15 June 2000 | Mark Whitehead
Practitioners are to be given a louder voice in purchasing's international body for research and education.
Leaders of the International Purchasing and Supply Education and Research Association (Ipsera) have been sensitive to complaints that academic research often appears to have little immediate relevance to the needs of purchasing and supply professionals.
At the annual conference in London, Canada, last month, Ipsera's governing council announced the decision to set up separate workshops at next year's conference in Sweden. Practitioners will be invited to lead the workshops based on topics of their choice.
Finn Wynstra, Ipsera's deputy chairman, said the association had been considering ways of promoting greater collaboration between academics and practitioners for several years.
"Practitioners have always been very participative and positive, but there is room for making them more active and giving them a more central role from which the academics can also learn," he said.
Jon Hughes, senior partner at the Windsor Foundation and one of the speakers at the conference, claimed that only a tenth of the on-going academic research in the purchasing field has any real value to industry.
He said too much research was introspective and failed to focus on key issues. "Most purchasing academics are looking in the rear-view mirror, instead of at the road ahead," he told SM. "They're focusing on the micro-skills of purchasing instead of looking at the bigger picture and considering how improving supply chains can contribute to business."
Marc Day, CIPS's research manager who presented a paper at the conference on the links between academia and industry with CIPS's director of professional practice, Roy Ayliffe, said: "We're not arguing that academics should be more practitioner-focused, but we are looking for ways of making sure the work they do is made available to industry in a form that can be used."
Conference delegate Ken Dooley, senior lecturer in operations research at Central Queensland University in Australia, argued that some academics were too closely involved with industry.
"Some of them are also consultants, which means that they sometimes work with organisations that they ought to be critical of at some stage. But they tend not to be because this represents a potential conflict of interest," he said.