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Those of you, who had a chance to read some of my questions on this site, are likely aware of my ongoing job search, which I am doing on both academia and industry fronts. Since, naturally, I am leaning toward research-focused work, recently I ran across some additional industry positions, which are also research-focused. Yes, you guessed it right: I'm talking about market research or research-intensive consulting jobs. With that in mind, I became curious about the following aspects in the context of long-term academic career perspectives:

  • What is the perception toward market research jobs (including a research & consulting mix positions, such as ones at Gartner, for example) and their temporary holders within the academia community?

  • If the perception is negative, is it to extent that it might prevent or significantly jeopardize one's career options (research & teaching) upon return to academia from stints at one or more of market research or "Big N" IT consulting companies?

  • Would negative perception, if any, and the corresponding career impact be decreased, depending on the organizational "brand" (i.e., Gartner vs. smaller market research firm)?

It is important to note that my discipline (Information Systems) is a multidisciplinary field of study, which combines various aspects from hard sciences, such as computer science, and ones from soft (social) sciences, such as management science (which market research as well as business and IT consulting are actually part of). Therefore, IMHO there is no significant disconnect between academia and industry in terms of knowledge domains and research streams. I thought that this information will clarify the situation and, potentially, will improve the above-mentioned perception.

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I can't speak for the IS field, but I think that there's a strong chance that your time in industry would be considered as a break from doing research relevant to academia. Unless you are regularly publishing papers in the relevant journals or conferences, your time working outside of the academy will be perceived as time idle.

Now, that being said, market research is a field frequently included in Business Schools. I don't know where your IS degree is from (Communications? Business? somewhere else), but I think that Business Schools are much more likely than other departments to value time spent in industry when hiring professors. So, there are probably different standards for evaluating your output during your time in industry. Published reports about the state of a market might be more acceptable as a valued contribution to the literature, and therefore less likely to paint you as having been out of touch with the academic literature.

  • Excellent answer (+1). I greatly appreciate your insights (which, BTW, are rather close to my own perspective) as well as your initiative in answering my question. FYI: My IS degree is from CS/IT school (which is housed in a larger business school building), but the my discipline's knowledge domain represent a significant part of business schools' curriculum and research literature (with many CS/IT topics often mixed in). – Aleksandr Blekh Jul 3 '15 at 22:46
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I am an IS professor, and here is my perspective:

  • Research: To remain "hireable" as a professor in a research-intensive school, your market research stint is neither positive nor negative in itself. All that matters is that you continuously publish research in highly-regarded scholarly journals. In particular, if you have a break from academic jobs, you need to show that you are continuing to publish high-quality research during that break. In that case, the market research industry experience will not be counted against you. However, if you also take a break from publishing high-quality research, then that "break" would be seen negatively--but that is also the case for professors who remain in academia and who stop publishing high-quality research.
  • Teaching: This kind of industry experience should be considered very favourably, as it would give you real-world experience that should translate into much more relevant teaching.

So, in brief, if you want to leave the option to return to academia, then be sure that you remain active in research during your industry experience. The best way to do this is to establish one or two strong research partnerships with professors who actively do research. Ideally, you should be able to leverage your industry job to get data and access clients for surveys or interviews, and so this would be a very attractive proposition for many professors. (Of course, you might have to hide the identity of your company when you publish the research, which can usually be easily arranged.)

  • Thank you very much for your answer (+1). I appreciate your valuable insights, which resonate quite well with my prior intuitive thoughts on the topic. I'm especially delighted that you work exactly in my discipline (IS). Actually, I took a brief look at your professional profile on your website and it seems that we have a number of shared research interests. Maybe it is a sign for our potential research collaboration in the future :-). – Aleksandr Blekh Feb 5 '16 at 14:04

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