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Proceedings of the inaugural construction management and economics ‘Past, Present and Future’ conference CME25, 16-18 July 2007, University of Reading, UK

Hughes, W., ed. (2008) Proceedings of the inaugural construction management and economics ‘Past, Present and Future’ conference CME25, 16-18 July 2007, University of Reading, UK. School of Construction Management and Engineering, University of Reading, Reading, pp1846. ISBN 9780415460590

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This conference was an unusual and interesting event. Celebrating 25 years of Construction Management and Economics provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the research that has been reported over the years, to consider where we are now, and to think about the future of academic research in this area. Hence the sub-title of this conference: “past, present and future”. Looking through these papers, some things are clear. First, the range of topics considered interesting has expanded hugely since the journal was first published. Second, the research methods are also more diverse. Third, the involvement of wider groups of stakeholder is evident. There is a danger that this might lead to dilution of the field. But my instinct has always been to argue against the notion that Construction Management and Economics represents a discipline, as such. Granted, there are plenty of university departments around the world that would justify the idea of a discipline. But the vast majority of academic departments who contribute to the life of this journal carry different names to this. Indeed, the range and breadth of methodological approaches to the research reported in Construction Management and Economics indicates that there are several different academic disciplines being brought to bear on the construction sector. Some papers are based on economics, some on psychology and others on operational research, sociology, law, statistics, information technology, and so on. This is why I maintain that construction management is not an academic discipline, but a field of study to which a range of academic disciplines are applied. This may be why it is so interesting to be involved in this journal. The problems to which the papers are applied develop and grow. But the broad topics of the earliest papers in the journal are still relevant today. What has changed a lot is our interpretation of the problems that confront the construction sector all over the world, and the methodological approaches to resolving them. There is a constant difficulty in dealing with topics as inherently practical as these. While the demands of the academic world are driven by the need for the rigorous application of sound methods, the demands of the practical world are quite different. It can be difficult to meet the needs of both sets of stakeholders at the same time. However, increasing numbers of postgraduate courses in our area result in larger numbers of practitioners with a deeper appreciation of what research is all about, and how to interpret and apply the lessons from research. It also seems that there are contributions coming not just from construction-related university departments, but also from departments with identifiable methodological traditions of their own. I like to think that our authors can publish in journals beyond the construction-related areas, to disseminate their theoretical insights into other disciplines, and to contribute to the strength of this journal by citing our articles in more mono-disciplinary journals. This would contribute to the future of the journal in a very strong and developmental way. The greatest danger we face is in excessive self-citation, i.e. referring only to sources within the CM&E literature or, worse, referring only to other articles in the same journal. The only way to ensure a strong and influential position for journals and university departments like ours is to be sure that our work is informing other academic disciplines. This is what I would see as the future, our logical next step. If, as a community of researchers, we are not producing papers that challenge and inform the fundamentals of research methods and analytical processes, then no matter how practically relevant our output is to the industry, it will remain derivative and secondary, based on the methodological insights of others. The balancing act between methodological rigour and practical relevance is a difficult one, but not, of course, a balance that has to be struck in every single paper.

Item Type:Book
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Organisation, People and Technology group
ID Code:31329
Uncontrolled Keywords:construction management, construction economics, construction law, international conference, CME25
Publisher:School of Construction Management and Engineering, University of Reading


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