The practitioner-researcher divide in industrial, work and organizational (IWO) psychology: Where are we now, and where do we go from here?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


There is current concern that the researcher, or academic, and the practitioner wings of our discipline are moving further apart. This divergence is likely to result in irrelevant theory and in untheorized and invalid practice. Such outcomes will damage our reputation and ultimately result in our fragmentation. We present a simple 2 × 2 model along the dimensions of relevance and rigour, with the four cells occupied by Popularist, Pragmatic, Pedantic, and Puerile Science, respectively. We argue that there has been a drift away from Pragmatic Science, high in both relevance and rigour, towards Pedantic and Popularist Science, and through them to Puerile Science. We support this argument by longitudinal analyses of the authorship of academic journal articles and then explain this drift in terms of our stakeholders. Powerful academics are the most immediate stakeholders for researchers, and they exercise their power in such a way as to increase the drift towards Pedantic Science. Organizational clients are the most powerful stakeholders for practitioners, and in their effort to address their urgent issues, they push practitioners towards Popularist Science. In the light of this analysis, we argue that we need to engage in political activity in order to reduce or redirect the influence of the key stakeholders. This can be done either directly, through our relationship with them, or indirectly, through others who influence them. Only by political action can the centrifugal forces away from Pragmatic Science be countered and a centripetal direction be established. Finally, we explore the implications of our analysis for the future development of members of our own profession.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)391-411
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2001