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  • The term "zombie firm" was coined in the late 1980s in the context of "zombie banks". In fiction, the word zombie itself usually refers to a monstrous creature that is animated and yet dead. In the context of finance, however, we might think of a zombie as a commercial organization that remains active and yet is unable to pay its debts nor generate a profit. Moreover, the life of a zombie firm is often prolonged artificially by subsidies from third parties such as governments and foreign investors.

    Nguyen Thi Tuong Anh, Doan Quang Hung, Nam Hoang Vu, and Bui Anh Tuan of the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi, Vietnam, suggesting that addressing the problem of zombie firms is an important issue at the international level. They point out that many zombie firms are state-owned and invested in foreign transition economies. Writing in the International Journal of Business and Globalisation, the team explains how they have used longitudinal data concerning enterprises and the local business environment in a transition economy to devise a solution to the problem.

    They demonstrate that driving out persistent zombie firms in manufacturing industries might be possible by reducing entry costs to a market to facilitate greater competition. The approach, they suggest, may not be effective in non-manufacturing industries.

    The team concludes, based on their study of zombie firms in Vietnam, that rather than offering subsidized bailouts to such firms, governments should use market-based instruments to eradicate the zombies and stronger firms to emerge better adapted to the market.

    Anh, N.T.T., Hung, D.Q., Vu, N.H. and Tuan, B.A. (2021) 'Does lowering entry cost counter the persistence of zombie firms?', Int. J. Business and Globalisation, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp.333–354.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBG.2021.113273

  • A business case study in the International Journal of Technology Transfer and Commercialisation shows how producers of luxury goods can benefit from a social media presence. Specifically, the team focuses on luxury watchmakers and their Instagram accounts.

    Armansyah Adhityo Pramono, and Fitri Aprilianty of the School of Business and Management at the Institut Teknologi Bandung, in Bandung, Indonesia, have tracked the Instagram activities of five luxury watch brands in order to glean information about what works and what does not work on this photography-based sharing platform.

    The team discusses the nature of the luxury watch market. It is a growing, sizeable, and profitable market but highly competitive and volatile, they write. There are complexities that need to be understood in order that a brand improve awareness among its target market.

    Fundamentally, the team has demonstrated a positive association between social media marketing in this context, the relationship between brand and customer and purchase intention. It seems, as one might expect, that content that engages with the value customers place on status symbols such as luxury watches and their hedonism correlates with purchase intention but has not yet been used frequently in social media marketing for such brands.

    In order to reap the rewards of investing in Instagram use for marketing of luxury watch brands, those brands must focus on the values that influence purchase intention the most but also improving the degree of engagement with their putative customers, the team suggests. In a world where social media is commonplace and everyday, brands must highlight exclusivity and authenticity as well as their association with high-status people and world events.

    Conversely, there are aspects of marketing commonly used by non-luxury goods, such as consumer feedback and even consumer-led design that do not seem to have much effect on purchase intention of luxury watches. Similarly, special offers and promotions are not as important in this sector. After all, it is the luxurious quality of a brand that is the main appeal not its value for money. Luxury goods are commonly status symbols for hedonists and these characteristics are wherein their appeal lies and can be targeted on social media.

    Pramono, A.A. and Aprilianty, F. (2020) 'Social media and luxury brand: what luxury watch brands need to know when on Instagram', Int. J. Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, Vol. 17, No. 4, pp.316–336.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJTTC.2020.113210

  • Conventional crop-spraying with herbicide to kill weeds among a crop wastes a lot of the herbicide and raises environmental concerns. A smart crop sprayer might identify weeds growing through the crop and spot spray only the unwanted plants. Work from a team in China published in the International Journal of Computational Science and Engineering, looks at the real-time segmentation of a cornfield to detect weeds that could be used to control such a smart crop-sprayer.

    Uncontrolled weed growth in a crop leads to reduced yields of that crop. However, herbicides to selectively kill the weeds are expensive and also lead to pollution. It is in the best interests of farmers the world over and for the sake of the environment, that herbicides are used as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

    Hao Guo, Shengsheng Wang, and Yinan Lu of Jilin University in Changchun have proposed a lightweight network based on the encoder-decoder architecture SResNet. They optimized the model so that it can quickly discern weed plant from crop plant in an image.

    "In weed identification, the recognition effect is susceptible to factors like light, occlusion, and image quality, so improving the robustness of weed recognition is still a challenging subject in traditional machine vision," the team explains. Their approach offers a lightweight semantic segmentation model based on the encoder-decoder architecture which takes into account accuracy and processing speed. To demonstrate the benefits of their system, they have compared results with classical semantic segmentation models (SegNet and U-Net) and showed it to have competitive performance. The test frame-rate is almost 70 frames per second and so capable of real-time weed identification in a cornfield. Their average score has almost 99 percent accuracy.

    Guo, H., Wang, S. and Lu, Y. (2020) 'Real-time segmentation of weeds in cornfields based on depthwise separable convolution residual network', Int. J. Computational Science and Engineering, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp.307–318.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJCSE.2020.113185

  • One theory of ageing invokes the Second Law of Thermodynamics and suggests that in the long-term, the heat energy generated by metabolic changes causes damage to living systems that accumulates as repair mechanisms cannot keep pace with the damage, entropy accumulates, and this is manifest in the signs of ageing that are all too familiar – greying hair, wrinkled skin, immune compromise, organ failure, cognitive decline.

    A team from Turkey, writing in the International Journal of Exergy, point out that as is ever the case with living systems, the picture is far more complicated. Indeed, an individual is not truly a single living thing given the presence of myriad microbes that live on the skin and within the alimentary canal, for instance. Indeed, the team from Yeditepe University in Istanbul explain that the human gut microbiota acts as an autonomous thermodynamic subsystem within what we ought to refer to as the human superorganism. These microbes generate and export their own entropy without causing age damage to their human host.

    The team's thermodynamic calculations show that between 12 and 59 percent of the metabolic entropy generated by each of us as a whole is produced by the microbial guests in our gut and exported in faeces. This entropy is not associated with ageing damage.

    The researchers explain how entropy removal via the waste stream from a chemical plant is well known and discussed at length in the pertinent scientific literature. Given that we know from the work of Schrödinger and Prigogine that living systems must import energy and export entropy to maintain their living state this new research into the entropy export by the gut microbiota could open up new avenues for research into ageing that have not previously been considered in depth.

    Yildiz, C., Yilmaz, B. and Özilgen, M. (2021) 'Fraction of the metabolic ageing entropy damage to a host may be flushed out by gut microbiata', Int. J. Exergy, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.179–195.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJEX.2021.113004

  • Climate change represents perhaps the biggest challenge facing humanity, therefore education has an important role to play in teaching students about how we might mitigate the problems but also how to cope with what might be termed eco-anxiety.

    A team from Canada writing in the International Journal of Higher Education and Sustainability, suggests that part of a well-rounded university education must provide students with the tools with which to address the challenges presented by the environmental crisis we all face. Part of this education should show them how to be responsible eco-citizens but also give them the skills to become creative, solution-oriented thinkers. With such people entering adulthood and becoming the innovators and leaders of the future humanity might be able to cope with the acute problems and address the chronic problems facing climate and the environment.

    Laura Sims and Marie-Élaine Desmarais of the Université de St. Boniface and Rhéa Rocque of the University of Winnipeg, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, suggest that educators "have a responsibility to create inclusive environmental and sustainability educational approaches that are enabling, emotionally supportive, engaging, and praxis-oriented." Their work focuses on the concept of eco-anxiety and how students might be taught to cope with such a problem in a positive and pragmatic way.

    At the time of writing their paper, humanity was facing another major challenge – the Covid pandemic caused by a lethal coronavirus that emerged towards the end of 2019. The pandemic is still with us more than a year later. The team adds that the pandemic has taught us many lessons that can equally be applied to education for sustainability, inclusion, and eco-anxiety. "In living this experience, we have seen people come together, changing their lifestyles, and acting individually for collective benefit," they write. They add that the pandemic has shown us that "we can stop our destructive, consumptive path, if need be, at very short notice, and re-imagine other possibilities…we are strong enough, together, to face existential challenges."

    Sims, L., Rocque, R. and Desmarais, M-É. (2020) 'Enabling students to face the environmental crisis and climate change with resilience: inclusive environmental and sustainability education approaches and strategies for coping with eco-anxiety', Int. J. Higher Education and Sustainability, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp.112–131.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJHES.2020.113059

  • Despite the growing number of tools being used to anneal so-called big data, researchers are only now beginning to find ways to handle big networks. A new approach described in the International Journal of Data Science, takes a local community approach to studying networks that could have applications in understanding how disease outbreaks become pandemics, defeating terrorist networks, thwarting malware, and understanding the effect of influencers and viral advertising on marketing.

    Ali Choumane and Abbass Al-Akhrass of the Faculty of Sciences in the LaRIFA Lab at the Lebanese University in Nabatieh, Lebanon, explain analyzing huge networks is computationally very expensive in terms of the time and resources needed to process all the nodes and connections between them in order to find hubs and other interesting features. This is especially the case where a network contains densely connected nodes.

    Community detection is one approach to circumventing this mammoth task allowing researchers to find the local connections from the busiest of individual nodes. The team is developing an algorithm to find such local communities in a huge network quickly and at a lower computational cost than earlier approaches. The team explains how they start with a seed node and allow the algorithm to iteratively expand on this to identify a community around that node that most resembles known community structures previously seen in real life. Such communities are likely to be the most realistic, after all.

    The expansion process builds using a neural network classifier that can discern which nodes ought to be added to the local community and which ought to be discarded. The classifier can be fine-tuned to adjust resolution so that smaller or larger communities can be found within a huge network without the need to retrain the algorithm each time.

    "We trained this classifier using three measures that allowed us to mutually quantify the strength of the relation between nodes and communities," the team explains."These measures depend on the proportion of edges that the node has with its community, how much the neighbours of the node are involved in its community and finally the membership degree of the node in the community."

    The researchers add that they used the well-known Lancichinetti–Fortunato–Radicchi (LFR) synthetic networks as a benchmark as well as real-world networks from different application domains to demonstrate experimentally the high performance of their approach.

    Choumane, A. and Al-Akhrass, A. (2020) 'Supervised local community detection algorithm', Int. J. Data Science, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp.247–261.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJDS.2020.113061

  • Cloud computing has revolutionised the way files are stored and shared and processing carried out from the corporate down to the individual private user level. Security remains a contentious issue. As such, there is an ongoing need to ensure data is protected optimally. Research published in the International Journal of Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, discusses an efficient and optimised approach for the secure sharing of files in the cloud.

    Cloud computing has been with us for many years now, although still sometimes considered a "new" paradigm. It represents delocalised, distributed, and shared services and allows all kinds of organisations and individuals to offload their storage and computer processing needs on to third-party servers and services, commonly for a fee, in a freemium, model, and occasionally at zero cost to the user.

    There are many benefits to cloud computing. Obviously, distributed servers can offer greater processing and storage capacity than local computers. The downside to cloud computing can be the very nature of it in that it is ultimately dependent on a third party for the service and also for privacy and protection of one's data.

    Neha Agarwal and Ajay Rana of Amity University in Noida UP and Jai Prakash Pandey of KNIT in Sultanpur UP, India, have proposed an encryption method that offers a hybrid approach comprising a symmetric and asymmetric algorithm. The approach they demonstrate is more secure and more efficient than other current approaches used to protect files for cloud sharing.

    Agarwal, N., Rana, A. and Pandey, J.P. (2021) 'An efficient and optimised approach for secured file sharing in cloud computing', Int. J. Advanced Intelligence Paradigms, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp.232–246.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJAIP.2021.112905

  • We seem to face apocalyptic forecasts on a more and more frequent basis and yet often the predictions do not manifest themselves in the anticipated doom and gloom. Of course, some predictions have long-term consequences such as those surrounding climate change. However, as with all areas of science, the error bars that scientists know only too well can simply look like uncertainty and dithering to some non-scientists.

    Research published in the International Journal of Global Warming suggests that the framing of uncertainty that is an essential part of the scientific endeavour leads to confusion among some non-scientists. The railing against this uncertainty is often perceived as "anti-science" but for the lay public it may be more a matter of being anti-uncertainty. People prefer to know for sure what they might expect to happen in their future, especially when it comes to apocalyptic forecasts, rather than to be faced with doubt.

    David Rode and Paul Fischbeck of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, have found that the mere mention in an apocalyptic climate forecast reduces the amount of media attention a given forecast receives. Given that there will be uncertainty, error bars, confidence intervals, and other such matters mentioned in every scientific source, this can lead to a credibility gap. When a report fails to mention the uncertainty, it gains more media traction than a report that does not.

    The team has suggested various strategies that might allow the scientific message complete with its uncertainties to reach an appropriate audience without instilling over confidence nor without looking like it is hesitant about the data it presents. The team concludes by alluding to Carl Sagan who warned us that extraordinary predictions require extraordinary caution in communication.

    Rode, D.C. and Fischbeck, P.S. (2021) 'Apocalypse now? Communicating extreme forecasts', Int. J. Global Warming, Vol. 23, No. 2, pp.191–211.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJGW.2021.112896

  • The number of people actively using social media is around the three billion mark. In the current Covid pandemic, such tools are increasingly useful for keeping in touch with friends and relatives when social distancing and lockdown are in place. Conversely, the additional activity and updates means that many users are becoming weary of the information overload and report feelings of "burnout" in using the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other applications and websites.

    Research in the International Journal of Business Information Systems, looks at this phenomenon of social media burnout in terms of ambivalence and emotional exhaustion. These two responses to the often overwhelming nature of constant online updates and the deluge of new information, whether worthy or trivial, have been present throughout the short history of online social media but are now being discussed more commonly.

    Users talk of "taking a vacation" from their social media apps, having a "digital detox", or giving up during a culture-associated "fasting" period, for instance.

    Bo Han of the College of Business at the Texas A&M University-Commerce, Shih Yung Chou of Dillard College of Business Administration at Midwestern State University, USA, and Tree Chang of the Department of Social Work and Service Management at Tatung Institute of Technology, Taiwan, have integrated the concept of benevolence value in the user experience of online social media for the first time.

    A new model of the user response emerges from their work that will help guide the social media research community in understanding user behaviour as these services mature and evolve. It should also provide clues for managers of the various services hoping to learn how to preclude burnout in their users and so encourage their continued use of the services without compromising their mental health.

    Han, B., Chou, S.Y. and Chang, T. (2021) 'Does the benevolence value matter when social media burnout strikes?', Int. J. Business Information Systems, Vol. 36, No. 2, pp.288–302.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJBIS.2021.112828

  • Someone once infamously remarked that the public has "had enough of experts". This is so obviously not the case in so many walks of life, of course, including marketing and commerce. Social media, for instance, has given a platform to experts in products in a way that members of the public never had before. Those who study popular culture and fashion will have seen the growing follower counts on social media outlets for a small number of people with expertise in a niche area who have colloquially become known as influencers.

    Research has now demonstrated what might seem obvious: the greater the expertise an influencer is perceived to have by their followers, the more likely the message they send is to be received positively and acted on by those followers. The research by Kyoo-Hoon Han and Eunmi Lee Department of the department of Public Relations and Advertising at Sookmyung Women's University, in Seoul, South Korea is detailed in the International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising.

    This finding reinforces what some observers suggest is a positive effect of social media and that observers in the opposite camp see as worrying. Influencers have gained power, it seems, through social media, and with power, there comes responsibility but also the potential for abuse of that power.

    The Covid pandemic has led to the move online of many endeavours and activities that traditionally involved physical and face-face interactions. As such, there is perhaps a pressing need to ensure new checks and balances are in place to reduce the risk of the abuse of newly wielded power without stifling freedom of expression, personal choice, and privacy, of course. Nevertheless, given a positive outlook, there is great potential for the new normal of the online world of influencers and their followers. There is also now great scope for research into this burgeoning area within the commercial realm.

    Han, K-H. and Lee, E. (2021) 'Viewer responses to product messages using one-person media influencers', Int. J. Internet Marketing and Advertising, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.104–122.
    DOI: 10.1504/IJIMA.2021.112790

News

Best Reviewer Award announced by International Journal of Environment and Pollution

We are pleased to announce that the International Journal of Environment and Pollution has launched a new Best Reviewer Award. The 2020 Award goes to Prof. Steven Hanna of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the USA. The senior editorial team thanks Prof. Hanna sincerely for his exemplary efforts.

Inderscience new address

As of 1st March 2021, the address of Inderscience in Switzerland will change to:

Inderscience Enterprises Limited
Rue de Pré-Bois 14
Meyrin - 1216
Geneva
SWITZERLAND

New Editor for International Journal of Human Factors Modelling and Simulation

Dr. Thomas Alexander from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in Germany has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Human Factors Modelling and Simulation.

European Journal of International Management launches Best Senior Editor Awards

The European Journal of International Management's Editor in Chief and Deputy Editor in Chief, Prof. Ilan Alon and Prof. Wlodzimierz Sroka, have launched a new annual award for EJIM's Senior Editors. They are pleased to announce the following winners of the 2020 Best Senior Editor Awards, and thank them for their continued efforts:

Associate Prof. Cristina Villar of the University of Valencia, Spain
Associate Prof. Diego Francisco Quer Ramon of the University of Alicante, Spain
Prof. Ulrike Mayrhofer of the Université Côte d'Azur, France

New Editor for International Journal of Space-Based and Situated Computing

Prof. Jianqiang Li from Shenzhen University in China has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Space-Based and Situated Computing.