Point of View: Academic and Applied Real Estate Research: "As Two Worlds Collide" or "As Two Worlds Divide"?

By Souza, Lawrence A. | Journal of Real Estate Portfolio Management, January 1, 2000 | Go to article overview

Point of View: Academic and Applied Real Estate Research: "As Two Worlds Collide" or "As Two Worlds Divide"?


Souza, Lawrence A., Journal of Real Estate Portfolio Management


Introduction

It has been said that the majority of academic real estate research is out of touch with the reality of the marketplace, and in most cases conflicts with what those in industry truly find useful. It has also been said that professional real estate research is too basic and is out of touch with the rigors and theoretical discipline of the academy.

What is the current state of real estate research, both academically and professionally, and what research should be conducted? Are the two worlds between academia and professional real estate research colliding to form new and innovative hybrid approaches, or will the two worlds divide and drift farther apart in their ability to solve real world real estate problems?

A Professional View of Academic Research

Academic real estate research has been criticized over the years for not producing theories and applications that can be transferred to industry for investment and portfolio decision-making, or to government for policymaking and administration. There have been numerous books and articles written on real estate-related issues, land-use, investment theory and portfolio management, but when most academics are conducting research and publishing articles, they may not be taking into consideration who the true end user is.

Who is the end user? Is it the real estate industry? Is it the real estate academic community? Is it the university and department? Is it the firm? Or is it the individual doing the research?

It seems as though most university-based research today is targeted toward a narrow constituency in the academic community, and is used primarily to win tenure at major research institutions. But who determines what topics to research? Is it influential corporate donors, prestigious faculty in the real estate, economics and finance departments, or other senior staff who wield power over those receiving grants and stipends? Are research topics dictated by what is currently popular within the academic community, allowing such articles to gain access to highly sought after slots in peer-reviewed journals?

Academic researchers have a role as the purveyors of unbiased research, conducted outside of the real estate industry's influence. But who is setting the research agenda? Is it the academic community? Or is it the business community?

Academic researchers do not have senior acquisition responsibilities and portfolio officers monitoring them constantly to see if the results of their research vindicate their investment decisions or promote their marketing plan. But academic researchers do have to face influential colleagues monitoring, guiding and in most cases determining the direction of their research. These colleagues hold the purse strings to research grants, stipends and fellowships. Do the majority of academic researchers have the luxury of following their own research agenda? Or are they guided by the interests of senior academics in control of journals and tenure committees? If the results of their research run counter to the prevailing theory, does the individual find the use and publication of their research restricted or compromised?

These questions illustrate the thinking of many professionals. As a result, they believe that the majority of academic research is irrelevant to those in industry. The topics are too narrow, out of touch with reality and too complex at times. We lack direct communication links between the academic community and industry. Real estate academic research is fulfilling an important need, in that it gives scholars the tenure ammunition they need to become full professors. But is this type of research adding value to both the real estate academic and professional communities?

Professional Research

Professional real estate research has been criticized by academics for not producing theories and applications that can be transferred to academia for broader knowledge building. …

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