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Encouraging International Collaboration in I-O Psychology

John Cordery
University of Western Australia

Mark A. Griffin and Boris Kabanoff
Queensland University of Technology

As we ( Mark and Boris) pointed out in our last TIP column, we will explore the opportunities and challenges of international collaboration in I-O psychology by inviting individuals to comment on their personal experiences, successes, and frustrations in relation to collaboration. We have received some great feedback in response to our first column on this topic and encourage you to contact us with ideas, suggestions for contributors, or comments on international collaboration. In this issue, our first esteemed colleague to rise to the challenge is John Cordery, professor of HRM at the University of Western Australia. John seemed to us an excellent first choice not only because of his openness and wry sense of humour (both in evidence below) but also because his location could be considered as one of the most isolated (in I-O psychology terms) on planet earth. Perth, where UWA is located, has been described as the most isolated capital city in the world. The Indian Ocean is west (next stop Africa); to the east is the great Australian desert. It lies some 2,104 kms (1,308 mi) from the next main Australian city of Adelaide and is 3,597 kms (2,235 mi) from where we live in Brisbane. Perth is closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney, and sand gropers (the Aussie slang name for inhabitants of the fair state of Western Australia; incidentally, we Queenslanders are called Banana Benders and South Australians are called Crow Eatersall very affectionate, you understand) are more likely to swim in Bali than at Bondi on their holidays. Thus, we reasoned who better than John to tell us about how he has personally struggled with and quite frequently triumphed over the tyranny of distance? Over to you, John.

As an Antipodean (no, thats not one of the lesser known Hobbit families but archaic English for one who dwells at the opposite side of the globe), I grew up acutely aware of both the difficulties and value associated with collaboration across national boundaries. In 1976, when I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology at Otago University, the goal of most young New Zealanders was to gain overseas experience. At times, this urge was so powerfully manifested that an economically rationalist government was moved to issue an edict that the last one of us to leave the country should remember to switch out the lights. Thus it was, after completing a Masters in I-O psychology at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, I travelled to the Social & Applied Psychology Unit (SAPU) at Sheffield University in the UK to embark on a doctorate. The proximal cause of this particular move was the presence at the University of Canterbury of Peter Warr (then Director of SAPU) as a visiting research fellow. Peter encouraged students from overseas to spend time at SAPU, and I am eternally thankful that I responded to this encouragement.

The 3 very rewarding years I spent as a doctoral student at SAPU (now the Institute for Work Psychology) were instrumental in reinforcing in my mind the value of international exchange and collaboration and helped establish many international contacts that have persisted to this day. My doctorate, supervised by Toby Wall, focused on the role of leadership in job design and was completed while at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University) in Perth, Australia, where I took up my first job as a lecturer in I-O psychology. A brief, hopefully informative, geography lesson follows: Perth (capital of the state of Western Australia, population approximately 1.5 million) runs a close second to Santiago, Chile as the worlds most isolated city. As such it poses a particular challenge to the development and maintenance of international research collaboration. However, it has the advantage of being the centre of a strong mining and minerals processing industry, which provided me with the opportunity to establish my early research career (in the area of job design and self-managing work teams) and also provided a basis for continued collaboration with researchers from Sheffield University. The 1980s saw regular movement of academic researchers between SAPU and Perthfor example, Toby Wall, Roy Payne, Chris Clegg, and Peter Warr all spent time hereand vice versa (Sharon Parker was one researcher who moved from Perth to SAPU). In the early 1990s I joined Robert Wood in the Department of Management at the University of Western Australia. Bob had the foresight to put in place a vigorous and highly successful program of visiting scholars, a program I attempted to maintain when I became head of department in 1997. Visiting overseas I-O researchers at UWA over the past decade have included Jim Farr (Pennsylvania State University), Terry Mitchell (University of Washington), Dan Ilgen (Michigan State University), Nigel Nicholson (London Business School), Natalie Allen (University of Western Ontario), Gary Latham (University of Toronto), Robert House (Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania), Chris Clegg (University of Sheffield), Gary Johns (Concordia University), Paul Tesluk (University of Maryland), Debra Major (Old Dominion University), Anson Seers (Virginia Tech), Toby Wall (University of Sheffield) and many others.

Such international collaboration and exchange has obvious value. For research students, the opportunity to spend time with leading and active researchers from outside their program boundaries provides value beyond measure. It broadens and sharpens their focus, helps reinforce international standards of research training, and gives them a clearer sense of where they may fit within the international scholarly community. For some of our students, this has resulted in joint publications with international visitors and in time spent abroad in other doctoral programs. For academic staff, international collaboration helps develop a sense of connectedness, with other academics, institutions, and with professional bodies such as SIOP, APA, and the Academy of Management. Our program of visitors has led to the generation of joint publications and increased innovation in the generation of research projects. Interestingly, it is possible to exploit time differences to improve research productivity. Work completed during the day in Perth, for example, can be e-mailed to the Northern Hemisphere, ready for a further full days work there (in theory, at least!).

Developing and maintaining international links is not without its difficulties, however. Distance is obviously one of them, but not in the way you might think. When it comes to spending time at overseas locations, Internet connectivity means that even busy editors of top journals can function effectively away from their home bases. Physical separation from the administrative maelstrom of their home institutions can even be seen as advantageous by many academics as they seek to maximise research productivity. However, the perception of isolation can be a disincentive, particularly for career-conscious junior academics who fear being seen to be out of the loop for too long. For the tenure-track assistant professor, keeping within domestic boundaries is frequently seen as the safest option. For the risk adverse, recent world events also havent helped matterssadly, two U.S. academics were amongst those killed on September 11, 2001, en route to Australia. A friend and former visitor to UWA remarked that this was the same flight he and his wife had taken en route to Australia a month or so earlier, and I have a feeling that it may be some time before they come this way again. Understandably, there is now an enhanced reluctance for people to spend any more time on an airplane than totally necessary. Another major barrier to international collaboration is time, in the sense of the amount of time scholars are permitted to be away from their home institution. Increasingly, sabbatical leave is heavily rationed or is simply not available, and there are limits to what can be achieved simply by e-mail exchange or by meeting at conferences. When it comes to international travel, cost is also an issuenot so much for researchers from the U.S. wishing to spend time in Australia/Europe, but more so the other way given the relative strength of the dollar.

So, how can we encourage international collaboration amongst I-O psychology researchers? In my view, the following are important elements in encouraging successful cross-national collaboration.

1. Exchange programs for students and staff. In my view, nothing succeeds in fostering collaboration like physical colocation. Formal exchange agreements for both staff and students encourage this, demonstrating institutional commitment to international collaboration in the broadest sense and encouraging two-way traffic between institutions and research programs. Adjunct appointments for staff from other countries are another way of formally enshrining such collaboration.

2. International conferences. Encourage (and fund!) researchers to travel to international conferences. Researchers from this part of the world beat a regular path to SIOP and the Academy of Management meetings. However, it is important for I-O researchers to take the opportunity to attend conferences outside their own national boundaries (and indeed outside North America). An important international event in this respect is the IAAP International Congress of Applied Psychology which runs every 4 years (in Singapore in 2002, and Athens, Greece in 2006). The Australian Psychological Society sponsors a biennial Industrial-Organisational Psychology Conference in Australia (next one is 2003), the British Psychological Society runs an annual Occupational Psychology Conference and the European Congress of Work Psychology is run every 2 years. Holding small conferences of special interest groups (e.g. motivation) and varying the country in which they are held can also help to bring together researchers from different countries and to foster international collaboration. I know of a number of research groups that manage effective cross-national linkages in this way.

3. Participation in explicitly international associations. For example, the International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP, www.iaapsy.org/) has as its goal to establish contact between those who, in different countries, devote themselves to scientific work in the various fields of applied psychology, and to advance the study and achievement of means likely to contribute to the scientific and social development in this field. In addition to sponsoring a range of scientific meetings, the IAAP publishes Applied Psychology: An International Review, a journal that expressly encourages collaborative research output.

4. Sabbatical programs. Above all, true international collaboration requires researchers to be able to spend time interacting with staff and students across national boundaries. Sabbatical leave provides an important support for this process. Such opportunities should not solely be reserved for senior academics and should enable visits of a reasonable length (a month or longer).

5. Fellowships and scholarships. Visiting fellowships that help meet a key researchers airfare plus living expenses provide a strong incentive for international scholarship. This is particularly the case for junior researchers and also for those from countries whose currency is weaker that that of the country they are visiting. Otherwise researchers can be forced to spend most of their time teaching and/or cannot afford to come in the first place. Scholarships can also attract students who would otherwise be reluctant to cross national boundaries.

6. Internationalise editorial policies. This includes being open to publishing articles that might reflect a particular national perspective or paradigm, as well as appointing non-U.S. and non-European scholars to editorial review boards.

7. Live somewhere nice. Finally, and most importantly, make sure that you live in a place (like Perth) that has wonderful unspoilt beaches, good fishing, an outstanding mediterranean climate, and world-class wineries. This will encourage leading researchers to visit you.

 

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