The growth and growth of published research on family businesses

Professor Pramodita Sharma: “There’s no doubt the FBR popularity has risen because of the escalating interest in family business studies globally."      Photo: University of Vermont

Professor Pramodita Sharma: “There’s no doubt the FBR popularity has risen because of the escalating interest in family business studies globally."      Photo: University of Vermont

Want to know how big the family business world has become, then look at the success of the main academic journal on the subject, the Family Business Review. Launched in 1988, the FBR is now ranked in the top five of academic business journals worldwide.

Backed by the Family Firms Institute and published by Sage, the FBR has close to 10,000 subscribers in more than 180 countries. And, in the parlance of the world of academic journals, an “Impact Factor” of more than four, which is apparently one of the highest scores achieved among academic business journals and gives FBR its high ranking. Academics clearly rate it - the FBR gets around 250 submissions a year from the ever-expanding academic community focused on family businesses.

Pramodita Sharma, the current editor of FBR and a professor of family enterprise studies at the University of Vermont, says the success of the journal has coincided with a big increase in the thirst for knowledge on family businesses, but also because of the commitment of her team of editors and supporters.

“There’s no doubt the FBR popularity has risen because of the escalating interest in family business studies globally,” she says. “But I’d also like to point out the success has also been down to the relentless hard work of FBR’s team—authors, reviewers, and editors - as well as the continued support from the journal’s publisher, SAGE, and its owner, the Family Firm Institute.”

The FBR has a pretty rigorous review process with only around 7% of papers submitted being published. Its rigour is backed up by a formidable review process. On top of Professor Sharma’s input, there’s 10 associate editors, a nine-member advisory board, and a review board comprising more than 100 family business academics.

Indicative of the growth in the desire for knowledge on family businesses has been the number of academic papers published every year on the subject. Before 1970 there was a total of just 111 papers published on family businesses, according to research done by Professor Sharma. That figure went up to around 30 published in the 1980s, to 228 in the 1990s, and now stands at more than 800 in the first five years of the current decade.

When launched, FBR published around two-thirds of scholarly papers on family businesses. Now it only publishes around 2%, which shows just how many papers are written on the subject and greater interest from other academic journals about family businesses. Indeed, FBR’s success and the popularity of the subject have sparked the growth of rivals. In 2010, The Journal of Family Business Strategy was launched by publishing house Elsevier. Co-edited by a former editor of FBR, Joseph Astrachan, a prominent family business professor at Kennesaw State University in the US, the journal provides another outlet for the growth of academic papers written on the subject.

After editing FBR since 2008, Professor Sharma is stepping down from the position next year and there is currently a search underway to find her successor. No doubt some big shoes to fill given the efforts of Professor Sharma and her team - and the insatiable desire for knowledge on the subject.