Ulrich Lichtenthaler notches retraction 13

acad manageUlrich Lichtenthaler, the management professor who has had a dozen papers retracted, has lost another.

Here’s the notice from the Academy of Management Journal for “Absorptive Capacity, Environmental Turbulence, and the Complementarity of Organizational Learning Processes:”

Volume 52, no. 4, p. 822–846, 2009. This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief of Academy of Management Journal.

Formal investigations by the Academy of Management Journal and an affiliated university of Professor Ulrich Lichtenthaler have revealed ethical violations in research practices. Those violations center on the larger data collection effort that forms the foundation for this article as well as the empirics and reporting in the article itself. Independent re-analysis has been unable to replicate the findings as reported in this article and other journals have retracted other published pieces from the larger data collection effort.

The paper has been cited 97 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

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8 thoughts on “Ulrich Lichtenthaler notches retraction 13”

  1. Is there really 97 citations for an article titled “Absorptive Capacity, Environmental Turbulence, and the Complementarity of Organizational Learning Processes”? That’s more remarkable than the alleged irregularities.

  2. Thanks for staying on top of this case, RW. For Dan Z- actually these topics are pretty mainstream for management so even though absorptive capacity is an older theory, it is still very much in the literature; much the same for env turb and org learning. I suspect that many of the cites were driven by Lichtenthaler’s other papers that cited this paper (and thus other people noticed it) and by reviews of these topics, and also by virtue of the fact that really these three topics are fairly mainstream and topical.

    Anyway, the larger issue is Mannheim’s inaction. I have heard from junior faculty at the business school at Mannheim (and from faculty who coauthor with others on the faculty) that they are ‘afraid to do anything’ because of German laws. Essentially, that if he was fired, then he would actually have a case to take to an employment tribunal and create “a lot of problems.” That’s truly a sad predicament. It is hard to hold Mannheim in much esteem when this guy is still there. I am not sure if he is still trying to submit articles. I am on the editorial board of a couple of these mainstream management journals and I haven’t seen him submit anything to them. Certainly he would be ‘banned’ for a certain period. I understood that at least 12 months ago he was still doing research though the co-authors I know have stopped working with him on projects or have not committed to starting new projects.

    1. The problem with Mannheim is that Lichtenthaler hired a Celebrity attorney named Mr. Höcker, famous for admonishing media as well as employeers.
      Just last summer when WHU decided to revoke Lichtenthalers habilitation, his attorney stated that Lichtenthaler still claims all mistakes in his habilitation as well as in his papers have been produced unintentionally.
      (see http://www.morgenweb.de/mannheim/mannheim-stadt/professor-wehrt-sich-1.1206482)
      My guess here is that Höcker/Lichtenthaler are suing WHU right now or at least appeal against WHU’s decission to revoke the habilitation.

      Honestly, I still don’t get why Mannheim is not able to act on all this – civil service law put away, Lichtenthaler still prooved that he’s not able to do solid research which clearly prooves that he is not qualified enough to teach and even teach PhD’s…

  3. Given that his university won’t act, It seems only right for the major organizations in the field (Academy of Management, Strategic Management Society and INFORMS) to revoke his memberships and clarify that neither he nor his work are welcome while the investigation continues – which, from the sounds of it, may be forever and a day. I personally think Mannheim should just bite the bullet and pay him a million to leave but doing so would amount to admitting their own failures (i.e. the promotion of publishing at all costs).

  4. Given that his employer obviously does not act, it appears useful to remind Mannheim Business School that also their reputation is at risk. The longer they wait, the bigger the gap between their mission and vision (http://www.bwl.uni-mannheim.de/en/school/mission_statement/) and the sad reality will be. Just to give a few quotes from their website:

    “Looking back at 100 years of research and education in business administration, the Business School of the University of Mannheim has committed itself to (…) excellent research with the highest possible impact on science (…) provide and produce innovative knowledge and disseminate it through top-tier scientific publications (…) We will create an exceptional faculty (…) As an advanced research institution, we are dedicated to promoting exceptional theoretical, empirical and applied research projects (…) We are committed to serving the academic community (…)”

    (By the way, it is interesting that they do not say a word on ethical standards or following accepted rules and norms of good practice in research.)

  5. This appears quite a shameful and regrettable story. U Mannheim does not seem to have the balls to act. They should: it is their reputation that is being punished here. If they take this long to dismiss an obvious case, what is left of their credibility? As for Lichtenthaler himself, this is a sorry narrative indeed. But if he really is (as he is said to be) threatening U Mannheim with lawyers — well, to me, that only reinforces the impression I have had of his moral calibre. But then again, for someone to manage to obtain 13 retractions is quite a feat. You need to be both gifted and immoral. What a shame.

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