihood of decertification. In contrast, companies with higher operating revenue and strong governance had a weaker tendency towards decertification.

Company sector, community and location were not significant.

Silvia emphasised the importance of governance and workers as factors which have a significant role in shaping the probability of decertification, as these give priority to strategies and practices that benefit internal stakeholders. Inward investments in sustainability performance play a critical role in influencing the company’s decision to continue pursuing B Corp certification or not.

What are the implications for policy?

The findings of the study can help to identify signals of potential decertification so that certifying bodies can modify policies and processes to reduce decertification rates and companies can adopt new strategies and practices to retain certified status.

Supporting policies or company strategies could begin with boosting inward investment related to corporate governance, employee benefits, work environment etc. to ensure a solid basis for improving overall sustainability performance.

We would like to thank Dr Blasi and Professor Sedita for an insightful and thought-provoking discussion.

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