Early in 2017 Sudha Ram received an emailed invitation. Her name had come up as a potential editor for a new journal for business analytics—was she interested?
This invitation came from the Operational Research (OR) Society—a 60-year-old British organization providing publications, conferences, training and information to those working in operations research in 53 countries.
Ram is a professor of Management Information Systems at the University of Arizona. Since 2012 she has served as the director of INSITE: Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics—a research center that specializes in scalable network analysis, visualization, large scale graph mining, and predictive modeling.
In response to the OR Society’s request, she wrote a proposal sharing her vision for the upcoming Journal of Business Analytics, OR’s fifth peer-reviewed journal. She saw a need for a top tier publication outlet that covers the latest research in the rapidly growing field. “We have a lot of information systems journals where a subset of the papers published are in the area of business analytics,” she says. “I wanted to see a journal that’s purely focused on it, and we don’t have any of those right now in the U.S.”
The OR Society had a long list of nominations for the editor position, and they received several proposals. Ram was shortlisted for the position and advanced to the next step—a video conference call to discuss her ideas with people from the OR Society publications department.
When contacted with the news that she had been selected as an editor-in-chief, she was asked if she’d be willing to work with Dursun Delen, Regents Professor of Management Science and Information Systems at Oklahoma State University. The two have complimentary areas of expertise: Ram specializes in the information systems side of business analytics, while Delen works on the operations research/operations management side.
The two had never met, but they found they shared a similar vision for the journal.
“The vision was to have a journal where we can solve interesting, difficult challenges in the real world, but we solve them in an empirical way by developing new quantitative methods,” Ram explains. These methods include combinations of machine learning, statistics, network science and econometric modeling.
“I want to see a journal where we solve real problems—we’re not making up problems, or we happen to come across a data set and do some research on it to artificially create a problem and solve it,” she says. “I want to be able to do it the scientific way, which is to identify a problem, collect multiple types of data and very large data sets, put them together, develop new methods and show how to solve the problem.”
While creating the go-to journal for people looking for cutting-edge research in business analytics—one that details real data being used to solve real problems—Ram wants to reduce the time authors wait for their papers to be published.
It is not uncommon for the process from submission to publication to take two to three years. But if you want a field to develop, says Ram, you need to have a fast turnaround time—to publish research while it is still new. A shortened process is especially important for young academics applying for tenure, who have just six years to produce a body of published work.
One of Ram’s goals is to return the first review on submitted articles in 45-60 days rather than the six to eight months that is customary. She wants each round of edits to a manuscript to take days or weeks rather than months. She and Delen assembled an international board of associate editors who are committed to rapid turnaround time while giving very constructive feedback. They do empirical work and cover a spectrum of methods including machine learning, statistics, network science and econometric modeling.
With the first issue, Ram and Delen proved their ability to get peer-reviewed scholarship out quickly. Their appointments officially began in January 2018, and the issue of invited papers was published in July of the same year. Together, the papers in the inaugural issue cover an important portion of the wide spectrum of business analytics.
Submissions for future issues are coming in, and Ram is working on bringing in more contributions from outside of academia: “There are a lot of industry research labs that are doing interesting work. Hopefully we can bring in papers from them as well.”
Find the Journal of Business Analytics online: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/tjba20