Understanding scientific freedom and scientific responsibility in business and management research

Anne S. Tsui, Peter McKiernan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


To illuminate the nature of contemporary business and management research and to reinforce the principles of responsible research proposed by the social movement Responsible Research in Business and Management (RRBM), this paper explores two critical elements of the scientific process – scientific freedom and scientific responsibility. We observe that in recent times, context and practice have weakened both of them. Path-dependent processes in a closed research ecosystem have restricted scientific freedom. A "publish or perish" culture has clouded scientific responsibility. We examine the definition of scientific freedom and assess how much freedom scientists can expect in current social conditions. We apply Schulz's (1972) responsibility categories of a) who is responsible? b) For what are they responsible? And c) to whom are they responsible? to develop an expanded definition of scientific responsibility. Aligning high and low levels of freedom and responsibility, we identify four types of research, one of which fits RRBM’s definition of responsible research. We suggest a set of light and heavy actions in a humble attempt to shift the research ecosystem further towards responsible research, focusing on benefits to society. We conclude with a set of scientific norms to guide researchers who aspire to make their research more responsible and impactful.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1604-1627
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number6
Early online date12 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • responsible business and management research
  • scientific freedom
  • scientific responsibility
  • RRBM
  • scientific norms


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