And the best research paper title of 2018 was.........

And the best research paper title of 2018 was….

psudo-profound bullshit

As you can expect we see a lot of research, and I mean a lot. In 2018 we reviewed over 350 + research papers for our members and conducted 10 indepth special reports or research reviews and rejected over 2000 papers, usually on the grounds of specificity. As you read some promising papers you realise, usually not until you get to the methods section, that the study was carried out on 3 people of the Wodaabe tribe in the Central African Republic. Not exactly valid data for extrapolation to a multinational corporation.

The second most common reason we reject papers is that the research methods are… well shall we just say either clouded in mystery – the results just popped out of the ether as the researchers got out of the shower or the research methods amount to no more than a survey of (we suspect) a large and comprehensive sample of their mates or students to which they have applied a statistical test they remember from their undergraduate days, regardless of the appropriateness of the test. ‘Hey it’s numbers, that makes it credible right?’

Even some pretty robust journals can end up publishing what is little more than a diary of a somebody, which makes you wonder at their peer-reviewing process. Academics, like most people these days are busy people, and we suspect the peer reviewing process goes something like this: ‘I’d better stick a couple of comments on this and send it back as it’s been festering in this pile for a couple of months now. The other reviewer is bound to pick up the main points’. The law of averages means that the chances of getting two busy reviewing academics doing the same thing is pretty … well let’s just say, we suspect it may happen a just a teensy weensy bit more than we would like.

As I mention a lot (if you have ever heard me talk you will know this and if you have heard two of my talks you have heard it more than once) there are about 79,000 peer reviewed research papers published around the world every month. That’s about 2500 a day!

This grows at a steady 9% per year per year.

Now our primary research areas of:

  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Organisational Development /Design
  • Organisational Change and Transformation
  • HR / HRM
  • Organisational Learning / Learning and Development / Knowledge Management
  • Coaching
  • Work Psychology
  • Decision Making, and
  • Evidence-based practice

when compared to the biggies of Maths, Sciences, Politics, Economics etc. is just a small backwater. Even so, these topics still produce a couple of hundred papers a day.

We have seen everything from an analysis of the Management of the Global Tea-Making Supply Chain, through to Circus Leadership Development. However this is our prize for the best (and actually really quite interesting) research paper title. Which goes to…..

Drum roll….

This little number that was published by Artur Nilsson, Arvid Erlandsson and Daniel Västfjäll from Lund University entitled:


The complex relation between receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit and political ideology


So what you may ask is psudo-profound bullshit?

Well it turns out psudo-profound bullshit is a ‘thing’. In fact the moment you know what it is you will realise just how common it is…

Psudo-profound bullshit refers to the amazing ability some people have to expel obscure sentences constructed to impress others rather than convey any particular truth. Yup it’s what most of our politicians do on an almost daily basis. Not only that but psudo-profound bullshit is it’s official scientific name and no, psudo-profound bullshit is not itself psudo-profound bullshit. (Its true… would I lie to you?)

The study, conducted in Sweden found that the more conservative (vs Liberal) people are the more they tend to be a self-obsessed (self-placement), resistant to change (they like things how they were), and particularly like the concepts of loyalty, authority, and purity.

The people who are least likely to believe in psudo-profound bullshit are slightly right of centre politically (liberal) and the group most likely to believe it are the left-wing green voters. It appears the more left or right you are politically the more likely you will soak up psudo-profound bullshit.

Lovely study. You can find it here just in case you think I am bullshitting you.



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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page