The academic importance of Sharing Economy

Quico Marin
Doctor in Economics and business
Profesor of Máster en Dirección Financiera y Contable at UPF-BSM

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Sharing Economy has become a trending issue in the current research agenda. Ensuring sustainable economic activity becomes a cornerstone in managing economic activity and its growth and sharing and collaborating become fundamental tools in guaranteeing such sustainability.

Over the last 15 years we have been observing an important phenomenon in our economies to optimize resources and to obtain some benefits from them. This popular phenomenon called “sharing economy” or “collaborative consumption” has been included in our daily basis as common practices and nowadays this is not a new topic anymore. Usually the new behaviours or economic phenomenon receive the attention of the academic literature, and the sharing economy is not an exemption.

In fact, the first author to discuss the sharing economy was Ray Algar in his 2007 article ‘Collaborative Consumption’ in the Leisure Report newsletter. However, the topic only became popular in 2011, when Rachel Botsman & Roo Rogers published their book ‘What´s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption’. Since then, increasing numbers of articles have analysed the phenomenon of the sharing economy and/or collaborative consumption, particularly in the literature promoting more sustainable economic practices and it has become a trending issue in the current research agenda.

In our daily basis the economical transactions included as a part of the sharing economy have become completely common, but has this topic already become mature in the academic field?

Based on a sample of 212 articles, we have observed the increasing interest of this academic topic during the last years but getting lower growth rates in 2017 and 2018 and reaching the peak in 2018. These results flattening in the growth rate of the number of publications in a field determine when it may be considered mature, but until the interest is not decreasing we cannot ensure that the topic is mature.

However, when a new research field becomes popular and attracts academic interest, a bibliometric study becomes worthwhile to analyse its scientific and academic impact. 

In current academic research, the number of citations that an article can receive measures the scientific and academic impact of this article. So, even with some critics for this metrics, a highly cited article tends to be seen as a higher quality one.

The number of citations is used for different purposes, such as the assessment and ranking of journals, performance comparison between research institutions, or the evaluation of academics within the scientific community and in some cases authors with higher productivity in terms of articles and citations may receive higher grants and salaries.

The academic impact of publications is associated with their academic features, the more cited papers being those using an empirical approach, especially in the sustainability, tourism and management fields.

For all these reasons, the answer to the following question is getting more important in the field of an interesting topic as the Sharing Economy: Why some articles are more cited than others?

To answer this question we have carried out a citation analysis to determine the characteristics that lead to a higher publication impact, obtaining the following results:

  • Empirical studies have higher impact than theoretical ones.
  • Papers relating to tourism, management, sustainability, and the economy have the highest impact.
  • Articles that focus on the sustainability part of the Sharing Economy receive more attention than does economy.
  • The data analyses methods receiving the greatest attention by researchers were mixed methods, structural equation modelling and ordinary least square regressions (OLS); those receiving least attention were case studies, descriptive analyses and simulations.
  • Although previous research in other areas shows that quantitative and method articles received significantly more citations than did qualitative articles, the results in our data with Sharing Economy were not so clear-cut.
  • Higher impact was also found for papers using previous studies and customers as unit of analysis

In summary, the academic impact of publications is associated with their academic features, the more cited papers being those using an empirical approach, especially in the sustainability, tourism and management fields.

A possible reason for this is that, in the current economic context, the large resource consumption of the consumer society is of increasing concern. Hence, ensuring sustainable economic activity becomes a cornerstone in managing economic activity and its growth and sharing and collaborating become fundamental tools in guaranteeing such sustainability. There are also sectors, such as tourism, which have been especially notable inn applying collaborative practices, thus providing a variety of useful examples for research.

These findings carry some implications for practitioners, guiding authors when deciding the research design that might lead to obtain a higher impact in their works, and the fields in which these topics are most valued. In addition, our research shows that the field is not yet mature and is still growing, which points out the need for scholars and institutions to continue building networks and collaborations.

Full article:

Quico Marin Anglada & Ana Beatriz Hernández Lara (2019): Research on sharing economy: why are some articles more cited than others?, Economic Research. https://doi.org/10.1080/1331677X.2019.1694427

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