From M&SOM Journal Editor

In the Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (M&SOM) editor’s column, “Renewing my Commitment to the OM Research Community,” Chris Tang highlighted that M&SOM embraces innovative and relevant operations management (OM) research topics and different research methods (analytical, empirical, behavioral, experimental, field-based, etc.). Although some methods have frequently graced the pages of the journal, others, such as field experiments, are less common. In an effort to support the mission of the journal and facilitate future research, we are working on an article on field experiments in operations management. The goal of the article is to provide an overview of the mechanics of running field experiments, to identify challenges that may arise, and to offer thoughts on areas in need of exploration. Through this post, we would like to request your feedback from your own attempts to conduct field experiments.

Why Field Experiments?

Combining the real-world applicability of field studies with the causal identification of lab experiments, field experiments are a powerful methodology. They offer controlled interventions in the real world whereby the researchers can measure the effects of a treatment that is randomly assigned to a subset of the subjects in the sample. Thus, field experiments offer the chance to conduct research that is simultaneously rigorous and relevant.

Field Experiments in Operations Management

Although field experiments are not commonly deployed in operations management, there are a number of examples of the methodology being used successfully. For example, field experiments have measured the effects of implementing improved inventory policies with Zara (Caro and Gallien 2010, Gallien et al. 2015) and the Cornell bookstore (Lee et al. 2015), pricing policies with Zara (Caro and Gallien 2012) and Rue La La (Ferreira et al. 2015), scheduling policies with Italian judges (Bray et al. 2016), and interactions with students (Zhang et al. 2017).

Challenges with Field Experiments

Despite these impressive projects, field experiments are not always successful nor the best approach for all research questions. Although field experiments can be relevant and rigorous, they can also be neither when they are not executed properly. Researchers may fail to randomize on important dimensions or may implement the randomization unsuccessfully. For example, a company might simply randomize by alphabetical letter or employee identification number (e.g., employees above 10,000 get the treatment, while those below 10,000 do not). This can result in a non-random sample since most companies assign employee identification numbers in sequential, non-random order as individuals join the firm. In such a case, the researcher would have a wonderful field experiment on how newer employees who get a treatment compare to older employees who do not. There are also many trade-offs in the execution of experiments. For example, with limited budgets, researchers need to decide whether to invest more in the treatment given to one subject or in increasing the sample size.  We seek your feedback on challenges you have encountered so we can document and categorize these difficulties to help the field learn.

Objectives of our Article on Field Experiments

The goal of our article on field experiments in operations management is to cover practical issues to help researchers interested in using this methodology. We plan to review the advantages and disadvantages of field experiments and provide practical prescriptions on how to conduct and evaluate a field experiment. We also will discuss trade-offs, ethical considerations, experimental design, combination with other complementary methods (such as lab experiments and causal inference models), execution challenges, and field partners.

Next Steps

Please reach out to us to share issues you have encountered in your own attempts to conduct field experiments. We welcome all kind of comments—both what worked and any efforts that did not. We would love to hear the lessons you learned, what you wish you would have done differently, and what you think others should know. Please pass along work that you have published or work that is still in process (or in a file drawer) so we can see as many examples from operations management as possible. Even if you have not worked on a field experiment, but have thoughts on the topic, we would appreciate your comments. Thanks!

References

Bray RL, Coviello D, Ichino A, Persico N (2016) Multitasking, multiarmed bandits, and the Italian judiciary. Manufacturing  Service Oper. Management 18(4):545–558.

Caro F, Gallien J (2010) Inventory management of a fast-fashion retail network. Oper. Res. 58(2):257–273.

Caro F, Gallien J (2012) Clearance pricing optimization for a fast-fashion retailer. Oper. Res. 60(6):1404–1422.

Ferreira KJ, Lee BHA, Simchi-Levi D (2015) Analytics for an online retailer: Demand forecasting and price optimization. Manufacturing Service Oper. Management 18(1):69–88.

Gallien J, Mersereau AJ, Garro A, Mora AD, Vidal MN (2015) Initial shipment decisions for new products at Zara. Oper. Res. 63(2):269–286.

Lee J, Gaur V, Muthulingam S, Swisher GF (2015) Stockout-based substitution and inventory planning in textbook retailing. Manufacturing Service Oper. Management 18(1):104–121.

Zhang DJ, Allon G, Van Mieghem JA (2017) Does social interaction improve learning outcomes? Evidence from field experiments on massive open online courses. Manufacturing Service Oper. Management 19(3):347–367.

As Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (M&SOM) nears 20 years of publication history, it is an appropriate time to reflect upon its achievements. This paper is a retrospective look at nearly 20 years of publication output of M&SOM using citation analysis. A search in Scopus was made in September 2017 to extract all published materials from Manufacturing & Service Operations Management journal for ‘all years’. This resulted in the collection of 623 documents, of which 560 were journal articles - the data for this study. The rest of the documents (e.g. book reviews) were discarded. We collected all the metadata that were available in Scopus for download which included all bibliometric data, such as authors, publication year, title, abstract, cited references, and so on. In this blog, we will mainly focus on the 2,564 author keywords and 6,599 index keywords in order to disclose the trends. Based on the observation, we will then provide some implications for M&SOM and its readership and for the general manufacturing and service operations management literature.

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Happy New Year! Thank you for your continued support of Manufacturing & Service Operations Management (i.e., the M&SOM journal). I wish to report some of the highlights for the year of 2017.

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Management research journal editors, practitioners, and even researchers lamented that most management articles are filled with rigorous analysis but they lack innovative ideas that can challenge the way researchers think and/or change the way practitioners act. Without innovative research ideas to spark the interest of researchers and practitioners, our research community cannot grow and the impact of our research will be limited.

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Many organizations (police departments, non-profit healthcare organizations, etc.) and corporations (airlines, banks, hotels, manufacturers, etc.) embrace Business analytics (BA) to conduct exploratory, descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analysis. At the same time, universities developed BA degree programs, INFORMS developed BA certification programs, and researchers developed new techniques (machine learning, deep learning, etc.) to gain insight and drive business planning.

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Happy New Year! Starting January 1, 2017, the M&SOM journal is on the Financial Times Top 50 journal list.

M&SOM achieved new heights in 2016. First, the number of original submissions hit a new record. We received 460 original submissions as of December 10, 2016. In addition to United States and Canada, we have received more submissions from Asia and Europe. Also, we have received more submissions in the area of healthcare operations, empirical OM, and innovative operations.

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Due to the support of our community (authors, reviewers, and editorial board members), the journal of M&SOM has continued to improve. Since we launched the general two-round policy in January 2015, we have observed more paper submissions, shorter review cycle time, and fewer review cycles. At the same time, the impact factor, 5-year impact factor, and article influence score of M&SOM have continued to increase. Finally, in July 2016, we received the great news that Financial Times decided to include M&SOM on the FT 50 journal list beginning January 2017.

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We strive to do innovative research that has impact, not only in terms of opening pathways to other researchers but also in terms of how it affects practice and gets appreciation from the broader research community. Identifying innovative and impactful research ideas can be easier if one has an eye on the dynamics of what is relevant in the business world. In this blogpost, we aim to highlight an opportunity to do innovative and potentially impactful operations management research in a particular research field, sustainability.

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Authors (including myself) often receive comments from reviewers that their papers have incremental value. Knowing breakthroughs in any academic field are rare events, I often wonder if papers with incremental value are publishable especially when the measure of incremental value is somewhat subjective. Should we (as a research community) advocate incremental research?

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