What makes a great (marketing) scholar?

dutchThe current issue of the European Journal of Marketing includes a very interesting paper trying to identify the most influential authors and institutions in the marketing field. The authors, two of which are associated to accounting, and the third author works for a health care company, use what they call a “threshold citation analysis” looking at who gets cited the most in top marketing journals – i.e. who has the greatest impact on the academic debate in marketing.

What makes the paper interesting are some of the findings in terms of what it takes to “join the elite” – and of course who they are. For example, household names (for marketing students) like Philip Kotler appear fairly low in the list of most influential scholars (85), while Richard Oliver (1), Valarie Zeithaml (2), and James Anderson (3) may be less familiar to many.

A very interesting (and sobering – if you are outside the US) read is also the list of top universities: Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Michigan are the three top ones when it comes to marketing citations. Europe has a VERY long way to go: The Swedish University of Uppsala is the highest ranked non-US institution (46) – and a further Swedish entry at 90 (Stockholm School of Economics). Sweden, despite of its (relatively small) size is doing amazingly well in the  top 100, especially considering that much larger countries such as France (one entry: INSEAD @ 52)  and the “traditional” stronghold of British institutions on university rankings is also reduced to a single contender: the London Business School (61). Other European countries like Italy, Spain or Germany make no appearance on the list, while the (relatively small) Belgium again has Leuven (56) appearing. What is maybe even the most interesting “country-level” result is the strong showing of the Netherlands: Four universities appear in the top 100: Groningen, (55) Maastricht (60), Wageningen (77) and Erasmus Rotterdam (87). The authors do acknowledge that some of the institutional rankings reported in the article are, of course, very much dependent on sometimes one researcher, citing the example of Richard Oliver as having about as much “citational influence” as the entire department of a Top 25 ranked university. However, even with the limitations of the methodology (which are extensively discussed in the actual article, of course) I wonder what are the “small” countries doing so well that they have such a strong showing in these results? I.e. what are the differences between Swedish, Dutch and Belgian researchers that “we in the larger (European) countries” can learn from? Are the smaller countries simply attracting elite researchers (of which there is no evidence in the article)? Or are they evaluating, prioritising or engaging in research differently – which makes them so phenomenally successful?

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