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Roger Clarke **
Working Paper of 26 January 2006 (how appropriate)
Prepared for the Special Issue of the Australian Journal of Information Systems on 'The State of the IS Discipline'
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Available under an AEShareNet licence or a Creative Commons licence.
This document is at http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/SOS/AISHist0601.html
Information Systems emerged as a discipline in the 1960s. It has struggled to define itself, its scope, and its relationship with its neighbour disciplines in the computing and management arenas. Despite that, it has grown into a diverse and busy community of some 700 people, and had impacts on the international stage. This paper charts key events in the first four decades, identifies what appear to the author to be the key themes, provides a body of references for future historians to consider in greater detail and from other perspectives, and raises questions for the future.
The Information Systems (IS) discipline has been blessedly free of navel-gazing, both in Australia and worldwide. But, as pioneers retire, it's time to consolidate sources and memories and provide some historical background to this vibrant but often-troubled field.
The author has been active in the IS discipline since 1970, that is to say not at the beginning, but from very shortly afterwards. This paper is undoubtedly tainted by the author's own personal history, and his limited perspectives and biases. The author is also not a trained historian. For these reasons, the paper is titled 'a retrospective', and does not purport to have any official status. It has, however, drawn on a wide variety of sources, and will hopefully make a contribution to an emergent 'court history' of the discipline.
The project was suggested by Guy Gable and Bob Smyth, as an adjunct to the work of the 'IS in ANZ' team. It is intentionally framed so as to complement the studies that team-members have undertaken in relation to the current state of the discipline in Australia and New Zealand. It commences at the beginning (a concept that itself has required research), and carries through with some energy to 1995. It reaches beyond 1995 somewhat selectively, partly because of the scale of the undertaking, and partly because it is much more difficult to write convincingly about 'recent history' than about 'ancient history' .
Although the author has spent a considerable amount of time overseas, he has spent very little time in New Zealand. Hence, despite the scope addressed by the team as a whole, this paper gives no specific consideration to the history of IS in Australia's near-neighbour.
A history can be approached from a variety of directions. Because it is something of a 'trail-blazing' exercise, this paper is intentionally eclectic. It blends (or perhaps muddles) the approaches of the chronicler (who did what when?), the intellectual historian (where were concepts and models appropriated from? what propositions were debated?), and the political historian (what power bases existed? what battles were fought? who won?). Little time is spent on historiography or critical thinking (who wrote what, with what biases, and for what purpose?). First we need some sources. Only then can the battle to own history begin.
The research method adopted was heavily based on secondary research, starting with the author's own substantial archive dating from 1970, followed by searches for relevant published resources. This was supplemented by face-to-face interviews with a number of the key players during the early years, and email interchanges with a number of others, particularly overseas. Many of these sessions resulted in further references that needed to be reviewed. The Acknowledgements section lists the individuals on whom I have placed greatest reliance. The now-compulsory 'web-trawl' delivered some hits of consequence.
The intended review of IS departments' sites for historically-relevant material was not proceeded with, because the sampling that was performed suggested that there were more promising avenues in which to invest the available time. The only formalised departmental histories that were unearthed were Greig & Levin (1989) regarding Computing at Caulfield/Chisholm (1965-88) and Dreyfus (2004) regarding the University of Melbourne (1994-2004).
The 'IS in ANZ' team reviewed and provided substantial and substantive feedback firstly on the proposal in March 2005, then on a sketch in May 2005, and on an interim report in November 2005 [and on a draft in January 2006]. [A Request For Comment was emailed to a substantial number of senior members of the discipline.]
Some attempt has been made to present information dispassionately. But the attempt has largely failed, partly due to the author's inherent and unavoidable biases, and partly because of the conflicting aim of achieving at least some degree of readability and stimulation.
The paper commences by considering the intellectual origins of the IS discipline. Building on this foundation, key events are identified that are associated with the establishment of the discipline, both overseas and in Australia. The development of the discipline is then traced, using a variety of metrics. Consideration is given to the strong international orientation of the discipline in Australia. The latter parts of the paper identify some recurrent themes.
IS can be traced back to the early 20th century rational management stream of thought (Fayol/Taylor/...). Although usually interpreted as being about efficiency in the use of physical resources through understanding of the 'time and motion' of agents, that movement is easily re-interpreted as also being about the use of information. [CHECK: Drucker, among many others]
The discovery that computers could be applied to the processing of administrative data brought a very substantial impetus. Applications of this kind commenced simultaneously in the U.K. and the U.S.A. in the early 1950s [GET REFS: Univac and the U.S. Census, and applications of Leo at the Lyons Tea Company (Caminer et al. 1998)].
Automated equipment, in particular punched-card handling devices, had been in use in large-scale applications date at the beginning of the 20th century, in particular the U.S. Census [GET REF]. The organisationally logical way for bureaucracies to integrate programmable computers into their ways of working was to conceive of them as super-tabulators, and manage them in a similar way.
The invention, articulation, application and rapid improvement of electro-mechanical and then electronic computers during the period 1935-50 is well-documented [GET REFS]. These initiatives were motivated by the processing of ephemeral data into significant results, rather than what we would now call data management. Technologies to provide permanent storage quickly came to be seen as an important adjunct to computation, and the complex of technologies needed to support what became computer-based IS quickly emerged.
The emergence of the IS discipline was in historical terms brisk, but to an observer at the time would have appeared laboured and wayward. It appears to have followed somewhat different paths in the various countries and regions, with distinct flavours discernible in the USA, the UK, Scandinavia, Australia and of course France. Differences also occurred within countries, particularly those of substantial geographical size.
The term 'the tyrrany of distance' (coined by Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey in his 1966 book of that name) may seem quaint to post-Internet generations, but it afflicted countries the size of Australia, Canada and the USA. During the early years of the IS discipline, with no coordinative mechanisms such as an information infrastructure any more sophisticated than the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and the telex network, no accreditation panels, no curriculum committees, no text-books, and few conferences, there was ample scope for strong, energetic and visionary individuals to have significant local, regional and national impact.
It was natural that the new interest in information would draw both on existing disciplines and professions for which data and its processing were already an interest, and on emergent disciplines that were adopting new approaches made feasible by the new technology.
The dominant strands appear to have been accounting, computer science and software development, together with threads arising from operations research, management science, operations management, general systems theory and cybernetics, philosophy of science and critical theory. Some of particular importance were:
[How much influence has IEEE had, with its narrow perspective on systems analysis ('requirements engineering')?
[How much influence did the early 'thinking manager's gurus' have on the IS discipline (as distinct from on DP/IS/IT Managers)? e.g. EDP Analyzer, later I/S Analyzer, Dearden, Auerbach, Infotech 'State of the Art' Reports, James Martin
[Should some clustering be proposed? e.g.:
[If such clustering is used, then the text must stress the co-evolution of thinking, and continual cross-feeding. It was all very eclectic, as each local leader sought to make sense of the domain, and contribute to progress.
[Land suggests a long-term tension in scope-definition between an 'intensive' conception building outward from technology, and an 'extensive' notion based around organisations.
The dominance of North American contributors in the published literature suggests that it was first in the field. The evidence actually suggests that the emergence of IS was parallel in the USA, the UK and Sweden, and only slightly lagged in Australia. [No material has been located at this stage in relation to the early years in Canada]. This section briefly reviews the beginnings in North America and Europe, in order to provide a backdrop to the early years in Australia.
[Review the material from the Davis Symposium in May 2005, and especially Mason (2005), and extract/interleave important facts and themes, especially those most relevant to Australian developments.
[Gordon Davis in Minnesota in 1967, from an accounting perspective, but impregnated with systems thinking, typified by Davis (1974).
[Davis spent close to four decades at Minnesota, 1967-2004. Many of the people whose doctorates he supervised have been active supervisors as well, and by his retirement the 'family' had reached the fourth generation and a total count of over 100.
[Bill King established IS at Pittsburgh, also in 1967, coming from an OR perspective, and grafting on from other disciplines as appropriate [Land]
[Jim Emery published a book on 'managing information systems' as early as 1968? [Land]
[UCLA from c. 1968 as well?
[Scott Morton in Boston, publishing on management aspects, when?
[ACM and TIMS support and influence
[Borje Langefors in Sweden from 1965 including an early text (Langefors 1970), which was translated into English, although it is not clear that it had significant impact on thinking in English-speaking countries
[Frank Land at the London School of Economics in 1967, and Land (1992, 2000)
[Peter Keen at LBS 1967-86
[Enid Mumford in Manchester, e.g. 'The Computer and the Clerk: Computerisation at the Bank of Ireland' (1968) [Land]
[Ron Stamper from 1968? [Land]
[Niels Bjorn-Andersen, a Mumford PhD, from 1972 in Copenhagen
[German orientation to data processing and software development (Szyperski). Emergence of journal Wirtschaftsinformatik when? 2005 is Vol. 47, implying publication since 1958. [CHECKING with Wolfgang Koenig]
This section provides a largely chronological presentation of what appear to have been the key events in the emergence of the discipline in Australia. It is divided into three chunks. These are proposed as being useful rather than decisive, and many alternative chunking bases exist.
The immediately following section is devoted to the important question of the relationship between the Australian IS discipline and the rest of the world. The section after that identifies what emerged from the project as being key themes.
Australia has something of a history in automated computation. In particular, the world's first totalisator was invented by George Julius c. 1913, in W.A. Although this was an entirely mechanical system, electrical components were later added. Julius' company enjoyed a worldwide monopoly for some time.
Later, the fourth electronic digital computer, CSIR Mk 1 (1948-56), was completely 'home-grown' in Australia, at the CSIR Division of Radiophysics in Sydney, but later transferred to Melbourne (Pearcey 1988, pp. 12-19, 160). Its successor, CSIRAC, ran 1956-64 at the University of Melbourne. The University of Sydney's locally-designed and built SILLIAC ran 1954-68. Adapted versions of imported machines ran at UNSW (UTECOM, 1956-66) and WRE (WREDAC, also 1956-66). A recent international perspective on the early years is in Chapter 7, 'Wizards of Oz', in Hally (2005, pp. 161-184).
Pearcey (1988, p. 157) identifies the first computer conference in Australia as being held in 1951 in Sydney, run by the University of Sydney and the then Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, which later became the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization - CSIRO). There is a persistent mythology in Australia that the by-then CSIRO abandoned investment in computing in favour of cloud-seeding. This story is all the more poignant when it is appreciated that the last CSIRO-developed computer, c. 1963-68, was called the Cirrus (Pearcey 1988, p. 66).
The 2nd Conference on Automatic Computing and Data Processing, held at the Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) at Salisbury north of Adelaide in June 1957, had three sections, one of which was 'Business Applications'. The conference chair, John Ovenstone, contributed a paper on 'Business and Accountancy Data Processing' (Pearcey 1988, p. 47-48). [REFS: Check Univac and Leo dates. This is very early!]
Until 1957, the c. 8 computers in Australia were all in universities and the WRE. But by 1960 there were 34 in government alone, and by 1963 c. 80 computers (Pearcey 1988, pp. 137, 159), many of them intended for application rather than research per se. Commonwealth government agencies, commencing with the Department of Defence and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) were installing computers for application to administrative tasks. In Defence, for example, John Ovenstone was appointed to the new position of Controller of ADP at senior level (Band 2 SES), and drove the project 1958-64 (Pearcey 1988, pp.72-74). The first companies to install computers are understood to have been the two insurance companies AMP and MLC, both in 1960.
A series of conferences were run in the 1960s by the Australian Committee on Computation and Automatic Control (ANCCAC), formed in 1959, with John Bennett as Chair. It appears that "the First [ANCCAC] Conference was held at the University of Sydney and the University of NSW on 24-27 May 1960 under the chairmanship of Dr. J. M. Bennett of SILLIAC fame" (McDowell 2002). According to McDowell, 43 of the 158 papers at the 1960 event were focussed on 'Commercial Applications'.
These organisations could not hire staff (because it was a new field), and could not depend on tertiary institutions to do the training (because they did not yet offer courses). So they established the Programmer in Training (PIT) scheme, c. 1960, drawing heavily on the foundation work that had been undertaken in the Department of Defence. The PIT scheme "was oriented toward training staff for establishing and running commercial and administrative applications of computing"(Pearcey 1988, p. 122), and involved "a full year at about twenty hours per week of class time, and effectively more than twenty hours per week of related private study" (p. 121). Although its title indicated that the focus was on programming, it included substantial amounts of analysis and design content. It ran in multiple capital cities.
During the 1960s, tertiary institutions began running courses in various Departments, including Physics, Engineering and Mathematics which were the precursors to what became 'Computer Science'. For example, the author was subjected to an (in retrospect, by definition crippled) sub-set of Fortran called IITran in 1967, in UNSW's Department of Mathematics.
Caulfield Institute appears to have established the first specialist Department, called Electronic Data Processing (EDP), in 1965. The foundation staff were John McClelland, Doug Mills, Jack White and Pearl Levin, joined soon afterwards by Peter Juliff, Bob Grant and Gerry Maynard. Trevor Pearcey joined as Head in 1972. The courses combined instruction about technology with teaching about how to apply it. Programming was a central feature, because all applications had to be custom-built, few utilities were available, and the era of code libraries was yet to arrive (Greig & Levin 1985).
The PIT scheme operated from c. 1960 to 1969 through the Public Service Board (PSB, long since disestablished). In interview, Cyril Brookes said that he had arranged for one to be run in Port Kembla in the late 1960s, to support local industry, especially the BHP steelworks. In 1969, responsibility for providing the courses was transferred to CAEs, specifically Caulfield Institute in Melbourne, Bendigo College, and CCAE in Canberra (Greig & Levin 1985, Pearcey 1988 pp. 121-122). Caulfield converted it into a formal Graduate Diploma in Data Processing. In interview, Gerry Maynard said that the content was about 50% programming and 50% systems analysis and design.
Topics in what was to become IS emerged within accounting departments from about 1965, including at the University of Tasmania, with Ed Dunn to the fore. At UNSW in 1967-69, Phil Grouse developed full units oriented to enabling Commerce students to understand computers, software and their applications, and programming languages and software development.
Further Australian Computer Conferences were organised by ANCCAC in 1963 in Melbourne, and in 1966 in Canberra (Pearcey 1988, p. 130). Meanwhile, various State-based associations of practitioners emerged during the first half of the 1960s. All were well-educated, and scientific in outlook. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) was formed in 1966 through the federation of those associations.
The ACS established the Australian Computer Journal (ACJ) in 1967, and for many years also published a second-tier, non-refereed Australian Computer Bulletin (ACB). It also took over the Australian Computer Conferences (ACC), and ran well-attended events from 1969 until [CHECKING WITH A.C.S.: about 1990?]. By then, the computing and what was already becoming the Information Technology (IT) community had splintered into a great many specialist conferences, and the attractiveness of a focal event had waned. The papers presented at these conferences were lightly refereed in comparison to the ACJ, but the topics are of relevance to an analysis of the preoccupations of the profession and discipline at the time.
[REFS NEEDED: ACS approached for any available information on these Proceedings, e.g. Clarke R. (1976) 'Top-Down Structured Programming in COBOL' Proc. [c. 10th?] Austral. Comp. Conf., Perth, September 1976]
Academics in foundation disciplines such as mathematics and physics played a considerable role in the establishment of the ACS, but its primary role quickly became that of a professional association. Its most direct relationship with tertiary institutions was as an accreditation body, assessing the suitability of courses as a basis for professional Membership of the Society. As Pearcey (1988, p. 131) put it, "the direction of development of the ACS moved away from its early, more academic style to represent the wider interests of [its] new membership more directly". This nicely encapsulates the way in which the relationship between profession and discipline has frequently seemed to be as much about tension and distance as about mutual respect and cooperation.
ACS has played an important role in the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP), whose Working Groups ran, and continue to run important international conferences in the Computer Science and IS disciplines.
An annual Computing in CAESs Conference also ran for some years through the 1970s. [NEED REFS: But I've so far been unable to find any]
An important step in the maturation of the computer industry was the 'unbundling' of software from hardware. Until IBM's announcement in 1969, computers had been purchased for a single price, with such software as the supplier could offer included. As the sophistication and significance grew, it needed to be priced separately. That in turn led to greater visibility, and what would now be called 'openness', such that specialist software developers could offer add-on and replacement software (e.g. Campbell-Kelly 2003).
By about 1970, IS was becoming a recognisable disciplinary activity within universities. At the University of Queensland, an Honours unit was available by 1970, taught by a British academic Peter Richards. Ross Jeffery and Ron Weber were in the same UofQ Honours class in 1970-71, and both submitted Honours theses on IS topics. Ron Weber's, in 1972, was entitled 'An Examination of File Structures for Information Processing Systems'. The author's Honours thesis at UNSW, also in 1972, was on an IS-related management accounting topic.
It is instructive to compare developments in IS with the roughly parallel emergence of Computer Science. Although CS units emerged from the late 1950s in departments of physics, electrical engineering, mathematics and statistics, the growth was very slow until the end of the 1960s.
According to Pearcey (1988, pp. 103-118), Departments of Computer Science emerged in the following order: Basser at University of Sydney (out of Physics, John Bennett, c. 1956 and independent from 1959), Adelaide (John Ovenstone, 1964), UNSW (out of Electrical Engineering, M.W. Allen, emergent from 1965), Monash (initially Information Science, C.S. Wallace, 1968), Queensland (G.A. Rose, 1969), Melbourne (Peter Poole, 1972), Tasmania (Arthur Sale, 1974).
Offerings in computer science in most cases migrated from postgraduate diplomas back to final-year undergraduate, eventually expanding into full majors. It appears that the first full Computer Science majors became available only in 1975, at the Universities of Melbourne and Tasmania. By then, demand had ensured that many universities had full IS majors within degrees, and many CAEs and Institutes offered shorter award courses in various areas of IS. As Pearcey put it, "in some institutions special courses which concentrate upon administrative uses in computing are offered outside the formal computing departments and centres" (1988, p. 116).
The development of the IS discipline from 1975 onwards was slow, and in most institutions hamstrung by the absence of the political power associated with a department and at least one full professor. The development of Computer Science, on the other hand, was explosive. Sufficient full Professorships existed, and more were established, the Australian Association of Professors of Computer Science (AAPCS) formed in 1982, and the total academic staff-count more than trebled from 1981 to 1990, to 388 (Sale 1994). By 1988, there were c. 1,200 computer majors graduating from departments of computer science or similar, in 17 universities and 22 CAEs (Pearcey 1988, p. 124).
A major report on computer education needs and resources was published in late 1975 (Smith & de Ferranti 1975, usually referred to as the Barry-Barry Report). The report, commissioned by the Australian Commission on Advanced Education, presaged the rapid growth in small business computer systems and packaged software.
As Pearcey put it (1988, p. 125), "The demand for people with computing expertise has always outstripped the capacity of the tertiary sector to supply it, and the situation seems unlikely to change". Based on personal experience, that was the case for at least three decades, from the late 1960s until the end of the 1990s. About 2000, two factors conspired to dramatically reduce demand. Demand had become over-heated during the 'dot.com bubble' of the mid-late 1990s, and the remarkable discovery that most start-ups would fail resulted in a collapse in demand; and offshore outsourcing had been progressively extending from data capture to programming and even detailed design work. The very large 'correction' has resulted in greatly reduced enrolments from domestic students (although it has had a smaller impact on foreign fee-paying numbers), and appears very likely to be later seen to have been an over-correction.
In 1974, UNSW appointed the first Professor of IS, Cyril Brookes, and formed the first University IS Department, almost a decade after the CAE sector had started to form departments of computing and data processing. This was a strategic measure by the Dean of the Faculty of Commerce & Economics, Athol Carrington. The Australian Financial Review reported at the time that "the appointment was the first at an Australian university specifically directed towards the financial and managerial applications of computers and operations research technology" (McGregor 1974).
In interview in mid-2005, Brookes said that in the mid-1970s there was no body of knowledge, and no clear foundation on which to build it. The SDLC and database management had emerged in the late 1960s. But it required years of experimentation and refinement before they matured and merged into structured analysis and design. Only then was a framework available over which project management could be overlaid, as a basis for teaching and research. In addition, no prior student knowledge of technology could be assumed, so a considerable amount of time had to be spent on introductory computing topics. (Cyril suggested that UNSW was an innovator in placing data analysis in an entry unit in the mid-late 1970s, to establish disciplined thought at an early stage. Many institutions had great difficulty breaking the road-block presented by longstanding and powerful competitor departments that prevented IS from occupying more than one narrow thread in first year).
In interview, Gerry Maynard indicated that curriculum development at Caulfield was also largely insular, with little coming in from overseas. Course committees were more effective in communicating what needs industry had.
In interview, Ron Weber also considered that the published curricula that progressively emerged, primarily in the USA, while informative, were not well-fitted to the Australian content. They were also comprehensive, and topics had to be selected, and integrated into local course environments.
The first local text-book appears to have been Brookes et al. (1982). It had few competitors, and had some success overseas as well. The orientation in Universities was most commonly towards application software development, particularly analysis and design, in order to draw the focus of development away from programming and achieve relevant effective systems. There were parallel developments in IS management, and in decision support. Over time, information management became a distinguishable body of knowledge, and intellectual relationships developed with library science.
The author's Masters sub-thesis, completed at UNSW in 1976, appears to have been one of the early postgraduate contributions. Its title, 'The Implementation of Functional System Design and Development Techniques in a COBOL Environment', is indicative of maturity in the software development phase of IS.
From about 1980, as large amounts of product-related training became necessary, the vocational education sector and particularly Colleges of Technical and Further Education (TAFE) became active in the IT area. A number of private colleges also emerged, a few of which have been active for an extended period.
There was a long delay before recognition of the discipline was sufficient for further full professorial positions to be created. Other early movers at departmental level were QIT (now QUT) and NSWIT (now UTS). The next Professorship took until 1981 to emerge, however, and even then Ron Weber's position at the University of Queensland (1981-2004) was throughout a joint Accounting and IS role. The next appointments were at UTS and Monash in 1990. (Monash, after absorbing Chisholm in 1988, has had the largest concentration of computing-related academics in Australia). Snapshots of IS Professorships in Australia are provided in Appendix 3.
The first doctorate that was competed by an Australian and was clearly in IS was that by Ron Weber, supervised by Gordon Davis, and awarded by the University of Minnesota in 1978. The first IS doctorates completed in Australia appear to have been those by Errol Iselin in 1982 and Iris Vessey in 1984, both at the University of Queensland and both supervised by Ron Weber. Ross Jeffery completed his at UNSW in 1986, and Rick Watson at Minnesota in 1987. Appendix 4 lists the IS PhDs known to have been completed by Australians from the first in 1978 to 1995.
The author conducted surveys of the prior computer-usage experience of first-year students, in this case in accounting, from 1984 until 1992. The first commoditised personal computing device (the Apple II in 1977) and the first spreadsheet modeller (Visicalc) had laid the foundations. But it took a further 15 years, to the early 1990s, before matriculating students entering Australian business faculties had sufficient exposure that computing basics could be switched from core to remedial mode.
Meanwhile, between the 1970s and the 1990s, there was considerable growth in the proportion of matriculants continuing to post-secondary studies, and then in the numbers of mature age candidates returning to post-secondary education, at both bachelors and postgraduate levels. During the next decade, a considerable proportion of these were to consider IT-related studies.
By this stage, a moderate collection of text-books was emerging to encapsulate the mainstream knowledge in the discipline, and facilitate its transfer to the following cohorts of students. Clarke (1987) provides one person's asessment of the list of books that should have adorned 'The Computing Professional's Bookshelf' at the time. [PUT IT ON THE WEB?]
An external perturbartion of enormous influence was the massively wasteful re-structuring of the tertiary education sector, initiated by the Labor Government in 1987. The higher education sector has been in more or less continuous flux ever since, driven by a culture of interventionism by the relevant agency, most recently the Department of Education, Training & Science (DEST).
Among other things, the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the death of the concept of a university as a collegial undertaking, and the imposition of managerial rationalism, and to a considerable extent of profitability and return on investment as the measures of worth of senior executives in universities. Pluralism of organisational objectives was abruptly replaced by the simplicitude of 'the bottom line'. Oxford, Bologna and Tübingen wept; the Harvard Business School exulted.
The CAE sector performed a role mid-way between the abstract, education-oriented work within universities, and the concrete training provide by technical colleges. This resulted in a wide array of courses and units relevant to IS, but staff in CAEs were not funded to perform research, and opportunities to attract research funding were limited, and hence the CAEs provided a home to only a minority of the research-oriented academics in the IS discipline.
The orientation in Universities had been, and continues to be, toward theory and the intellectual aspects of disciplines. There was a tension between this orientation and the government's wish to produce rapidly increasing numbers of graduates, whose qualifications on entry were lower, but who needed to emerge familiar with the new but rapidly mutating hardware and software technologies. These more practically oriented candidates had been serviced in larger volume by the Institutes of Technology and Colleges of Advanced Education (CAEs), which had existed since the previous sectoral re-organisation in the mid-1960s.
Commencing in 1988, the Government imposed massive and highly disruptive re-structuring on the tertiary education sector. It enforced the disestablishment of the c. 40 CAEs and the amalgamation of their operations variously into the existing 19 Universities and 6 sometime Institutes of Technology, or into one of the c. 15 new combines. Substantial and vital differences among the missions of the various institution-types were ignored, and even now remain confused. The more industry-oriented institutions came to perceive substantial roles for themselves in research, and consider that they should have better access to research funding.
Meanwhile, the per-student funding of all institutions was progressively slashed, and institutions were forced to seek funding from external sources, predominantly by attracting 'foreign fee-paying' (FFP) students onto their campuses or into their existing distance education offerings, or by earning revenue from foreign campuses in excess of the costs involved in running them, or participating in them. The dislocation arising from this massive change in business models is still being felt, and many institutions have enormous exposures to the vagaries of the education export market.
In 1990-92, a government review was undertaken of what were styled the 'Computing Studies and Information Sciences Disciplines'. It was popularly referred to by the name of the Committee Chair, hence the Hudson Review (Hudson 1992).
The submissions by the ACS and the ANU utilised a graphic, prepared by the author, which sought to convey the scope of IS, and its relationship to the other relevant disciplines. See Exhibit 1. IS was depicted as occupying vital space between the technical and business disciplines, encompassing a range of applied and instrumentalist topics, and interacting closely with many other disciplines and sub-disciplines. During the intervening 15 years, the topics may have changed somewhat, but the general framework arguably still provides a reasonable representation of the relationships.
Image © Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, 1991
During the early years, communications within the discipline in Australia were informal and somewhat haphazard. An early step to draw the scattered individuals and groups together was the development of a Directory (Clarke 1988, 1991, Gable & Clarke 1994 and 1996). This was contributed into the online service launched by Dave Naumann at Minnesota in 1995.
A critical initiative was the national conference, the Australian Conference in Information Systems (ACIS). The first was held at Monash in 1989, and it has run annually since then. During the first few years, the standing committee comprised Ross Jeffery, Ron Weber, Roger Clarke, Peter Weill and Igor Hawryszkiewycz. The committee was then migrated to the ICIS pattern of rotating membership involving recent, current and near-future organisers.
As the Internet was grasped as an opportunity for international communications and publication, the ISWorld mailing-list and web-site were established, both in 1994. The international Association for Information Systems (AIS) was also formed in that year. The online worldwide directory consolidated the three regional printed directories in 1995. The regional fora PACIS (from 1993), ECIS (from 1993) and AMCIS (from 1995), provided a broader geographical frame for ACIS.
The national specialist journal the Australian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS) was established in 1994. Liaison among Professors and departmental heads had been emergent, and was formalised through the Australian Committee of Professors and Heads of Information Systems (ACPHIS) in 1995. An ISWorld page for Australia was established by the author in 1996. It was to be some years before a chapter of AIS was established (AAIS, formed 2001).
Australians have always been acutely aware of the need to be in contact with the discipline elsewhere in the world, and have been active travellers since the late 1970s, as conference contributors, participants and program committee-members, as doctoral candidates, as seminar speakers, and in short-term visiting positions.
A small number of Australians have held positions overseas for extended periods, particularly in the U.S.A., including Ted Stohr at NYU from the late 1970s, Iris Vessey at Pittsburgh and Indiana, Rick Watson at Georgia and more recently Peter Weill at MIT. (All were to a considerable extent Australian-educated, and all except Iris were Australian-born).
The flow was not all one way. For example, Briton Bob Galliers spent a significant period at WAIT (now Curtin), Britons Philip Yetton and Janice Burn migrated in the early 1990s, and Michael Vitale was attracted from the US to Melbourne in 1995.
Australia has also attracted many visits from leading overseas I.S. academics. Some who made multiple and/or lengthy visits have included Frank Land (LSE, LBS), Bill Olle (London), Neils Bjorn-Andersen (Copenhagen), Leslie Willcocks (Warwick), Trevor Wood-Harper (Salford), Rudy Hirschheim (Houston), Doug Vogel (Arizona, later City Uni. of Hong Kong, Felix Hampe (Koblenz), and Michael Schrefl and Gerald Quirchmaier (both of Linz).
Given Australia's c. 0.3% of the world's population and c. 1% of World GDP, Australia tends to 'punch above its weight' in many fields. The impact of the now 250-700 IS academics has been noticeable, but it has been dwarfed by the energy of the U.S.A. Appendix 5 provides an analysis in support of that conclusion.
One reason for this is doubtless the slow emergence of doctoral programs in Australia. Until the 1990s, most candidates had to either manage their own preparation with support from one or more supervisors but little formal preparatory study, or to leverage as best they could off relevant (and often not-very-relevant) units of study in adjacent disciplines.
A range of institutions in Australia now offer more structured preparation for IS doctoral candidates. There might therefore be an expectation of some acceleration in Australians' contributions in the most heavily-weighted journals and ICIS. That development may be confounded, however, by the ongoing high productivity of American scholars, the higher level of productivity of European scholars in recent years, and the explosion in doctoral programs in other countries.
The earlier part of the paper provided a largely chronological presentation of the development of the discipline. This section adopts a thematic structure, picking out aspects of the story that appear to the author to have been particular significance.
A first concern is to define the heartland of the discipline, and why that is the case. That question is closely tied to the question of what the drivers have been. There can be little doubt that technology has been the biggest force, qualified by organisational concerns. This sub-section traces the main changes in flavours over the years.
Commencing slowly in the 1950s, accelerating through the 1960s, and exploding in the 1970s, computers were being installed, and organisations were beginning to spend considerable sums of money on them. They needed people to apply them. And the resources committed needed to be managed, in order to contribute to the needs of the organisation. Initially the opportunities were perceived in terms of business operations.
Throughout its history, the IS discipline in Australia has always had a strong focus on application software and technology-in-use, seldom on hardware or even systems software. This reflected the limited extent to which Australia, despite its promising start, has ever developed a domestic hardware manufacturing industry
Because the bare machine had to be oriented to business needs, software development was a vital focus from the emergence of IS until the late 1980. The software development life-cycle (SDLC) was important in the IS departments of universities, and central to the many computing departments in more vocationally-oriented institutions. Over time, the SDLC gradually matured into a systems life-cycle (SLC). This distinction reflected the importance of non-software elements. It also acknowledged the need for maintenance and enhancement, and not just of software, but of business processes that integrated both manual, automated and intellectual elements.
During the 1960s and 1970s, and well into the 1980s, the work of most IS practitioners was focussed on support for business operations. This involved using data to represent relevant events in the organisation's world, and a useful generic term for the kinds of applications was Transaction Data Processing Systems (TDPS). The first specialist newsletter was launched in 1969, the Data Base for Advances in Information Systems (usually shorted to Database). It was, and continues to be published under the auspices of the ACM Special Interest Group on Business Data Processing (SIGBDP), now SIGMIS. It became a refereed journal in 1979 (Canning 1994). The term 'BDP' was little-used in Australia, the more mainstream expressions being Electronic Data Processing (EDP), and Automatic Data Processing (ADP) in the public sector.
Progressively an expectation arose that the information needs of managers and executives could be served. This gave rise to the Management Information Systems (MIS) movement. The term, and much of the drive, emerged from Gordon David and his colleagues at Minnesota. This quickly became such a broad strand that for some people it might have been perceived, and might now be perceived, to define the scope of IS as a whole.
The author has always considered that the key text that set the agenda was Davis (1974), entitled 'Management Information Systems: Conceptual Foundations, Structure, and Development'. In its later form, Davis & Olson (1984), I still listed it as a student reference as late as the mid 1990s.
MIS Quarterly was commenced during this phase, in 1977, run out of Minnesota, and supported by OR/MS and business organisations. Information & Management dates from about the same time.
Specialist conferences emerged around that time, with the International Conference ICIS commencing in 1980. All of these activities were, and continue to be, heavily US-dominated, although many non-Americans travelled to the event, particularly from Europe and Australia, and the Conference has been more meaningfully international since about 1990, with 5 of the last 15 conferences held outside North America. The North American Directory of Faculty (i.e. Academic Staff) commenced in 1983.
MIS had been originally oriented towards the extraction of valuable data from systems that processed transactional data relating to business operations. The extraction was performed through aggregation and exception-reporting. MIS was then augmented by Decision Support Systems (DSS) movement. This could be differentiated from MIS in two main ways: the data was used in conjunction with models of current and possible future business (in effect a merger of ideas from TDPS and OR/MS), and data was used that derived from outside the organisation (such as demographics) and from 'thin air' (as models were applied to 'what if' analysis).
A further strand that reflected the inter-working of multiple individuals was Group Decision Support Systems (GDSS) and its correlate at the tactical level, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW). This is a good example of the continual technology-driven re-definition of scope, the scattered alliances, the consequent disciplinary splintering, and the inability of the IS discipline to build a substantial and stable powerbase. Other examples include Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) data modelling, and database management.
The management of computers, data processing, data centres, and progressively IS, had been a focus in some Schools from the outset (Dickson at Minnesota? Anthony and others at Harvard?). It has progressively expanded into a broader IT management thread. One area that has attracted a lot of attention is productivity. This has given rise to specialised strands within the discipline, over-lapping with software engineering.
Technology use, adoption and impediments to adoption, have been a recurring strand in research, which the Technology Adoption Model (TAM) as an example of a reference theory drawn into IS and much-used.
Project failure and application failure have long been major concerns among executives. Mandata and the Bank of NSW's CS90 were very public examples of failure in the 1970s and 1980s. They have been a less significant focus of research work than might have been expected of a discipline closely attuned to business needs, although Chris Sauer's book was an important contribution.
During the 1980s, concern arose about the slowness of well-engineered, structured analysis, design and programming. Various theories emerged about 'rapid application development', all of which sacrifice quality for speed and cost-savings. They have resulted in low quality and (since the explosion of networks and particularly the Internet) seriously low security. They are, however, now the technological mainstream.
From independent applications towards interfaced applications, and then integrated applications. The exponential growth in difficulties with the size of source-code (such as bug-content, fragility, and inability of staff to comprehend) was appreciated by theorists very early. But all attempts at modularisation have been disappointing, and organisations have built ever-larger more or less monolithic applications. The quality of the many large-scale applications has become a progressively larger problem, and project risk continues to be very high, with frequent over-runs and failures.
Another major external change with implications for the discipline's focus was the transformation from custom-built applications to packaged applications. As software became more complex, and more expensive, the focus switched from development to pre-written 'software packages' and to customisation and integration of pre-written components. This transition could be argued to have occurred somewhere between the late 1970s and the early 1990s.
It came to be better appreciated that enormous harm had arisen (and continues to arise) from mechanistic application of technology without sufficient attention to its use by people and organisations, and to its first-order impacts on, and second-order implications for, people and organisations (e.g. Bjorn-Anderson 1980).
The explosion in the power of 'personal computers' through the 1980s resulted in a focus on individuals, the tools that they used, and the ways in which they used and didn't use them. Subsequently, a wide array of IT-related services have come to be regarded as commodities as unrelated to organisations' core competencies as the cleaning services, and subject to outsourcing, and in many cases to subsequent re-insourcing, and the eventual discovery of the concept of 'right-sourcing'.
By the late 1980s, the convergence of computing with communications was making rapid progress. Local-area and wide-area networking changed the scope of the industry that IS served from 'the computer industry' in the 1970s to 'the information technology industry' in the 1990s.
Because of the opportunities that communications technologies created, by the late 1980s a great deal of attention was being paid to IS that crossed the boundaries of organisations, originally inter-organisational systems (IOS - 1-to-1), then multi-organisational (MOS - m-to-n) in various configurations.
The combination of DSS and IOS/MOS resulted in increased capacity to contribute towards the work of the most senior executives in large organisations. From the late 1980s, the strategic information systems (SIS) strand became important (Ref to Clarke 1994?). Strategic alignment became a preoccupation.
Few members of the IS discipline would regard it as being intellectually remote and abstract. On the contrary, it is generally regarded as a 'professional discipline'. This has created a variety of challenges, not least as to who the professionals are who the discipline needs to educate, interact with, and conduct research for.
Professional job-titles and job-definitions have changed a great deal over the four decades that the profession and industry have existed. The original professional roles were computer operator (largely defunct now), systems analyst (now called business analyst), systems designer (now called systems analyst/designer, but greatly diminished due to the contemporary dominance of packaged software), and programmer. The senior staff-member was called a (Electronic) Data Processing (EDP) Manager. The executive responsible for DP was most commonly the Finance Director. Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) emerged at executive level only from the mid-to-late 1980s onwards, as the strategic significance of I.T. grew - and the amount spent on it sky-rocketted.
Because graduates from IS courses are intended to move into the profession, the professional body, the ACS, has long run an accredition program. Most institutions have felt the need to have their computing courses accredited by the ACS, both as a form of review, and as a means whereby graduates could be assured of qualifying for membership of the relevant professional body.
For many years, the ACS's accreditation guidelines mentioned the term 'information systems', but were very heavily oriented toward 'computing' and dominated by computer science thinking (ACS, 1985, 1987). During these years, many IS courses achieved accreditation only through the exercise of the discretion that the Guidelines permitted.
In Clarke & Lo (1989), the author of this paper and Bruce Lo proposed that the accreditation requirements for Computer Science and IS be distinguished, and that a range of specific topics be recognised which ensured focus on both technology and business needs. The proposal was adopted in ACS (1990), and retained in Maynard & Underwood (1996). Underwood (1997) provides a more detailed description of the 'Core Body of Knowledge for Information Technology Professionals', and reflects both the Computer Science and IS perspectives on the domain.
The tension between the technology driver and the organisational aspect was exemplified by the competition between the ACS and the Australian Institute of Systems Analysts (AISA) during the 1970s. In this case, the computing end of the spectrum won by a very wide margin. The AISA, despite its organisational orientation, never grew into an organisation with significant membership or influence. Nor did any of the larger business-oriented professional associations ever made a significant move to capture the business analysis profession.
More broadly than the IS profession, the IS discipline needs to have linkages with industry and government.
One form of linkage has been course committees and departmental advisory committees, which facilitate input from industry to the discipline. IS departments have also tended to draw heavily on people within industry for sessional tutors, sessional lecturers, and guest lecturers. In interview, Gerry Maynard mentioned the use by Caulfield Institute of Pleasant Friday Afternoon as a means of attracting DP managers in industry and government into contact with staff and students.
The Australian Computer Users Association (ACUA) operated from 1968 onwards, and was a potential linkage-point for senior academics. UNSW ran a very successful 'IS Forum' from 1977 onwards, which drew in senior executives from industry and government. This was much easier than for many other institutions because Cyril Brookes had moved into academe from the top computing job in Australia, as Manager - Corporate Data Processing for the country's largest company, BHP. Only a small number of IS departments appear to have been able to build and sustain linkages of this nature.
During the 1980s, there was considerable emphasis among employers on 'sandwich courses', and flagship courses were very successful at UNSW and UTS in Sydney, and [Monash? and Swinburne??] in Melbourne. The perception in industry was that, particularly in the more applied end of Computer Science and the technical end of IS, quality graduates were being confronted by real-world problems too late. This approach provided early exposure of students to the work environment, and leavened theory with practice.
Coursework, which was originally entirely the responsibility of academics, has been drifting in recent years, as industry-provided product-specific units have come be accepted for credit within some universities (e.g. networking by Cisco, and .NET development by Microsoft).
An earlier sub-section considered the drivers and scope of the IS discipline primarily from the teaching perspective. This sub-section considers the related, but somewhat different question of what IS academics have considered to be appropriate areas of research.
Reviews of research in IS draw attention to the enormous breadth of the topics addressed, and of the research techniques applied. See, for example, Culnan (1986, 1987) and Galliers & Whitley (2002). The enormous diversity arises in several dimensions:
A problem that was felt keenly at the outset in the 1960s, but persists even now, is the lack of theory, and in many areas even of frameworks within which theory can emerge.
A few attempts have been made to adopt the encyclopaedist's approach of ennumerating the topics that are within-scope of the IS discipline. More adventurously, a few have attempted taxonomies, in order to impose some order on the chaos. The most successful work of this kind is that by Barki et al. (1988, 1993). The second paper reported that articles published in just 7 major journals in 1987-92 identified about 2,000 different keywords. Their revised classification scheme included 1,300 keywords under 9 major and 56 minor groupings, an increase of 175 on their original 1988 version.
As Exhibit 2 shows, only half of the Barki et al. (1993) keywords were directly concerned with the core areas of IS discipline, with one-quarter associated with reference disciplines, and one-quarter with external drivers and constraints. The discipline could be described, kindly, as being strongly professional in its orientation, and sensitive to its environment and the needs of its clientele. Alternatively, it could be depicted more critically, as lacking confidence, being derivative, lacking in fundamentals, and driven mercilessly by its rapidly changing context.
|Drivers & Constraints||
|- Information Technology||
|- Organizational Environment||
|- External Environment||
|IS Core Research Areas||
|- IS Management||
|- IS Development &Operations||
|- IS Usage||
|- Kinds of Information Systems||
|IS Education, Research, etc.||
A later analysis using the Barki high-level structure examined articles published in Information & Management and MISQ from 1981 to 1997. Claver et al. (2000) found that the largest concentrations of publications were IS development (13.2% of 1,121 papers), DSS (8.9%) and IS evaluation (7.8%).
Another, more recent indicator of the IS research domain is the list of postgraduate units of study proposed in Gorgone & Gray (2000):
Gorgone et al. (2005) proposes adaption of that structure to the following:
[NEEDED: An analysis of Australian publications against some such classification scheme]
The diversity apparent in research topics is just as evident in IS academics' choices research methods.
During the 1980s, holy wars were fought over appropriate research techniques, but there has been a marked maturation in that area in the last 10-15 years. The discipline has become a 'catholic church', in one of the positive senses of the expression. Recent taxonomies of research techniques are at Palvia et al. (2003), Palvia et al. (2004) and Clarke (2005).
Claver et al. (2000) found that 'theoretical studies' (as defined by Alavi & Carlson 1992), fell from 56% to 20% between 1981-83 and 1996-97, while empirical studies rose from 44% to 80%. 'Field studies' (although in many cases questionnaire-based surveys) rose from 18% to 52%, while case studies rose to a high of 23% but fell back to their original 18%.
[NEEDED: An analysis of Australian publications against some such classification scheme]
Mention was made in the previous sub-section about an extended period of intolerance and mutual distrust and dislike between groups who adopted particular research techniques. These tensions were at their most marked in the 1980s, and were variously methodological, philosophical and often transatlantic. While differences remain, and some cleavages exist, the there is sufficient mutual respect and 'agreement to disagree' that little energy is wasted any more.
The borrowing of theories from reference disciplines was necessary in early years (partly because IS is derivative on underlying disciplines and partly because there was no IS theory, and there is still rather little). There remains a predilection for 'reference frameworks', which is a pre-theoretic construct used as a means of organising limited numbers of largely ad hoc observations or clusters of apparently interdependent variables, preparatory to conducting pilot studies. (REF: Clarke, Salzburg?).
The borrowing of theories continues to be a major feature of IS work. Some are tested, whereas many others are 'convenience theories' whose applicability to the contexts in which they are applied is unclear.
Another recurrent tension has been between relevance and rigour (Keen 1980). The demand for academic professionalism, particularly in major journals, has driven much of the research undertaken in IS far away from topics and treatments that are useful in industry. Some conferences, particularly in applied topics, seek a balance between the needs and interests of professionals and executives, on the one hand, and the challenges of delivering reliable inferences from empirical research, on the other. There remains, however, a serious risk of high-quality, rigorous research being achieved, at the expense of complete irrelevance to the real world.
The organisational location of IS staff has been highly varied from the outset. A large proportion have always been in Departments dominated by other disciplines, for which IS was, and in many cases still is, perceived to fulfil a service role. The dominant disciplines have been variously hostly and hostile to the IS discipline and the staff working in it.
Almost all institutions had specialist organisational units focussed on IS by the end of the 1980s. The last institutions to create them were the University of Melbourne, in 1995, and the University of Sydney in 2001.
The statistical data in Exhibit 3 was extracted from the various editions of the printed Directories of Australian Academics (Clarke 1988), of Australasian Academics (Clarke 1991), and of Asia Pacific Researchers (Gable & Clarke 1994, 1996), and the on-line directory as at 2 May 2005.
It shows that, by 1988, when the first Directory of Information Systems Academics was produced, the 175 individuals who could be readily identified were in 55 separate Departments in 41 educational institutions. Only 9 of those 55 Departments were recognisable as Information Systems, with a further 8 in 'Computing' or '(Electronic) Data Processing'.
In a pattern that has continued to the present day, 25 of the Departments were dominated by Business disciplines (6 each of Commerce, Accounting and Business, 3 each of Management and Economics, and 1 of Administration); and the remaining 13 were mostly Computer Science Departments, with some Information Science (in the technical sense, not the librarianship sense) and Mathematics.
From 9 of 55 in 1988, the IS Department count had moved to 22 of 76 in 1991. By 1994 it was 32 of 84, by 1996 it was 39 of 88, but by 2005 it was back to 28 of 100. In 2005, there appear to be about 700 people for whom IS is their dominant disciplinary affiliation, in about 100 Departments (of which only 28 are distinctly IS or similar in name), in all c. 40 institutions. In short, a large proportion of IS staff are not in Departments of that name.
A significant difference from patterns in the US was the relatively very limited involvement of and interest in Australian Graduate Schools of Business in IS, especially until about the mid-1990s. Exceptions included mainly Phillip Yetton and for a time Chris Sauer at AGSM, and then Peter Weill and Marianne Broadbent at MGSM, and later Macquarie.
The largest of the IS Departments appear to be Monash, Edith Cowan, Melbourne, QUT, Uni SA and UNSW (each with over 30 staff in one or more Departments) and Curtin, Deakin, Griffith, USQ and VUT (each 20-30 staff). The largest populations overall appear to be in Monash (with over 70 IS staff spread across 6-8 Departments), Melbourne University (about 60), and Edith Cowan (about 50). [CROSS-CHECK WITH OTHER 'IS in ANZ' PAPERS]
A comparison with Computer Science is instructive. By 1990, the number of academic staff in IS was comparable with that in the Computer Science discipline. On the other hand, IS staff were distributed over many departments only a minority of which were IS-focussed, and were in few cases senior within those departments. Computer Science demanded and attracted far greater funding and support staff, and it has always been far more influential and better-recognised than IS.
Dreyfuss (2004) provides a clear example of the competition between computer science on the one hand, and business, commerce or accounting on the other, to dominate the IS discipline. Dreyfuss chronicles the establishment of the last IS Department, at the University of Melbourne, during the period 1994-96. The Vice-Chancellor, David Penington, requested a report from a committee chaired by Peter Weill (who was a Professor in the Graduate School of Management). The Weill report stressed that there was no one standard structure for IS across the universities, with some courses very management-oriented, others highly technical. Penington opted to put the new IS Department in the Science Faculty, at least for the short term (and, as it has transpired, for the medium term). The IS degree was to have five major 'themes': information systems, organisations, information technology, analytic skills and personal competency. Later-year specialisation was to be in one of three streams: Organisations, Information Technology or Custom (Dreyfuss 2004, pp. 1-6).
The diffusion of IS staff across large numbers of organisational sub-units, in many cases without a senior academic post allocated to the IS discipline, has meant that for many years IS has lacked political clout, and even now has less political clout than disciplines with similar total numbers whose staff are concentrated in departments that they dominate, and which have multiple professorial appointments.
One implication of this has been a lack of resources for educational functions. In most institutions, there was a long-term struggle to gain sufficient funding and staff-positions (and then to find people with appropriate education and experience to fill them). In some contexts, the Computer Science discipline was powerful, and resisted the emergence of IS. In others, economics and management disciplines did the same. The joint majors and double-degrees that the market needed emerged very slowly, and the silo-effects of Faculties, Schools and even Departments resulted in students often having to devise ways to construct programs that suited current needs.
Another problem has been the serious difficulty of acquiring sufficient resourcing to support research programs, or even individual projects of any scale. Members of the discipline in Australia were under-trained in research, they were highly diverse in their orientations, domains of study and research techniques, and they were geographically scattered. The development of consortia to develop quality bids was difficult, and remained so well into the era of widespread email from about 1990.
The primary source of funding, the Australian Research Grants Scheme (ARGS), later Australian Research Council (ARC), created a sub-topic of Information Systems only in the late 1990s. Until then, those few who were successful in their bids had submitted under either Computer Science or Management headings, and were generally assessed by academics with no affinity with the IS discipline.
Since 1998, IS has been recognised within the ARC RFCD Code as one of 139 disciplines and 898 subjects. The subjects list is shown in Exhibit 4. In 2001, after lobbying by ACPHIS and the then-new AAIS, the IS discipline gained a member of the ARC's College of Experts. Janice Burn performed that role 2001-2004, followed by Graeme Shanks [CHECK THAT! Although appointed in mid-2004, Graeme's name isn't on that list!]
The purpose of this paper has been to provide a chronicle of the early years of the IS discipline in Australia, in the process identifying important themes. In some respects, it is inappropriate to 'draw conclusions'. This section accordingly focusses on key questions that confront the discipline early in the 21st century.
The first cluster of questions relate to the discipline's intellectual survival. Is IS really a discipline? And does it matter if it isn't? Is there a core? Is it so heavily dependent on technology and management fashion that it can never have the stable core necessary for a recognised discipline? Put another way, are IS academics destined to wander forever, backstage bit-actors to host-discipline leads, as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Hamlet? Is IS merely a research domain, that needs to be viewed through the lenses of a variety of genuine disciplines? Has its value been ephemeral? Does it need to be absorbed by broader disciplines either side of it?
If IS is a discpline with a long-term future, then further questions arise. In interview, Frank Land said that "We're fragmenting intellectually and methodologically, and our language is becoming confused, because words are increasingly being used in method-specific senses". He sees this as leading to mistaken inferencing and perhaps an outright inability to comprehend what someone from a different intellectual or methodological school of thought is trying to say.
A companion piece to this paper considers the recent 'identity crisis' debate in MISQ 27, 2 (June 2003), in particular Weber (2003) and Benbasat & Zmud (2003), and in CAIS, ISR (Orlikowski & Iacono?), and elsewhere.
Even if the discipline is intellectually worthy and sound, there remains the issue of economic survival. Can a young and politically weak discipline survive in the face of massively reduced government funding for institutions, and new business models exposed the vagaries of market-conditions? The 'dot.com' implosion of c. 1998-2001 falls outside the main period considered in this paper. But its significance in this regard is enormous, because it has resulted in greatly reduced student interest in all IT courses, and a reduction of perhaps 20-30% in staff-numbers in IT generally and in at least some institutions in IS in particular. The market over-reacted, as markets do, and local demand for IT-qualified graduates may well exceed supply in the near future. Will the recovery come soon enough and forcefully enough to ensure that IS continues as a distinct discipline.
The first forty decades saw progress and growth achieved, in a context of multi-dimensional adversity. The next decade promises more of the same.
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Sale A. (1994) 'Computer Science Teaching in Australia' Ch. 10 in Bennett J.M. et al. (Eds.) 'Computing in Australia: The development of a profession' Hale & Iremonger / Australian Computer Society, 1994, pp. 151-154
Sprague R.H. Jr (1980) 'A Framework for the Development of Decision Support Systems' MIS Qtly 4, 4 (December 1980) 1-26
Walstrom K.A. & Leonard L. (2000) 'Citation Classics from the Information Systems Literature' Infor. & Mngt. 38, 2 (December 2000) 59-72
Weber R. (2003) 'Still Desperately Seeking the IT Artifact' MIS Qtly 27, 2 (June 2003) iii-xi
Wood-Harper A.T., Antill L & Avison D.E. (1985) 'Information Systems Definition: The Multiview Approach' Blackwell, Oxford, 1985
Ovenstone J.A. (1957) 'Business and Accountancy Data Processing' Proc. Conf. on Comp. and Data Proc., vol. III, Weapons Research Establishment, Adelaide, 1957
The Australian Computer Society, formed in 1966, established the Australian Computer Journal in 1967. (It was re-named in 2001 the Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology). Early ACJ papers relevant to IS are listed below in date order, earliest first.
Jones P.D. (1967) 'Computer Science Education In Australian Universities' Austral. Comp. J. 1, 1 (March 1967) 37-43
McGeorge J.A. (1968) 'CARBINE - a Computer Automated Real-time Betting Information Network' Austral. Comp. J. 1, 3 (September 1968) 143-148
Fiedler M.R.G. (1969). Education For Commercial ADP Staff - I Skills Required And Existing Facilities' Austral. Comp. J. 1, 5 (1969) 277-284
Fiedler M.R.G. (1970) 'Education For Commercial ADP Staff In Australia II The Solution In - House Training' Austral. Comp. J. 2, 1 (March 1970) 32-38
Webster L.A. (1970) 'The Development of an Information System for a Manufacturing Company I : The Feasibility Study' Austral. Comp. J. 2, 2 (June 1970) 61-65
Montgomery A.Y. (1970) 'Some Aspects of Data Processing Management in Australia' Austral. Comp. J. 2, 2 (June 1970) 71-78
Webster L.A. (1971) 'The Development of an Information System for a Manufacturing Company II : An Order Entry System for a Steel Plant' Austral. Comp. J. 3, 1 (March 1971) 3-11
Aiken J.D. (1971) 'An Introduction to Management Information Systems' Austral. Comp. J. 3, 3 (September 1971) 98-105
Taylor A.A. (1972) 'Professionalism and Apathy' Austral. Comp. J. 4, 3 (September 1972) 104-111
Saw B.M. (1973) 'A Discussion of the Business Data Processing Cost/Benefit Relationship' Austral. Comp. J. 5, 1 (March 1973) 35-38
Hill R.J. (1973) 'Staged Introduction of Manufacturing Information Systems' Austral. Comp. J. 5, 3 (September 1973) 96-104
Coombes R.L. (1976) 'Comprehensive EDP Security Guidelines' Austral. Comp. J. 8, 1 (March 1976) 25-37
Brookes C. (1976) 'The Future of EDP Technology and Impact on Organisations' Austral. Comp. J. 8, 2 (June 1976) 43-46
Karoly G. (1977) 'Real-Time Systems at the Victorian TAB - An Historical Review' Austral. Comp. J. 9, 1 (March 1977) 11-16
Wallace C.S. (1977) 'Computing Research in Australia' Austral. Comp. J. 9, 1 (March 1977) 21-24
Clarke R. & Lo B. (1989) 'Accreditation Requirements for Information Systems Courses for the Australian Computer Society' ACS, November 1989
de Ferranti B. & Deane J. (2001) 'Early Contributions to IT in Australia from the Basser Department of Computer Science - John Bennett's SILLIAC year' J. Res. & Practice Infor. Techno. 33, 4 (December 2001) 280-293
Dreyfus S. (2004) 'The University of Melbourne Department of Information Systems - 1996-2004' University of Melbourne, 2004
Earle T.R. & Fitzgerald E.P. (1983) 'Professionalism - Its Educational Aspects' Austral. Comp. J. 15, 3 (September 1983) 86-90
Edwards J. (2001) 'John Makepeace Bennett - An Inspiration' J. Res. & Practice Infor. Techno. 33, 4 (December 2001) 273-279
Elliot S. (1993) 'Formal Computing Education in Australia: Do We Practise What We Teach?' Austral. Comp. J. 25, 2 (June 1993) 49-60
Galliers R.D. (1987) 'Information Systems Planning: A Manifesto for Australian-based Research' Austral. Comp. J. 19, 2 (June 1987) 49-55
Goldsworthy A.W. (1993) 'IT and the Competency Debate-Skill vs. Knowledge A Major Issue' Austral. Comp. J. 25, 3 (September 1993) 113-122
Greig J. & Levin P. (1989) 'Computing at Chisholm: The First Twenty-Five Years, 1965-1989' Chisholm Institute of Technology, 1989. (Chisholm was later absorbed into Monash University)
Klobas J.E. & McGill T. (1993) 'Computing Professionals and Information About Developments in Information Technology' Austral. Comp. J. 25, 4 (December 1993) 149-158
McDowell I. (2002) 'Computing History - The First ANCCAC Conference' PC Update, March 2002, Melbourne PC User Group, Australia, at http://www.melbpc.org.au/pcupdate/2203/2203article10.htm
Maj S.P. & Veal D. (2000) 'Computer Technology Curriculum - A New Paradigm for a New Century' J. Res. & Practice Infor. Techno. 32, 3/4 (September-December 2000) 200-214
Metcalfe M. & Kiley M. (2000) 'Arguing For PhD Coursework' Austral. J. Infor. Syst. 7, 2 (May 2000)
Pearcey T. (1988) 'A History of Australian Computing' Chisholm Institute of Technology, 1988
Pervan G. & Cecez-Kecmanovic D. (2001) 'The Status of Information Systems Research in Australia: Preliminary Results' Proc. 12th Austral. Conf. Infor. Syst., 2001
Ridley G. (1997) 'The Role of Conferences and Refereed Journals In Australian Information Systems Research' Austral. J. Infor. Syst. 5, 1 (September 1997)
Ridley G., Goulding P., Lowry G. & Pervan G. (1998) 'The Australian Information Systems Research Community: An Analysis of Mainstream Publication Outlets' Austral. J. Infor. Syst. 5, 2 (May 1998)
Woodings T. (1987) 'The Professional Development and Continuing Education of computing Practitioners' Austral. Comp. J. 19, 4 (December 1987) 224-230
The following documents have been identified as being statements of curriculum that have been directly and indirectly influential in the definition of undergraduate and to a lesser extent postgraduate IS education in Australia, and to some extent at least are indicative of the scope of the discipline from a research perspective as well. The documents are presented in order of publication-date.
Couger J. (Ed.) (1973) 'Curriculum Recommendations for Undergraduate Programs in Information Systems' Commun. ACM 16, 12 (December 1973) 727-749
Brittan J.N.G. (1974) 'An International Curriculum for Information Systems Designers' IBI/ICC, 1974
DPMA (1981) 'DPMA Model Curriculum for Undergraduate Computer Information Systems Education' Data Processing Management Association, Park Ridge, Illinois, 1981
Nunamaker J.F., Couger J.D. & Davis G.B. (1982) 'Information-Systems: Curriculum Recommendations for the 80s - Undergraduate And Graduate Programs' Commun. ACM 25, 11 (November 1982) 781-805
ACS (1985) 'Guidelines for Course Accreditation' Australian Computer Society, 1985
DPMA (1986) 'CIS'86: The DPMA Model Curriculum for Undergraduate Computer Information Systems' 2nd Ed., Data Processing Management Association, Park Ridge, Illinois, 1986
Buckingham R.A., Hirschheim R.A., Land F.F. & Tully C.J. (1987) 'Information Systems Education: Recommendations and Implementation' British Computer Society / Cambridge University Press, 1987
ACS (1987) 'Guidelines for Course Accreditation' Australian Computer Society, 1987
AAA (1987) '1986-87 Report of the American Accounting Association Committee on Contemporary Approaches to Teaching Information Systems' J. of Infor. Syst. 1, 3 (Spring 1987) 127-156
Davis J.R. & Leitch R.A. (1988) 'Accounting Information Systems Courses and Curricula: New Perspectives' J. of Infor. Syst. 3, 1 (Fall 1988) 153-166
ACS (1990) 'Guidelines for Course Accreditation' Australian Computer Society, 1990
Trauth E.M., Farwell D.W. & Lee D. (1993) 'The IS Expectation Gap: Industry Expectations versus Academic Preparation' MIS Quarterly 17, 3 (September 1993) 293-307
Couger J.D., Davis G.B., Dologite D.G., et al. (1995) 'IS95 - Guideline For Undergraduate Is Curriculum' MIS Qtly 19, 3 (September 1995) 341-359
Maynard G.B. & Underwood A. (1996) 'Guidelines for Accreditation of Courses in Universities at the Professional Level' Australian Computer Society, 1996
Underwood A. (1997) 'The Core Body of Knowledge for Information Technology Professionals' Australian Computer Society, 1997
Davis G. B., Gorgone J. T., Couger J. D. Feinstein, D. L. & Longenecker Jr. H. E. (Eds.) (1997) 'IS'97 Model Curriculum and Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Systems' Data Base 28, 1 (Winter 1997) I-94
Gorgone J.T. & Gray P. (2000) 'MSIS 2000: Model Curriculum And Guidelines For Graduate Degree Programs In Information Systems' Commun. AIS 3, 1 (January 2000)
Gorgone J.T., Davis G.B., Valacich J.S., Topi H., Feinstein D.L. & Longenecker Jr H.E. (2002) 'IS 2002: Model Curriculum And Guidelines for Undergraduate Degree Programs in Information Systems' Assoc. for Infor. Syst., 2002
ISACA (2004) 'ISACA Model Curriculum for IS Audit and Control' Information System Audit and Control Association, 2004
Gorgone J.T., Gray P., Stohr E.A., Valacich J.S. & Wigand R.T. (2005) 'MSIS2006 CURRICULUM PREVIEW' Commun. AIS 15 (2005) 544-554
ISWorld, at http://www.isworld.org/
ISWorld Mailing List, at http://lyris.isworld.org/isworldlist.htm
ISWorld Directory, at http://www.isfacdir.org/
The Index of Information Systems Journals, edited by John Lamp at Deakin, http://lamp.infosys.deakin.edu.au/journals/index.php
ISWorldNet Dissertation Database, at http://www.isworld.org/dissertationdatabase/
Association for Information Systems (AIS), at http://www.aisnet.org/
International Conference in Information Systems (ICIS), at http://icisnet.aisnet.org/
International Conference in Information Systems (ICIS) Proceedings, at http://aisel.isworld.org/publication.asp?Pub=ICIS
European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS), at http://www.ecisnet.org/
Pacific Asia Conference on Information Systems (PACIS), at http://www.pacis-net.org/
Americas Conference in Information Systems (AMCIS)
Americas Conference in Information Systems (AMCIS) Proceedings, at http://aisel.isworld.org/publication.asp?Pub=AMCIS
Australasian Conference in Information Systems, since 1990, 2005 conference at http://depts.it.uts.edu.au/is/ACIS2005/
Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT, 2000-), successor to the ACJ, at http://www.acs.org.au/jrpit/, index at http://www.acs.org.au/jrpit/RPITVolumeIndex.html
Australian Computer Journal (ACJ, 1967-1999), index at http://www.acs.org.au/jrpit/RPITVolumeIndex.html
Australian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS, 1993-), at http://www.uow.edu.au/ajis/ajis.html, index at http://www.uow.edu.au/ajis/past.html
Database of University Computer Science Departments, at http://www.cs.jcu.edu.au/acsadb/department_db.html
Universities in Australia, at http://www.avcc.edu.au/content.asp?page=/universities/memberUnis.htm
Australian Digital Theses Program, at http://adt.caul.edu.au/
ISWorld Net - Australia, at http://www.aaisnet.org/isworld/
Australasian Chapter of the Association for Information Systems (AAIS), at http://www.aaisnet.org/
Australasian Departments of Information Systems, at http://www.infosys.utas.edu.au/cgi/is_depts/
Australian Council of Professors and Heads of Information Systems (ACPHIS), at http://www.acphis.org.au/
1965 First Courses in Scandinavia and in USA
1967 First Professor and Department - Gordon David, MIS, Uni of Minnesota MIS Research Center (MISRC), at http://misrc.umn.edu/about/history/
1977 MIS Quarterly launched
1980 First International Conference in Information Systems (ICIS)
1983 First Edition of the Directory of Faculty in the U.S.A. and Canada
1993 ISWorld Mailing List and ISWorld Web-Site founded
1994 Association for Information Systems (AIS) formed
1995 Worldwide Online Directory of IS Academics went live, First Americas Conference in Information Systems (AMCIS)
1965 Earliest identified IS units - Electronic Data Processing, at Caulfield Institute, and at Uni. of Tasmania, Hobart
1966 Australian Computer Society formed, by the federation of prior societies in South Australia (formed 1960), Victoria (1961), Queensland (1962), N.S.W. (1963) and Canberra (1965)
1967 Australian Computer Journal established (1967-99, thereafter Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology (JRPIT)
1968 Units in Business Use of Computers at UNSW - Phil Grouse
1974 First Professor of Information Systems - Cyril Brookes, UNSW
1977 First Australian with a PhD in Information Systems - Ron Weber, at Uni. of Minnesota
1982 Second Professor at least partly in Information Systems - Ron Weber, UQ
1986? First PhD in Information Systems gained in Australia - Ross Jeffery, UNSW
1988 First Edition of the Directory of Australian Information Systems Academics - Roger Clarke, ANU
1990 First Australian Conference in Information Systems (ACIS), at Monash - Ross Jeffery, Petter Weill, Ron Weber, Roger Clarke, WHO AT MONASH??
1991 Three Chairs at Monash; Second Edition of the Directory of Australasian Information Systems Academics
1993 Second Chair at UNSW; Third and last Edition of the Directory of Australasian Information Systems Academics
1994 Australian Journal of Information Systems (AJIS) established - Rob McGregor, Wollongong; First Edition of the Asia-Pacific Directory of Information Systems Academics - Guy Gable, QUT & Roger Clarke, ANU
1995 ACPHIS started as informal 'IS Heads' meeting at ACIS in Perth and has met at least annually at ACIS since then
1996 ISWorld Country Page for Australia established - Roger Clarke, ANU; Second and last Edition of the Asia-Pacific Directory of Information Systems Academics, then absorbed into the ISWorld Directory - Guy Gable, QUT
2001 Formation of Australasian Chapter of the Association for Information Systems (AAIS)
The count of Professors that is provided below includes those people who have been clearly identified as full Professor and whose background and role have been clearly identified as placing considerable weight on Information Systems. Appointments in such areas as Accounting and Computer Science have been included, provided that the individual indicated a close affinity with the IS community.
The primary source of this data is the Directories (Clarke 1988, 1991, Gable & Clarke 1994, 1996). It is of the nature of both the early, printed Directories and the self-maintained (and often not maintained) online directory since 1995, that both omissions and mis-classifications occur. This Appendix includes corrections and updates that have become known to me. Please advise the author of any such, and accept his apologies should there be any unintended slight or embarrassment!
Professors on the dates at which snapshots were taken were as follows (alphabetical by institution, then name):
[CHECK: When did Philip Yetton become a Prof. at AGSM? 1990ish? He appears never to have submitted an entry to the Directory.
This Appendix lists PhDs known to have been awarded to Australians whose work was clearly in or directly relevant to IS, prior to the end of 1995. Sources used include the ISWorld Dissertation Database, the Australian Digital Theses Program, the authors' memory, and interviews with Ron Weber and Cyril Brookes.
This list excludes people who entered the IS discipline with doctorates in other areas, and those who migrated to Australia after completing a doctorate.
1977 Ron Weber 'Auditor Decision Making: A Study of Some Aspects of Accuracy and Consensus and the Usefulness of a Simulation Decision Aid for Assessing Overall System Reliability' University of Minnesota, supervisor Gordon Davis
1982 Errol Iselin '[re information overload]', University of Queensland, supervisor Ron Weber
1984 Iris Vessey '[re psychological processes underlying program debugging]', University of Queensland, supervisor Ron Weber
1986 Ross Jeffery 'A Comparison of Models Describing Third and Fourth Generation Software Development Environments, with Implications for Effective Management' University of New South Wales, supervisor Cyril Brookes
1987 Rick Watson 'A Study of Group Decision Support System Use in Three and Four-Person Groups for a Preference Allocation Decision' University of Minnesota, supervisor ?
1988 Peter Clayton [? Very Close to IS!] 'User involvement in academic library strategic planning: congruence amongst students, academic staff and libary staff at the Canberra College of Advanced Education' University of Canberra, supervisor ?
1989 Patricia Willard [? Very Close to IS!] 'The Personal Computer and the Public Library: A Study of the Absorption of New Technology and an Analysis of Librarian's Opinions about the Present and Future Impact on Australian Public Libraries' University of New South Wales, supervisor?
1990 Marianne Broadbent 'The Alignment Of Business And Information Strategies' Graduate School of Management, The University of Melbourne, supervisor Peter Weill
1992 Chris Sauer 'Information Systems Failure: The Problem of Managing Support for a Flawed Innovation Process' University of Western Australia, supervisor ?
1993 Arthur Tatnall 'A curriculum history of business computing in Victorian Tertiary Institutions from 1960-1985', Deakin University, supervisor ?
1994 James Popple 'SHYSTER: A Pragmatic Legal Expert System' Australian National University, supervisor Roger Clarke
1995 Graham Pervan 'A Comprehensive Model of Group Support Systems Application: Development and Initial Testing' Curtin University of Technology (Australia), supervisor ?
1995 was selected as the cut-off point on the pragmatic grounds that the numbers increased significantly from then onwards, with at least 7 in 1996 (Sayer, Mackay, Kirlidog, Gregor, Green, Gould and D'Ambra) and at least 4 in 1997 (Williams, Parker, Klobas and Clarke, the author of this paper).
This Appendix reports the results of a brief analysis undertaken of the international impact of Australian IS scholars. The primary measures considered are publications in the discipline's flagship journals and conferences, and citation counts.
The following arbitrary allocation decisions were made, in order to determine the meaning of 'Australian':
The first specialist journal, MISQ, has been published since 1977. Authorship was very strongly U.S. during its first two decades. The first Australian author appears to have been Iris Vessey, in June 1980 (4, 2) and again in June 1981 (5, 2). (She may also have been the first non-US author and/or the first non-US PhD to publish there). Ed Stohr followed in December 1983 (7, 4). Iris published again in March 1988 (12, 1), this time in conjunction with Peter Tait of Touche Ross, Brisbane. Rick Watson appeared for the first time in September 1988 (12, 3), Eric J. Walton (then at U.W.A.) in December 1988 (12, 4), Peter Weill in March 1989 (13, 1), Rick again in June 1990 (14, 2), Michael Lawrence and Graham Low from U.N.S.W. in June 1993 (17, 2), and Rick again in June 1995 (19, 2). Tellingly perhaps, Ron Weber appears only as an Editor, and only from 2002.
Brisk analysis of the early years in Management Science identified no papers prior to 1996 (vol. 42), when both Ron Weber and Guy Gable published. Rick Watson published there in 1998.
In Information & Management, the first paper by an Australian was by Ross Jeffery and Iris Vessey, in 1980, the next by Ross Jeffery and Michael Lawrence in 1981, then Bob Edmundson and Ross Jeffery in 1984, Iris Vessey again in 1986, Michael Sager in 1988, Bill Cundiff in 1989, then Guy Gable in 1991.
Information Systems Research (ISR) was a relative latecomer on the journal scene, in 1989. Australians were slow to break into it as well, with the first publishers appearing to be Iris Vessey in 1995 (vol. 6), Ron Weber twice in 1996, and Peter Seddon in 1997.
The first ICIS Proceedings in 1980 included a paper by Ted Stohr (already of NYU). The first 'I'CIS was addressed exclusively by people from the USA. 1981 included 6 papers with non-American authors (from The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada and Israel. 1982 included a similar number, with Finland, Sweden, Israel, Canada and Singapore represented. 1983 was similar, but Norway and Italy made their first appearance, and Ted Stohr again contributed.
The first contributions from Australia were in 1985, by Iris Vessey and Ron Weber; by Iris as sole author, both at that stage at the University of Queensland; and by Rick Watson, then of W.A. CAE. Ron Weber re-appeared in 1988. In 1989, Australia was represented by Ron Weber, Peter Creasy (also of the University of Queensland), and Peter Weill (at that stage of the University of Melbourne). Rick Watson also appeared in 1989, although by then he was at Georgia.
In 1990, Ron Weber appeared again, as did Peter Weill and Marianne Broadbent. In 1991, Ron (twice), Peter and Marianne, and Rick again featured, and Paula and Paul Swatman made their first appearance. The steady increase in competition for space has meant that Australian representation on the ICIS programme, although consistent, has seldom been as high since then. It did include the Best Paper Award in 1996.
The ECIS conference also has high standards, and the involvement of Australians has been considerable. Galliers & Whitley note that, in the first 10 years, 1993-2002, "the UK [had] by far the largest proportion of papers [398, 24%], the second largest contributors [being] Australia (153, 9%] and the USA [143, 9%, ahead of Germany 134, 8% and The Netherlands 103, 6%].
By 1995, it appears that only 6 resident Australians had published in MISQ, Mngt. Sci. and ISR combined. Moroever, Walstrom & Leonard's (2000) 'Citation Classics' article did not appear to include any contributions by Australians (although of course the same can be said for most countries, as the research arena has been so heavily dominated by US academics).
Publications in a couple of leading IS journals, a leading 'reference disciplines' journal, and two leading IS conferences, are important measures, but of course add up to far less than an adequate metric. Publications in important specialist IS journals, and in quality journals in reference disciplines, and in adjacent disciplines, would probably be perceived by many observers to be the next critical metric. Further considerstions are authorship of academic books, journal editorships, doctoral supervisions, programme committee chairmanships, and authorship of text-books.
For the purist, if a single criterion were to be used, it would probably be the frequency of citations of refereed works. There are serious problems with relying on counts from the ISI Citations Indices as an indicator of an IS academic's impact. Nonetheless, an analysis was undertaken on 22-23 January 2006 of apparent citations 1978-2005. The results were as follows.
Four expatriate Australians are highly-cited. Iris Vessey totals 610 (with one Decision Sciences paper scoring 111 and an MISQ paper 83). Rick Watson scores 485, Ted Stohr 217, and Peter Weill 178. Those scores compare well against a selection of well-known North American researchers: Izak Banbasat 1,281, Dan Robey 1,247, Sirkka Jarvenpaa 960, Detmar Straub 873, Gordon David 428, and Peter Keen 427. They appear even stronger against a selection of well-known European researchers: Kalle Lyytinen 458, Bob Galliers 173, Enid Mumford 103, Claudio Ciborra 60, Frank Land 59, and David Avison 51.
Within Australia, 5 researchers have been found to have substantial citation-counts: Marcus O'Connor 354, Ron Weber 328, Michael Lawrence 208, Ross Jeffery 172 and Marianne Broadbent 166. A further 8 have citation-counts between 40 and 83: Graham Low 83, Peter Seddon 70, Graeme Shanks 61, Paula Swatman 53, Kit Dampney 47, Roger Clarke 43, Graham Winley 40, Chris Sauer 40.
The most highly-cited papers by resident Australians appeared to be a 1997 ISR paper by Peter Seddon (60), two Int'l J. of Forecasting papers in 1993 and 1994 by multiple authors including Marcus O'Connor (43 and 40), an IEEE Trans. on Software Eng. in 1990 by Graham Low and Ross Jeffery (38), and a Sloan Mngt. Rev. paper in 1997 by Marianne Broadbent and Peter Weill (36).
In summary, on a proportional basis, Australians did not figure strongly in the early years of the discipline, but a small number of individuals have forged substantial international reputations.
In more recent years, Australians are very well represented in international conferences, particularly in Europe and to a lesser extent in North America, but their impact in major journals continues to be swamped by the very large and professional population of American and Canadian IS researchers. The UK is probably the next most influential country, after which Australia can probably claim its place, at worst on a per-capita par with Hong Kong and Singapore, and with The Netherlands. Many countries in Europe, Asia and South America are, of course, held back by the very strong english-language bias in the IS discipline.
Guy Gable provided the stimulus for this paper, and he, Bob Smyth and other members of the 'IS in ANZ' project team provided important input to the work.
The paper has also benefited greatly from interviews with the following key players in IS in Australia, listed in alphabetical order: Cyril Brookes, Frank Land, Gerry Maynard, Graham Pervan, Stewart Leech, and Ron Weber. Several other senior members of the discipline made important contributions, including Dick Mason.
Responsibility for the errors, the omissions, the unfortunate mis-phrasings, and the judgementally impregnated expressions, rests with the author. The electronic version of the 'paper' is intended to be a living document for a while at least, and suggestions for improvement of all kinds should be submitted to the author. It is intended that the Working Paper and supporting documents be provided in archival form on the AAIS site, mirrored at AIS.
Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, Visiting Professor in the Baker & McKenzie Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., and Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.