Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Advice on Doing Research, Publishing, and Reviewing from Nordlog PhD Workshop in Sweden

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of taking part in the 2013 Nordlog Symposium at the School of Business, Economics and Law at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The symosium is part of the 2013 NOFOMA Conference, which begins today, and will take place at the Chalmers University of Technology, also in Gothenburg. This is the 25th NOFOMA!


NOFOMA is a network of Nordic researchers within the field of Logistics and Supply Chain Management. The aim of NOFOMA is to contribute to the continuous improvement and further development of Nordic logistics research and researchers.

The main activities of the network include:
  • The Annual NOFOMA Conference on logistics research.
  • The Nordlog Doctoral Symposium focusing on issues of particular relevance to doctoral students. This event takes place in connection with the annual conference.
  • The NOFOMA Educators Conference focusing on issues of particular interest to teaching and education. This event takes place in connection with the annual conference.
  • The Joint-Nordic PhD Program in Logistics. See more about the program in Ojala and Hilmola (eds.): "Case Study Research in Logistics"; Publications of The Turku School of Economics and Business Administration, Series B 1:2003.
Researchers belonging to the NOFOMA network are mainly from the Nordic countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, but does not exclude research issues or people from other parts of the world from our activities. On the contrary, logistics and supply chain research are boundary spanning issues by nature.

Joining me in the morning part of te workshop yesterday were: Professors Alex Ellinger of the School of Business at the University of Alabama and Professor Patrick Jonsson of Chalmers.

Professor Ellinger provided the participants, which included PhD students from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Germany, insights into the journal submission process and reviewing.  He provided the perspective of an Editor.

He had some fabulous stories (I am sure that you probably have your personal ones as well), which included the following.

1. In one referee's report on a paper, the reviewer wrote: You should read the literature of Professor SOANDSO. The paper was actually written by Professor SOANDSO (the review process was double blind so the author did not know the reviewer and the reviewer did not know the author).

2. In another true story, he recalled a report that he received that said that he needs to get a proofreader for his English. (Professor Ellinger was born in England and is a native speaker of English.)

I shared my experience of a report that I had received in which the (anonymous) reviewer wrote: Please add the initial "L." to my middle name in the references.

Professor Jonsson spoke of how he goes about reviewing a paper from his personal perspective and approach and I found it very similar to mine. He emphasized that one should quickly respond to a request for a review (whether positive or negative) and spoke on the cycle of reviewing, getting the paper back, reading and reviewing the revision (assuming not a rejection), and so on.

In addition, Jonsson said that once he received a paper to review, which he had authored, so he, gracefully, declined. The Editor then responded that he clearly picked a reviewer who knows the area.

I emphasized in my presentation, where one can gets ideas for research from, how to select a journal. the importance of being very professional and diplomatic in responding to reviewers and also in preparing the manuscript. I also emphasized that one should believe in one's work, never give up, since even Nobel prize winners (in different fields) have had their major papers rejected (some, such as Akerlof, multiple times).
 I also spoke on the philosophy of research and why conducting research is so rewarding.

In the afternoon, we circulated among the doctoral students, all of whom have had their papers reviewed for the NOFOMA Conference, at which they will be presenting them. The goal is to ultimately (since this conference does not produce a copyright publication) have the work accepted in a journal. The limits of the papers were at about 16 pages and it was clear that the students had so many interesting ideas --sometimes difficult to fully develop within the page limit.

In my group there was papers on biosensors in food supply chains with a major funded project in Sweden, in which the doctoral student is even developing the biosensors. With so much food being wasted throughout the supply chain there could be huge environmental and economic gains from such a holistic and technological innovation. Given my latest book, Networks Against Time: Supply Chain Analytics for Perishable Products, I was very interested in this paper.

Another paper was by a doctoral student from Germany and it focused on package optimization in the supply chain. She had worked for the innovative company TetraPak and the discussions were very good as to how to make the paper even better. She had surveyed Swedish companies in food and in manufacturing to find out what they were doing in terms of packaging and the supply chain. She found that business to business firms were not as concerned about capturing the consumers' eye as were the business to consumer firms, which wanted to draw the attention of the consumer to their products and, hence, might have bigger packaging than might be warranted from an environmental standpoint. I was reminded of the work of Jack Ampuja of Nagara University who has a company that does packaging optimization and he has come to the Isenberg School of Mnagement at UMass Amherst on several occasions to speak to my students.

Several of the students in my group were from Lund University and there are 3 different departments of logistics there!

Another paper was on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and supply chains and I brought out that one of my former students, Jose M. Cruz, who is now an Associate Professor at UConn''s School of Business, had done a lot of work on this topic, and which had been published in EJOR, IJPE, and IJPR.

Given the largest disaster in the history of the garment industry that took place in Bangladesh, in which over 1,000 perished in a factory collapse, and now the fire in the poultry plant  in China in which over 100 perished, CSR, integrated with supply chains, to include the crucial human element is essential.

I also very much enjoyed the paper by a more senior doctoral student on supply chain strategy (or design) associated with different products in which he brought out the significance of the paper in the Harvard Business Review of Marshall Fisher of Wharton, well-known to us on OR/MS.

There were also papers on humanitarian logistics but the day went by too quickly to be able to delve deeply into all. I look forward to hearing additional presentations at NOFOMA today and tomorrow.

Below are some photos taken at the workshop. The lunch of salmon and potatoes was delicious!

Many thanks to the organizers for this fascinating workshop that was very well-done.

And the speakers were even presented with a gift -- how thoughtful!