How can practitioners help strengthen applied research?

A personal viewpoint by Dr Richard Teare, Managing Editor, Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

Dr Richard Teare, Managing Editor of Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) gives his opinion on how practitioners can help strengthen research. WHATT aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to hospitality and tourism development by focusing on key industry issues.

“Hospitality research creates value when the questions researchers are investigating are the same ones industry is asking.”
(Dr John Bowen, Theme Editor, Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, v7 n3, 2015)

Using questions to find and apply solutions to industry challenges

Prior to establishing WHATT, I was the founding editor of the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management (IJCHM) – a role that I held for 20 years. Established in 1988, IJCHM sought to facilitate an interchange between industry and academia, and we ran a series of conferences to encourage industry and academic collaboration.

This initiative helped to secure strong industry involvement during the early years. But it proved difficult to sustain this approach, because academics were increasingly encouraged by their institutions to submit papers to top tier academic journals. Today’s reality is that the majority of articles published in hospitality and tourism journals comply with academic research criteria - but relevance to industry is often lacking. WHATT, by contrast, seeks to explore ways of bridging the gap and re-connecting academics and practitioners via a question-based publishing format that encourages innovation, exploration and the creation of interesting, engaging articles that provide an integrated, step-by-step response to a key strategic question.

WHATT’s editorial objectives are designed to encourage a flexible and creative response to a key strategic question that is of concern to both practitioners and academics. As we have been using and developing this format for ten years, what have we learnt so far?

First, our theme editors really enjoy the process of forming a team of writers, researchers and practitioners to explore a key issue. Second, theme editors say that, by involving practitioners in their research, they have found that the exploration and writing process is enriched by practical insight and enhanced by the dialogue about the generation of solutions.

 For example, on the value of collaborative research:
 “I drew on expertise from Government, academia and industry to investigate, analyze and test the possible solutions - we found that WHATT’s objectives and format provide an ideal vehicle to fully explore the nature of the food safety challenge and then present workable solutions based on dialogue and collaboration with many different interest groups. One significant outcome of the collaborative effort is the first set of codes of practice for each industry sub-sector we studied. This is a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge and it will strengthen industry best practice.”
(Dr Eunice Taylor, Theme Editor, v7 n1, WHATT 2015) 

 Value-added practitioner peer reviewing

WHATT affirms the importance of rigorous, independent review but we encourage a different approach to applied research and analysis. In essence, WHATT theme editors must establish their own peer review panel of experienced researchers, writers, practitioners and others (as appropriate) to help shape and finalize their theme issue. Here’s an example of peer reviewing that exemplifies our approach. The theme editor (Dr John Pratten) wanted to investigate the problem of ‘binge drinking’ that so often blights UK city centres at weekends. His question was: What are the possible solutions to the problem of excessive alcohol consumption? And to get to the heart of the problem, John drew on representative practitioners who have to confront this problem on a regular basis:
 “The normal academic review process was augmented by the use of practitioners, who were asked to comment on how helpful the article was to them in their work. These practitioners included the licensees of public houses - one actually read every article - as well as the owner of a company supplying security to pubs and clubs, a night club manager and several policemen. This proved to be a very effective approach, with contributors saying how useful they found the comments of these practitioners.”
(Dr John Pratten, Theme Editor, WHATT v1 n2, 2009)

A forthcoming WHATT theme issue (v10 n1 2018) poses the question: Is talent management a strategic priority in the hospitality sector? Theme editor Norma D’Annunzio-Green had explored this area a decade ago (in our third issue of the journal) and she drew on a large team of academics and practitioners. Here is what Norma said about the value that was added by her panel of practitioner reviewers: 
 “I was struck by how challenging all of the writing team found the different writing style with its focus on practice-based and relevant action-oriented outcomes. Almost all of the practitioner reviewers recommended that the action-orientated outputs of the articles needed to be enhanced. In this way, they were pushing the academics to come up with better evidence-based solutions to their problems. There is still a gap between what academics and practitioners view as useful and relevant and unless that gap is reduced, valuable opportunities to learn from each other will be lost.”

Norma’s reflection is exactly why WHATT was launched ten years ago and, as an experienced journal editor, it is encouraging to know that our theme editors, contributors and peer reviewers are able to facilitate a collaborative approach that gives practitioners a voice in the process of publishing applied research.

A question for readers of this blog: Dr Teare quotes WHATT theme editor Norma D’Annunzio-Green as saying "There is still a gap between what academics and practitioners view as useful and relevant and unless that gap is reduced, valuable opportunities to learn from each other will be lost.” 

What more do our readers think can be done to bridge that gap?

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes (WHATT) aims to make a practical and theoretical contribution to hospitality and tourism development by focusing on key industry issues. Every theme issue consists of an interrelated collection of articles that taken together, address a strategic industry challenge. For more information see:

Dr Teare - along with the theme editors - recently presented a theme issue ‘Tourism and global logistics hub development in the Caribbean: will there be a symbiotic relationship?’ to the Prime Minister of Jamaica at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) charter ceremony. Dr Teare was also invited to speak to the 5,000 guests, faculty and students present at the historic event about the theme issue’s strategic contribution to applied research and development in the Caribbean region - read more here:

Dr Richard Teare can be contacted on

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