Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems

Call for papers: Special issue on Scandinavian Researcher Career Retrospectives

Special Issue Editors:

      Arto Lanamäki (University of Oulu):

      Rudy Hirschheim (Louisiana State University):

      Jaana Porra (University of Houston):


Supporting SJIS Editor:

·        Bendik Bygstad (University of Oslo)

  Download .pdf


The need to document and reflect on the history of the Information Systems field has become highly important, as the research community is growing and maturing. This is signaled by, for instance, the Association for Information Systems history initiative (Zhang, 2015). Several of our journals have published special issues dedicated to history, for example in Journal of the Association for Information Systems (Hirschheim, Saunders, & Straub, 2012), Communications of the Association for Information Systems (Zhang, 2015), and Journal of Information Technology (Bryant, Black, Land, & Porra, 2013).


The purpose of this special issue is to focus on career histories of Scandinavian IS scholars broadly speaking. In this framing, we wish to have a relatively open definition for “Scandinavian” to include academics whose careers have taken place wholly or partially in Scandinavia. This includes academics of Scandinavian origins; scholars from Scandinavia who have migrated to other countries and continents and academics from outside Scandinavia who have worked in Scandinavia for parts of their career. Finally, we recognize that there are scholars out there that do not necessarily fall into any of these categories but possess a distinctive fondness toward Scandinavian IS culture and mindset. To summarize, you are welcome to participate in this special issue whether you were born in Scandinavia, moved to and/or from Scandinavia, or just have interest in a Scandinavian way of doing IS. Example populations of potential contributors can be found amongst those, for example, whose careers have crossed paths with the 27 years of the SJIS journal, or the 38 years of the IRIS conference to name just two examples.


As Straub (2015) has recently pointed out, the early generation of IS scholars are retiring or already retired. Some of them have already passed on, although the good news is that many are still alive to share their story. Additionally, many younger IS academics earlier in their careers may have interesting stories and fresh viewpoints to share about their professional pasts that will benefit the IS community at large. Thus we extend this invitation to IS academics of all ages at all stages of their IS career life spans. Third, we also welcome solely IS professional perspectives and retrospectives that include a combination of an academic and a professional viewpoint.  Finally, we are well aware that what constitutes the IS field has different connotations in different parts of the world and even within a single country. Therefore for this special issue we wish to consider the IS field and contributions to the IS field in their broadest possible meanings. Such contributions include but are not limited to research contributions, contributions to IS programs and teaching, and contributions to the IS community and organizations locally and internationally.


To fill this niche, this special issue on Scandinavian researcher career retrospectives will be facilitated in the Scandinavian Journal of Information Systems. The career lens contributes in the multiplicity of IS History texts.


Researcher career retrospectives, as outlined by Lanamäki (2015), have a single researcher’s career as the unit of analysis, and are mainly written in first-person singular as autoethnographic tales. The genre bears resemblance to the literature review genre, as researcher career retrospectives also build a selective plot through the researcher’s publication history. The story should not be limited to what is said in previous publications, but brings forth a larger picture from “behind the scenes”. The outcome should offer particular details and insights that are meaningful in broader terms for the research community. Previously, edited books such as Frost & Stablein (2004), and Hällgren (2014), have provided insightful retrospectives. The “professional odyssey” article by Robey, Anderson, and Raymond (2013) can be seen as the blueprint for this genre in Information Systems. While researcher career retrospective is only one example of the kinds of career retrospectives we are looking for, these can serve as an example of how to approach the topic. Moreover, we recognize that as a particular research format, career retrospective is new to the IS field and thus we will consider other types of formats such as an interview format provided that other aspects of this call are fulfilled by the authors.


Possible Topics

The range of topics includes, but is not limited to:

      Individual career stories and perspectives by authors of all ages and at all stages of their careers within the Information Systems field broadly considered (cf. Porra, 2015).

      Retrospectives about crossing scholarly boundaries (e.g. IS and HCI (Zhang, 2015, pp. 480-483))

      Stories about addressing a larger research program (e.g. “IT Effects” in Robey et al. (2013))

      Retrospectives on founding and developing IS programs at all levels of education

      Retrospectives on founding and developing an IS firm or an organization

      Career histories leading to ‘calls to action’ or ‘grand challenges’ - cf. Enid Mumford (Porra & Hirschheim, 2007) and C. West Churchman (Porra, 2001)

      Career-centric investigations of certain methods or theories (e.g. Baskerville and his colleagues being credited as the originators of action research in IS (Straub, 2015, p. 595))

      Perspectives on factors influencing career choice (e.g. funding sources, role models, foundational experiences and any other environmental and circumstantial considerations)

      Methodological considerations of IS career retrospectives (cf., Porra, Hirschheim, and Parks (2014) for comparable considerations for writing IS history for the IS field by IS researchers)

      Cultural, language, gender, race, family, age and any other potentially informative perspectives on IS careers

      Personal perspectives on what constitutes an IS academic or an IS professional and how this has changed over time

      Comparative retrospectives of the IS field and other academic and professional fields from an personal vantage point

      Heroic (and not so heroic) stories about overcoming obstacles and challenges of all kinds and origins during one’s IS careers

      Stories about IS leadership broadly considered

      Stories about IS careers guiding posts whatever they might have been including people, places and things

      Career within institutional politics


Key Criteria for Evaluation

A retrospective represents a distinct type of a scholarly publication genre. As such, the evaluation process will be somewhat different from a “regular” peer review, and will involve its own criteria. We will thus adopt a facilitated review process in which the paper is developed iteratively through various stages. We will evaluate and provide mentoring for the manuscript authors using four main principles: insight, originality, clarity, and relevance.


1. Insight

The most important question evaluators should ask when evaluating a retrospective is: is this insightful? We are looking for thorough career-oriented analyses of selected developments in scholarship. These texts should provide "the big picture" by reflecting on particular events and developments.  In particular, we want to focus on providing pieces of wisdom that have accumulated over decades.


2. Originality

A retrospective is a reflection of selected topics in the course of a researcher's career. A good retrospective is original, and may even offer surprise. It brings forth the author's own voice. A strength and a challenge for the retrospective genre is that it is more loosely defined than other genres. This allows the freedom to bring forth the writer's own perspective. Any deviations from scholarly conventions, however, should serve the purpose of providing a powerful story.


3. Clarity

Retrospectives usually do not have dedicated sections on theory and method. The genre is rather loose, when compared to other scholarly genres. While writers may take freedoms that deviate from scholarly conventions, any retrospective should be written in a clear, understandable language. We encourage authors to write in an engaging way, that resonates with a potentially large audience.


4. Relevance

This special issue focuses on career retrospectives of Scandinavian IS researchers. The topics discussed in these retrospectives should be relevant for the Scandinavian IS research community. As such, the potential topics can be numerous, while they also have certain limits. In any case, relevance goes hand in hand with the previous points: insight, originality, and clarity.




The potential authors are expected to provide the first version of their manuscript by April 2nd, 2016. After the first-round submission, the three editors will screen the submissions. The manuscripts that are evaluated to have the most potential are then selected for further development. The selected manuscripts are delivered to the editorial board who will provide a developmental review to each of them. The authors of the selected manuscripts will present their working papers during a workshop at the 39th Information Systems Research Conference in Scandinavia (IRIS39) in Ljungskile, Sweden, 7-10 August 2016. The final submission will incorporate all the feedback gathered from reviews and the workshop. The final version will be provided in December 2016. The publication is projected to occur in the summer of 2017.



Editorial Review Board Members

Alistair Black (University of Illinois, USA)

Tone Bratteteig (University of Oslo, Norway)

Antony Bryant (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK)

Göran Goldkuhl (Linköping University, Sweden)

Ola Henfridsson (University of Warwick, UK)

Jonny Holmström (Umeå University, Sweden)

Juhani Iivari (University of Oulu, Finland)

Sirkka Jarvenpaa (University of Texas at Austin, USA)

Pertti Järvinen (University of Tampere, Finland)

Kalle Lyytinen (Case Western Reserve University, USA)

Lars Mathiassen (Georgia State University, USA)

Bjørn Erik Munkvold (University of Agder, Norway)

Peter Axel Nielsen (Aalborg University, Denmark)

Ulrike Schultze (Southern Methodist University, USA)

Liisa von Hellens (Griffith University, Australia)




Bryant, A., Black, A., Land, F., & Porra, J. (2013). Information Systems history: What is history? What is IS history? What IS history? ... and why even bother with history? Journal of Information Technology, 28(1), 1-17.

Frost, P. J., & Stablein, R. E. (Eds.). (2004). Renewing Research Practice. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.

Hirschheim, R., Saunders, C., & Straub, D. (2012). Historical Interpretations of the IS Discipline: An Introduction to the Special Issue. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 13(4).

Hällgren, M. (Ed.) (2014). Reflections on a Scientific Career : Behind the professor’s CV (1st ed.). Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.

Lanamäki, A. (2015). A Consideration for Researcher Career Retrospectives in Information Systems and Organization Studies The Proceedings of The Sixth Scandinavian Conference on Information Systems, August 9-12, 2015, Oulu, Finland.

Porra, J. (2001). A Dialogue with C. West Churchman. Information Systems Frontiers, 3(1), 19-27. doi:10.1023/A:1011441418974

Porra, J. (2015). The Power of a Good Story or The Great Potential of Information Systems History or Some Lessons from A Heroic Journey The Proceedings of The Sixth Scandinavian Conference on Information Systems, August 9-12, 2015, Oulu, Finland.

Porra, J., & Hirschheim, R. (2007). A Lifetime of Theory and Action on the Ethical Use of Computers: A Dialogue with Enid Mumford. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 8(9), 467-478.

Porra, J., Hirschheim, R., & Parks, M. S. (2014). The Historical Research Method and Information Systems Research. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 15(9), 536-576.

Robey, D., Anderson, C., & Raymond, B. (2013). Information Technology, Materiality, and Organizational Change: A Professional Odyssey. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 14(7), 379-398.

Straub, D. W. (2015). The Critical Role of Historiography in Writing IS History. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 36, 593-598.

Zhang, P. (2015). The IS History Initiative: Looking Forward by Looking Back. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, 36, 477-514.