Research Systems Project Meeting (23/10/2015)

Attendees: GG, AG, WB, FE, JS, YX, MO, MZ, KS

The Research Systems Discovery Grant: Chief Investigators are GG, WB and Kai Riemer; Partner Investigators are Arun Rai (recently appointed editor in chief of MISQ) and Mary Tate; Collaborators are Joerg Evermann, Ron Weber and Ahmad Al-Turki, and Associate Investigator is Alison Gable

  1. Attendees introduced themselves and their research interests

AG: Interest in the process of doing research, philosophy of science, methodology, critical realism

FE: Information quality and critical realism, conceptualisation and how critical realism can help

JS: Holds two Masters 1) Identifying how Fortune 500 companies are creating value through social media 2) The Mayo clinic – how they are doing knowledge management (At the Sorbonne). Current research interest is concerned with disability needs and online platforms

YX: Background in mathematics

MO: Background in Computer Science. Currently researching the business value of IT and how to create it, complex adaptive systems and simulation

MZ: Finalising his thesis for submission this month or next. Interested in research methods in theory building, multilevel research, facet theory and simulation method.


  1. Expectations of PhD students

GG: All PhD students should/may make some methodological contribution: a paper that reports their learning on how to do research well. They should be Reflective research Designers.

GG: BPM have a document for starting PhDs which lists tasks to be completed e.g. publication expectations. It uses a point system. A version of this document might be useful for our group but not as rigidly applied.

A brief discussion took place with GG, AG and WB as to if such a tool can be applied or not to the social sciences type of research we have under this group (WB sharing that even in the BPM group the ‘test’ they use and the standard reading list they use is to those doing very focused research on Workflow

MZ has produced a reading list of key readings. It is rather daunting at the moment. We need to consider what should be on the list. Perhaps there needs to be a common list and a list tailored to students’ interests.

  1. The Research Systems Annotated Bibliography

This should contain:

  1. The key readings (including an annotation on the items relevance to research systems).
  2. Our publications (with a reflection on what relevance this might have to research systems)

These reflections might help us when preparing grant progress reports.

Perhaps we need to develop guidelines on what to include in this database.

  1. What we are and what we want to be

A discussion took place around the table on what Research Systems (RS) is … GG mentioned that this would be an “evolving – thing” and made some suggestions around this slide:

We are highly reflective on research design

WB: How can we be innovative in our research design

AG recommended the work of Matts Alvesson. He advocates critical reflection. The research questions we are asking are getting us nowhere – we need to look back on what has been done but in completely new ways. The Alvesson book might be on our reading list.

  1. Individual attempts at defining research systems

WB: Considered the key words that came to mind:

  • Capturing ‘good’ practices and developing new/ best practices / Guidelines
  • Standardised research, to gain rigour efficiently
  • Tool support for efficiency and effectiveness

GG: Understanding the limitations of our research methods. Can we build a rule base for doing certain things

AG: Sometimes methodological choices are controlled by the circumstances. Researchers might need to quickly change the methodology they use. Research systems might assist people to change methodology and maintain rigour by operationalizing some aspects of the methodology.

AG: See research systems as “systems of thought” that lead to systems of practice. ‘Interstanding’ – how systems of thought interact and impose themselves on each other. Best practice depends on your philosophical stance.

WB: It is important for the artefacts we design that we say what system/s of thought they are relevant in. The systems of thought becomes the frame of reference.

Ontology of methodology – the key references might contribute

AG: there is currently a review of research training and research funding systems. It is important we get higher level understanding

Methodology is governed by circumstances .: how to “adapt” (to be agile/ alternatives etc) is often encountered and this leaves a huge knowledge gap for PhD Students who already have SO much to do in just 3 years…. All of our work from this program can support addressing this knowledge gap


FE: Mingers framework could be a guideline for making a typology. For example it might assist when considering what kind of research questions you can ask.

GG: Your typology might be similar to what we are describing as an ontology.

“IS is about modelling the world” to reduce complexity …

JS: What kind of research questions to ask based on the maturity of the field.

MZ: We need to articulate why we think some research methods can be black boxed. There are factors that prevent researchers being reflective. Certain decisions cannot be formalized and cannot be black boxed.

GG: Research should be more systematized. There can be aids to facilitate this. A system that tells you your choices and why/in what circumstances a particular choice might be appropriate.

MZ: we need to try to understand our opponents i.e. those who would oppose black boxing aspects of research.

  1. What should we be focusing on

There was discussion of the slide (see below) showing concentric circles: ‘technological’ in the centre, ‘behavioural’ the next circle and ‘sociological’ the outer circle.

There was a suggestion that ‘philosophical’ might be even further from the centre. We have to focus on the things that are easier – technical and behavioural e.g. for students using a technological approach a process for reflecting on the value.

AG: the reality of IS is now much wider – as technology is integrated into our lives the sociological aspects have become more important.

WB: brought up the example of trust. There are technological, behavioural and sociological aspects. It can be very nuanced.

AG: You need to understand the system of thought being used

JS: Evidence based research processes.

WB: Evidence that this particular research question is valuable – can the work that we do here consider that?

GG: How does evidence inform how we go about research?

Automate to a point but acknowledge the risks

AG: Evidence here is the ability to justify decisions made in the research process

WB: The challenge is evaluating anything we produce.