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Poor Response Rates
Based on that title, you may think I am going to gripe about the shrinking number of people who agree to complete a questionnaire. No, in this case I am referring to the number of professionals who do not respond when another professional contacts them. As I write my reviews of scales, it is normal to encounter articles where some critical piece of information is missing or unclear. In particular, I must know the items (questions/statements) that compose a scale and have evidence of its psychometric quality. If that information is lacking or unclear then I may attempt to contact the authors and request the information. Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how many professors do not respond at all.
This is an issue I lamented in an article I wrote 15 years ago (Bruner 1997). But, it isn’t just me that has noticed this and written about it. Over several decades, multiple marketing scholars have examined this problem along with related issues (Hubbard & Little 1997; Madden, Franz, & Mittelstaedt 1979; Reid, Rotfeld, & Wimmer 1982). The response rates ran from 64% to 77% in those earlier studies. That is in line with my own correspondence from 2010 to the present where the response rate has been about 67%. Not terrible I suppose but, shouldn’t we expect more from colleagues?
Maybe some professors are so concerned about others stealing their ideas that they decide to not respond to their requests at all. Others may be so wrapped up in their daily activities that they do not view such requests as a high priority. Still others may ignore requests simply because they are not as professional as they ought to be.
It is my belief and practice that when a fellow professional contacts us in any form we should respond quickly if at all possible. Sometimes the response may need to be brief, just indicating that a longer response will follow at a more opportune moment. Other times, we merely respond by saying that we are not able to provide what the other party has requested because the information is not available or it is too time-consuming to produce it.
Some may view the handling of requests from colleagues as a nuisance but shouldn’t it be seen as a compliment? It is wonderful when others have an interest in our work and desire to build upon it! Questions about our research from people around the world are evidence that our work is valued by other researchers. Even if responding to requests is not a primary goal of our roles as researchers, it certainly should be a primary goal of those who view themselves as teachers.
Bruner II, Gordon C. (1997), “Motivating the Invisible College,” Marketing Educator, 16 (2), 1, 8.
Raymond Hubbard, Eldon L. Little, (1997) "Share and Share Alike? A Review of Empirical Evidence Concerning Information Sharing Among Researchers," Management Research News, 20 (1), 41 – 49.
Madden, Charles S., Lori Sharp Franz, and Robert A. Mittelstaedt (1979), “The Replicability of Research in Marketing: Reported Content and Author Cooperation,” in O.C. Ferrell, Stephen W. Brown, Charles W. Lamb (eds.), Conceptual and Theoretical Developments in Marketing, American Marketing Association, Chicago (1979), 76–85.
Reid, Leonard N., Herbert J. Rotfeld, and Roger D. Wimmer (1982), “How Researchers Respond to Replication Requests," Journal of Consumer Research, 9 (2), 216-218.