Research review 2001 - 2007

Current facets (Pre-Master)

"Most research groups at Erasmus School of Economics are without any doubt world class"

The Review Committee [1] that performed an assessment of the research in Economics and Business Sciences at the Dutch universities is very impressed by the average quantity and quality of the research output. In some areas they concluded even that the research “is clearly world-leading”. The final assessments cover research in the period 2001-2007 and were based on the documentation provided by the Institutes, the key publications and the interviews with the management and with the leaders of the programmes. The interviews took place in November 2008 and May 2009 on a central location in Utrecht. Conform the Standard Evaluation Protocol (SEP) the concept of the report will be presented to the Boards of the Universities for formal acceptance.

The Committee is of the opinion that most research groups at Erasmus School of Economics are without any doubt world class. And a group like the marketing group belongs to the top marketing groups in the world. Given the current evaluation of the various groups in the School, the Committee finds the first medium term objective of Erasmus School of Economics (be ranked in the top 30 in the world in at least two academic fields) rather modest and thinks Erasmus School of Economics should be more ambitious! 

The Committee assessed the following programmes of the Erasmus School of Economics at the Erasmus University Rotterdam: [2]

 

Quality

Productivity

Relevance

Viability

Finance & Accounting and International Markets

4.5

5

4.5

3.5

Markets, Organisation and Government

4.5

5

5

5

Applied Economics

4

4.5

5

4

Econometrics

5

4.5

5

4

Marketing

5

5

4.5

4

Management Science

4

4.5

5

4

The Committee is of the opinion that the major reduction of programmes at Erasmus School of Economics (from 15 to 6 programmes) has contributed to the marked improvement in the performance of the School. By pruning out certain groups, selecting according to strict and coherent criteria based on a clear strategy and vision the Committee beliefs that the homogeneity of the programmes has increased on the one hand and has reduced complexity on the other hand. The emphasis on the mono-disciplinary economical research themes and moving the multi-disciplinary management themes to Rotterdam School of Management, created focus within Erasmus School of Economics and in the School on such things as publication list, type of research, reward and promotion, etc. It also facilitated the access to the top journals which tend to favour mono-disciplinary research. By increasing the homogeneity and therefore comparability among the various groups some healthy peer pressure stimulates competition and helps to raise the ambition and quality. The Committee declares that the improvement in research output (a tripling of output in top journals per fte over the review period) is impressive and that the quality is universally high among the research groups.  

The strategic choices as mentioned before, and the way they have been implemented have –according to the committee- been fundamental in the remarkable turnaround. The Committee is impressed by the fact that the missions of the School and of the two research institutes are not only very clear and serve as an effective guideline for the School, but also that these are widely shared amongst all the staff members they met. As they put it “They appear not only to share the mission and expressed goals but also are strongly committed towards them”. 

In the Committee’s opinion, the School is well aware of its strengths and weaknesses and is acting accordingly. The opportunities are real. There are further opportunities for collaboration with other groups within the Tinbergen Institute. Additionally, in the current economic climate being close to a business school can be an advantage. For instance, management programmes might be less vulnerable than MSc programmes. Nevertheless the Committee gives some warnings and advices. In this summary we state the main points:

  1. The strategy of Erasmus School of Economics is not without its risks. The Committee is especially concerned about the monodisciplinarity. The interaction with other disciplines such as sociology, psychology, etc can in certain areas be very enriching and stimulating. A mono-disciplinary approach to business issues does not always correspond with the multidisciplinarity of the problem. In other words, relevance might be a problem. More importantly maybe (still according to the Committee), is that a lot of interesting and important research is going on at the border between different disciplines. Moreover, many even fundamental research funding agencies favour multidisciplinary research. This might be the reason why Erasmus School of Economics is not satisfied with the income it is able to generate from these agencies.

  2. The income streams are generally well balanced among the various sources, although the School complains about a lack of projects funded by the fundamental research agencies. The Committee agrees with this observation. Given the quality of the research and given its international reputation, the School should be able to have a higher share of NWO funding.

  3. Although the Committee welcomes the strong mission statement connecting the School and the (business) community in the Rotterdam area, she was unable to identify any issue where the research groups where specifically relevant for the local area. The question is if this is a politically inspired statement or if it is for real.

  4. The School has to find ways to be more visible in public debates in the Netherlands, Europe and elsewhere.

  5. (Remark/advice for all Schools): The concept of programmatic research was not always applied with the same rigour. In some programmes heterogeneous research interests were combined. While in theory this provides the opportunity for novel and revealing research, in some cases we found little or no interaction between members of the same programme. In addition there was not always the same coherence in the research programme. We urge therefore for more focus. Focus increases the impact and visibility of research output within the scientific community. Internally focus facilitates leadership and collaboration. Focus does not necessarily mean monodisciplinary research. A research programme can also focus on an interdisciplinary issue, but in such cases the programme needs to be designed with a clear rationale for interdisciplinary work.

  6. (Remark/advice for all Schools): The Committee expects that the importance of the second and third stream of money will grow over time. Most faculty positions in the tenure track are currently based on the first income stream. Universities are reluctant to make faculty commitments based on what they see as less secure revenues. With the expected changes in the composition of revenues, Schools and research programmes will have to change their attitude and accept the possibility to employ tenured faculty based on other than first stream income. Externally funded endowed chairs are worth considering in this respect.  

To view the full report, download link.

[1] The Committee was composed as follows: Prof. Roland Van Dierdonck, Ghent University, chairman of the Committee, Prof. Guiseppe Bertola, Università di Torino, Prof. Catherine Casamatta, Université de Toulouse, Prof. Andrew Chesher, University College London, Prof. Pierre Dussauge, HEC School of Management, Paris, Prof. Matthias Jarke, RWTH Aachen, Prof. David Otley, Lancaster University, Prof. John Saunders, Aston University, Birmingham and Prof. Edward Snape, Hong Kong Baptist University. (back)

[2] Score ‘5’ is the highest score, score ‘1’ is the lowest score (back).