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Abstract

Many practitioners believe academic IS research is not relevant. I argue that our research, and the underlying rewards system that drives it, needs to respond to these concerns. We need to be more relevant to meet the increasing needs of our students, the organizations that hire them, and the larger society. To analyze the issues, I develop three different scenarios of where the IS field could be 10 years from now. The following visions of the future identify the implications of different levels of adaptation to relevance-related environmental pressures. Scenario 1: Minimal Adaptation. The IS field is shrinking, largely due to competition from newly established schools of information technology. The traditional paper-based journals continue to dominate. Their slow publication cycles, in contrast to the rapid rate of change in the IT industries, mean that most technical topics and many current managerial issues are excluded from the research that generates the greatest institutional rewards. However a market analysis indicates that we can still do relevant research in categories such as: 1) issues contrary to commercial interests; 2) unsolved problems; 3) issues economically unattractive to commercial researchers; 4) issues where management aspects are more important than technical aspects; and 5) research on teaching IS. Scenario 2: Moderate Adaptation. The IS field is approximately the same size, even though demand for graduates with IT skills is greater. The journals expand the subset of topics in which IS researchers can generate relevant contributions, by improving publishing cycle times. Adaptive responses include: 1) increasing electronic access to journal contents; 2) reducing review cycle times; 3) involving practitioners in reviews; and 4) revising norms for style and tone. Scenario 3: High Adaptation. The IS field is larger than before, growing in proportion to the demand for graduates with IT skills. Academia is facing tremendous pressures, many of which are driven or influenced by IT developments. These developments enable changes in the IS field such as: 1) including technical competence in evaluation criteria; 2) rewarding publishing in practitioner-oriented outlets; and 3) involving practitioners in substantive IS program issues. Scenario 1 is the "do nothing" alternative. Scenarios 2 and 3 represent substantial improvements, but they will not occur unless we act vigorously to improve our position.

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