Where have all the book reviews gone?

Book reviews used to be included at the end of most issues of most academic journals. Indeed, I used to spend a lot of time on seeking out willing and able authors to provide critical reviews of books in the journal that I used to edit. We had some great successe with a good crop of critical essays based on reviewing a book for what the book achieved and for what it did not achieve. This was at a time when the majority of book reviews were nothing more than a flattering summary. I had hoped that book reviewing in our field could become a shining example of worthy critiques. But that labour ceased some years ago. I thought it would be interesting to start to list newly published books in this blog. However, on searching the websites of several journals in the field, I could find almost no book reviews! I shall carry on looking. Has this form of public critique disappeared from construction management?

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Work and Labor Relations in the Construction Industry: An International Perspective

A new book has just been published, edited by a team from UK and USA, covering an important topic where there is much good research that would help us to understand and improve the way that work is carried out in the construction sector:

Belman, D., Druker, J. and White, G. (Eds) (2021) Work and Labor Relations in the Construction Industry: An International Perspective. Routledge, London.

Publisher’s Summary: The need for a skilled, motivated and effective workforce is fundamental to the creation of the built environment across the world. Known in so many places for a tendency to informal and casual working practices, for the sometimes abusive use of migrant labor, for gendered male employment and for a neglect of the essentials of health and safety, the industry, its managers and its workforce face multiple challenges. This book brings an international lens to address those challenges, looking particularly at the diverse ways in which answers have been found to manage safe and productive employment practices and effective employment relations within the framework of client demands for timely and cost-effective project completions. While context, history and contractual frameworks may all militate against a careful attention to human resource issues, this makes them even more deserving of attention.

ISBN 978-1-138-36478-3 (hbk), 978-0-429-43113-5 (ebk). https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429431135

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Reports on issues in construction procurement

In my work on British and International standards on construction procurement, I often come across industry and government reports that may or may not shed light on the issues. It struck me that this blog might be a useful place to develop a list of such reports for those who may share this interest. Even if this is merely a place where the full biblographical citation is presented accurately, this will have achieved something! Few of these reports are formally published in the sense of ISBNs and being lodged in archival legal deposit libraries. I shall add more later…

2021

Gospel, H (2021) Direct Employment: A Study of Economic, Business and Social Outcomes Based on the Electrical Contracting Sector. February 2021. Joint Industry Board, Swanley. https://www.jib.org.uk/compelling-report-calls-for-the-enforcement-of-direct-employment

2020

HM Government Cabinet Office (2020) The Construction Playbook. Version 1, December 2020. HM Government, London. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-construction-playbook

HM Government Cabinet Office (2020) Green Paper: Transforming Public Procurement. CP353, December 2020. ISBN 978-1-5286-2308-7. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/green-paper-transforming-public-procurement

Local Government Association (2020) National Construction Category Strategy for Local Government: Effective Construction Frameworks. 2020 Edition. LGA, London. https://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/National-Construction-Strategy_2020-Edition.pdf

2018

Bentley, A. (2018) Procuring for Value. July 2018, Construction Leadership Council, London. https://www.constructionleadershipcouncil.co.uk/news/procuring-for-value/

2016

Farmer, M. (2016) The Farmer Review of the UK Construction Labour Model: Modernise or Die: Timne to Decide on the Industry’s Future. Construction Leadership Council, London. http://www.cast-consultancy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Farmer-Review-1.pdf

Infrastructure and Projects Authority (2016) Government Construction Strategy: 2016 2020. March 2016. Infrastructure and Projects Authority, London. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-construction-strategy-2016-2020

2013

Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (2013) Construction 2025: Industrial Strategy for Construction: Government and Industry in Partnership. BIS/13/955. July 2013. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/construction-2025-strategy

2011

HM Government Cabinet Office (2011) Government Construction Strategy. May 2011, HM Government, London. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-construction-strategy

1998

Egan, J. (1998) Rethinking construction: the report of the Construction Task Force to the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, on the scope for improving the quality and efficiency of UK construction. Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions Construction Task Force, London.http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/rethinking_construction_report.pdf

1994

Latham, M. (1994) Constructing the team: final report of the government/industry review of procurement and contractual arrangements in the UK construction industry. HMSO, London. http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Constructing-the-team-The-Latham-Report.pdf

1968

Harris, W.G. (1968) Contracting in Civil Engineering Since Banwell. HMSO, London. https://archive.org/details/op1268000-1001

1967

Potts, P.G. (1967) Action on the Banwell Report (A survey of the implementation of the recommendations of the committee under Sir Harold Banwell on the placing and management of contracts). A report by a working party of the Economic Development Committee for Building, HMSO, London. https://archive.org/details/op1267999-1001

1964

Banwell, G.H. (1964) The placing and management of contracts for building and civil engineering works. HMSO, London. https://archive.org/details/op1265594-1001

1962

Emmerson, H. (1962) Survey of the problems before the construction industries. Report by Sir Harold Emmerson (Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Works) CH 280/2, HMSO, London. https://archive.org/details/op1265587-1001

1944

Ministry of Works (1944) The placing and management of building contracts. Report of the Central Council for Works and Buildings to the Minister of Works (Chairman Sir Ernest Simon). London: HMSO.

Incidentally, you might like to ponder the question about why so many CM researchers continue to cite the Egan and Latham reports long after they ceased to be current – click here.

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Rapid construction and commissioning

It is interesting to see how quickly a 1000-bed hospital can be built in China. See How China Built a Hospital in 10 Days. If you wonder about the construction site near you that you pass every day and nothing much seems to be happening, so do I. It is common to see much smaller projects than this hospital running for years, rather than a few days. This highlights some serious problems with the way that construction is traditionally approached. One key thing that strikes me about these rapid construction projects in China is that nothing much is said about the completion, commissioning and signing-off processes. They simply complete it and switch it on, by the looks of things. I wonder whether they spend years arguing about whether it is finished or not, and trying to get it to work properly. Maybe they do not have the arcane contractuial provisions that we are more used to in the UK! At least, at last, there are signs that we might be seeing a modern construction industry that is responsive and quick. Technology is on the move and the construction industry is about to change, for better or for worse. What would we lost by moving to rapid construction methods? What would we gain?

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The Professional Academic

Something occurred to me recently. Professions share common characteristics (Elliott 1972):

  • Body of knowledge
  • Barriers to entry
  • Public service
  • Mutual recognition

Thinking about being a professional architect, QS, engineer or whatever, it is straightforward to identify how these things work. But does this work for the profession of being an academic?

  • Body of knowledge: This does not refer to the knowledge that you use in your construction profession. That is already dealt with there. The knowledge we need as academics are not simply the knowledge of construction activities. What do professional academics have in common? Writing, arguing, researching, analysing, concluding, making claims, testing ideas, introducing doubt and scepticism where there is apparent certainty.
  • Barriers to entry: Just as you need a BSc to gain entry into a construction profession, you also need one to get into an academic profession. Indeed, one useful way to view a PhD is as an essential prerequisite for an academic career. It is not the only purpose, but it is an interesting way of thinking about what a PhD is for.
  • Public service: Just as surveyors and engineers have ethical codes of conduct to put public interest above private profit, so academics are (generally) not focused on commercial returns.
  • Mutual recognition: Being a member of a specific academic community through your research and writing brings acceptance into that sub-set. Being an academic in the wider sense involves recognising that other academic fields include people who share the same body of knowledge, barriers to entry and ethical conduct.

These ideas may help you to deal with some of the demands that are placed on you as a doctoral student, which are common to all doctoral students, from any discipline. In case you are interested in reading more about the professions, please see Hughes and Hughes (2013).

References

Elliott, P (1972) The sociology of the professions. Macmillan, London.

Hughes, W P and Hughes, C (2013) Professionalism and professional institutions in times of change. Building Research & Information, 41(01), 28-38.

 

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Termination of editorship

This is my 25th year at the helm of the journal, Construction Management and Economics. I have enjoyed being at the centre of this and especially enjoyed interacting with so many people in our academic community; authors, referees, editorial board and publishers. There is a huge amount of support among the construction management community for this journal. Long may it continue!

However, nothing is forever. My contract as Editor-in-Chief has come to an end. Taylor & Francis, the publishers of Construction Management and Economics, have started the search for a new Editor-in-Chief. We are hoping that the new person will soon be identified and that the transition can be effected soon. Whatever happens, this is my last year in the post.

I look forward to new challenges and opportunities!

Posted in CM&E forum, Editorial policies | 6 Comments

Pie charts: graphical bling?

I find pie charts so tiresome. In an exchange with an author who thought they were a good idea, I was looking at the multi-coloured, three-dimensional, textured shading of a few segments of his pie chart, and thinking that this is such a waste of space. As I long ago learned from reading Edward Tufte’s work on the art of visualizing quantitative information, if a graphic takes up more space than a text explanation, it is probably not needed.

My students sometimes say, in defence of a pie chart, that pictures are good; “a picture can paint a thousand words”, they say. “Ha!”, I scoff. There are many pictures that are more eloquent than a thousand words. But a pie chart paints about 6-12 words. It tells me that most things were in one category and the remainder were not. Or another pie chart tells me that things were roughly evenly distributed. But it tells me nothing interesting and with no accuracy, unless it is annotated with information that I would have preferred to read as text.

I was wondering why pie charts are so popular and suddenly realized that they were the graphical equivalent of bling. Maybe there is a role for them somewhere, but I do not think they are a part of serious communication.

Here are a couple of more detailed critiques of pie charts:

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Publication rights and sharing your work

We often get enquiries from authors who have posted a pre-publication draft of their work in an institutional repository, or some other on-line repository of work-in-progress, such as SSRN or REPEC. These services invite authors to place working papers and drafts on-line in order to attract comment and discussion so that they may develop their work before journal submission. For the avoidance of doubt, we would like to emphasize that our publishers, Taylor & Francis, are happy with the idea of publishing a paper that has been in the public domain as a working draft.

Authors are permitted to deposit their paper pre-publication on a personal or institutional website as part of T&F’s Green Open Access Policy. They can post the Author Original Manuscript (AOM) and/or Author Accepted Manuscript (AAM). Both versions are of the paper before it has undergone any copy editing or typesetting. T&F then request that Authors link from the draft to the “Final Version of Record”, when it has been published. They should credit the published article and provide a link to it. Full details of the publication policy are kept up-to-date here.

http://wp.me/p1J7za-DF

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Complete and unambiguous complementarity

In commenting on a paper, I raised a question about the mobilization of the literature in relation to a particular point an author was making. The point made by the author was, she said, an illustration of a phenomenon mentioned in the literature by four different authors. She cited all four at the end of the sentence. I added a note to the paper on the specific question of whether their were any tensions between these four works that she might have helped to resolve; or whether there were tensions between her work and theirs as a whole. In other words, I realized that the phrasing indicated complete and unambiguous complementarity between her work and theirs. And it struck me that this was a general issue in many papers I read. Authors frequently structure their citations to the literature as if there were complete and unambiguous complementarity, even when there is not. I think that, as an academic community, we would do well to be more nuanced in the way that we mobilize the literature in support of what we say. Perhaps we need to articulate the tensions in order to emphasize the precise aspects of complementarity between our work and previous research.

http://wp.me/p1J7za-CC

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How to format papers for journal submission (and for dissertations)

Increasingly, authors have often asked how to format their papers for submission to the journal, Construction Management and Economics.

In submitting a paper to a journal such as this, it may be helpful to note that your submission is, effectively, a draft paper. Therefore, our expectation is that the paper will be presented with the following formatting features:

  • Use a simple font, such as Times New Roman 12 pt.
  • Use double-spaced line spacing.
  • Set 2.5 cm margins all round.
  • Do not add page numbers
  • Do not add headers or footers of any kind.
  • Do not use multi-column layout.
  • Distinguish headings from sub-headings clearly. Although published papers do not use heading numbers, you may use them in the draft to make clear the different levels of heading.
  • Figures and Tables should be all moved to the back or uploaded as separate files (several per file, or one at a time, whichever you find easier). This is not a uniform requirement, so you need to look carefully at whether a specific journal applies this requirement just to Figures, to Figures and Tables, or not at all.
  • If it would help you to have a template, there is one for downloading here: CM&E Paper Template.

It may come as a surprise to many that this is exactly the same format, in general terms, as most requirements for the submission of dissertations and theses, at least in the UK. Has anyone noticed that dissertations are submitted as if they were draft papers ready for taking to a journal?

You may also find the following posts in this forum useful:

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