Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Promoting Relevance in IS Research: An Informing System for Design Science Research

Academic journal article Informing Science: the International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline

Promoting Relevance in IS Research: An Informing System for Design Science Research

Article excerpt

Introduction

The accusation of research irrelevance has been leveled at virtually every academic community at one time or another. Management (Morhman, Gibson, & Mohrman, 2001) engineering (Scalzi, 1996) and even health care (Belkhodja, Amara, Landry, & Ouimet 2007) have been repeatedly called to task. The challenge to increase research relevance to practice has also been issued to the three information technology disciplines identified by Glass, Ramesh and Vessey (2004)--Computer Science (CS), Software Engineering (SE) and Information Systems (IS)--and each has responded to a different degree. Computer Science is the most mathematically grounded and self-referential of the three (Glass, et al., 2004). While most individual academics in CS wish their research to be relevant, there is little published concern on the topic in CS journals and conferences. Software engineering, likely due to the higher direct visibility of its products in the business community (Windows and SAP are just two global examples), expresses the need for relevance to practice much more strongly.

Without doubt however, the information technology field most concerned with research relevance to practice is that of the authors, Information Systems. With its academic departments frequently housed in colleges of business and its subject matter drawn from CS, SE, and management science, IS has always been extremely conscious of itself as a "spanning" discipline, between business and computer technology. Thirty years of defending its place as a relevant profession has made the field introspective and as a result a segment of IS has refined a research technique practiced in many disciplines--design [science] research--that makes the sternest attempt we are aware of to insure the relevance of research to practice. In addition it leverages the artifact build-test cycle to assess its results in a more rigorous manner than is commonly found in information technology disciplines.

From its inception academic research in Information Systems has taken two different approaches: behavioral (management oriented) research and constructivist (build-evaluate) research. Over the last ten years the constructivist approach, termed design science research by its practice community, has gained in number of adherents and importance. We, along with other IS academics, insert the word 'science' into design research to distinguish it from design research as the phrase is understood by non-constructivist researchers in a variety of fields: the study of how artifacts are designed and the characteristics of designers and their practices. In brief, design science research in IS (DSRIS) uses the construction of an information technology artifact and its evaluation learning through building--as the research method. The DSRIS community is therefore much closer to the CS/SE origins of IS than to its management origins, and for this reason we feel DSR as developed in IS has much to offer to all information technology disciplines.

At this point we can hear CS and SE readers saying, "OK, you build something and test it. So what? We've always done that." True; the difference is that as a result of reflecting on the constructivist method and formalizing it DSRIS produces more than just a validated artifact. Every DSRIS effort should be targeted to produce an artifact that is a (partial) solution to an acknowledged business information technology problem. In addition, it produces a "design theory" that prescribes the requirements for a class of artifacts to address similar problems (Jones & Gregor, 2007). Recently a number of academic design science researchers have suggested methods for still further leveraging a DSRIS project to produce mid-range theory describing the phenomena by which the artifact operates in addition to the prescriptive design theory (Kuechler & Vaishnavi, 2008a). Finally, because the design science methodology has been formalized to a greater degree than has previously been the case in information technology disciplines, it can be better taught to new generations of researchers. …

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