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AI, or artificial intelligence, is attracting great attention across many industries, even food production, according to research published in the International Journal of Society Systems Science.

Darrell Burrell of Florida Institute of Technology, in Fort Lee, Virginia, USA, and colleagues point out that given the growing world population, which is expected to reach almost ten billion by 2050 there is an urgent need to develop properly sustainable agricultural practices and ensure food security at a much higher level than has ever been attempted in the past. This, they suggest, might only be possible with the rapid development of technologies such as AI.

With a global population of around 7.8 billion people in 2021, there are at least a billion people who suffer chronic hunger and malnutrition. This crisis is a result of inefficient food production and distribution systems, the team says and undeveloped agricultural land. We need a process improvement initiative to address this problem now, but also to create contingency for the growing population.

"These new technologies are creating the need for new educational and new awareness programs to inform and train farmers on the existence and utilities of these new advances," the team writes. Agricultural students and others need to be taught about robotics, computer science, cybersecurity, information security, and engineering, and other tools that will be needed to on farms of the future. They add that the technologies need to be opened up to parts of the world where food security is not guaranteed and people are chronically hungry too. Humanitarian aid and hunger aid must be apportioned to developing and underserved countries to help them advance food security and solve this global problem.

Burrell, D.N., Burton, S.L., Nobles, C., Dawson, M.E. and McDowell, T. (2020) 'Exploring technological management innovations that include artificial intelligence and other innovations in global food production', Int. J. Society Systems Science, Vol. 12, No. 4, pp.267–285.
DOI: 10.1504/IJSSS.2020.112408

By combining synthetic polymers and natural materials it is possible to increase the range of characteristics that might be fabricated using 3D printing of components, according to research published in the International Journal of Nano and Biomaterials. In a proof of principle, the team has demonstrated how one such blend emulates the material properties of bone.

Gajanan Thokal and Chandrakant Patil of Amravati University in Maharashtra, India, have investigated the potential of blends of polyamide (PA12) and nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC) with formic acid solution. The team used scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to investigate the structures of the components they produced using 3D printing of these blends. Standard stress and strength tests were also carried out as well as porosity measurements.

Ultimately, the team demonstrated that certain formulations could mimic the structure and characteristics of bone, perhaps opening up the possibility of printing 3D prosthetic bone parts for surgical repair and replacement. Such materials might have greater biocompatibility than conventional metal implants, the team suggests. There are also the advantages of improving the load bearing and re-implantation opportunities when a prosthetic implant ultimately wears out with use. In addition, such blended materials might well have improved bonding and implantation with the surrounding tissue due to their porous nature when compared with solid metal components.

The team points out that the specific type of bone their blended material emulates is that of the goat. As such animal trials of implants based on this substance might be carried out in this animal prior to their being used in humans although the specific formulation would inevitably require some modification for human use.

Thokal, G.N. and Patil, C.R. (2020) 'Finite element analysis of synthetic and natural polymer blends made by 3D printing', Int. J. Nano and Biomaterials, Vol. 9, Nos. 3/4, pp.105–122.
DOI: 10.1504/IJNBM.2020.112221

An international research team has reviewed how big data might be useful in the realm of fashion retailing. They offer their conclusions in the International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy.

Dag Øivind Madsen of the School of Business, University of South-Eastern Norway, Emmanuel Sirimal Silva of the University of the Arts London, and Hossein Hassani of the University of Tehran, Iran, suggest that big data is disrupting the fashion industry in unprecedented ways and has revolutionized traditional business models. "Leading fashion brands and new start-ups are both using big data analytics to improve business operations and maximise profitability," they explain. In their work, take stock of the research literature in this area and summarise the fashion industry's current position.

The team points out that there is evidence of many fashion brands actively engaging with social media whilst the most proactive fashion brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Michael Kors, and Pink Boutique, to name but a few, are already making the most of their online presence. They add that they have found evidence indicating that brands such as Zara, H&M, ASOS, Adidas, Hugo Boss, Macy's, Montblanc, Tory Burch, GAP, and Ralph Lauren are using big data analytics to improve their operations.

They have now identified five main drivers for the use of big data analytics in the fashion industry. The first one is that big data can allow trend prediction. Secondly, it can facilitate waste reduction. Thirdly it can be used to improve the consumer experience and engagement, and marketing. Fourthly, big data can be utilized to improve quality control and reduce the spread of counterfeit garments. Finally, big data can shorten supply chains.

There remain challenges the team has found as the industry seeks to model its markets and consumer behaviour but big data is weaving the way forward.

Madsen, D.Ø., Silva, E.S. and Hassani, H. (2020) 'The application of big data in fashion retailing: a narrative review', Int. J. Management Concepts and Philosophy, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp.247-274.
DOI: 10.1504/IJMCP.2020.112160

Alternative approaches to understanding critique in the field of design studio teaching are discussed in the Journal of Design Research. Jason McDonald of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and Esther Michela of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, suggest that rather than viewing critique as being primarily about educational outcomes, such as accumulating design knowledge, or socializing students to a particular profession, they hope their insights will help students move forward as individuals.

In design education the term "critique" is flexible, the researchers explain it is just as likely to refer to a range of activities in which students receive feedback on their work as being a formal "jury evaluation" of their output. It can also simply be an in-class discussion among instructors and students or even informal, out-of-class help among students themselves. Unfortunately, it is well recognized that critique can be harmful, dominating, and oppressive, in many ways rather than a valuable educational and learning tool.

While the teaching and socialising aspects of critique remain important, their new perspective is not so much about facilitating the management of the students' education but more about help students take up specific ways of life that are made available through studio participation. The incentive for finding a new approach in this context is that the conventional critique approach exists in a high-stakes form and can have a detrimental effect on a student's wellbeing rather than a positive one. There is a definite need to create healthier studio culture that provides education in a more positive environment. Critique acts upon students and can change them not necessarily for the better.

The team recognizes that the pros and cons of critique may well be understood by many educators already. "Our intent," they write, "has not been to propose wholly unprecedented ideas about how critiques can take place." They add that rather, "Our aim was to develop a way of speaking about critiques that considers their foremost purpose to be supporting students who are pressing into forms of the self that are opened up through studio participation."

McDonald, J.K. and Michela, E. (2020) '‘This is my vision’: how students depict critiques along with themselves during critiques', J. Design Research, Vol. 18, Nos. 1/2, pp.57–79.
DOI: 10.1504/JDR.2020.112057

Let's get physical – The poor and disadvantaged tend to report higher rates of mental health issues. It's almost as if social inequality can lead to personal problems. Work published in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research, discusses the potential for physical activity to improve mental health in the context of race, ethnicity, and gender and the link with social inequality.

Jake Jennings of the Department of Economics at California State University, Chico and Iris Buder of the Department of Economics at Idaho State University in Pocatello, USA, explain that many steps have been taken in efforts to address inequality and inequities, but there remains a long road ahead before the gaps are closed. They write how "Positive mental health is more than the 'absence of a mental disorder;' it is integral in a person's ability to fulfill productive activities, find employment, handle adversity, cope with normal stresses of life, and contribute to society." Low socioeconomic status often correlates with poor mental health and a lack of access to the means to remedy that situation.

The team has now looked at how much physical activity might improve mental health despite inequalities for people of different race, ethnicity, and gender. Researchers have used cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental methods to analyse reporting of the number of mentally or physically healthy days in connection to socioeconomic factors, such as income, education, wealth, and occupation. The present team has now used the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data to show the mitigating effects of physical activity on the number of mentally unhealthy days people experience.

"We believe that this work has important public policy implications, as it can help shape and target policies aimed at increasing physical activity levels," the team writes. Physical activity is good for one's overall health. The new research provides policymakers with new insight into how physical activity might be employed to boost the number of mentally healthy days an individual has.

Jennings, J. and Buder, I. (2020) 'The mitigating impact of physical activity on mentally healthy days: differential effects based on race, ethnicity and gender', Int. J. Behavioural and Healthcare Research, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp.103–116.
DOI: 10.1504/IJBHR.2020.112166

The blockchain that underpins digital currencies can be used much more widely to create smart contracts and immutable and protected digital products and services. The potential of this innovation is only now being recognised but looks set to start an intellectual and innovation revolution that will have as great an impact on society as the invention of the internal combustion engine did on transport and the internet did on communications.

Writing in the European Journal of International Management, Tamir Agmon of both the Faculty of Management at Tel Aviv University, in Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel and the School of Business, Economics and Law at Gothenburg University in Gothenburg, Sweden, discusses how distributed digital technology unshackles individual creators and producers and even multinational enterprises from conventional firms, financial intermediaries, and event regulatory authorities in a way that was not possible in the pre-digital age.

"Major innovations are about reducing transactions costs," explains Agmon. "This has been true since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and it continues along the inventive process in the last 220 years." He adds that the nature of the emerging distributed, non-centralised, digital technologies are disrupting conventional markets right now, However, as with the motor car and the telephone before them, they have the potential to improve the welfare of many people by transforming the way we carry out transactions in the market in the future as workers, creators, and consumers.

Indeed, this new distributed digital technology could bring us closer to the hypothetical notion of the neoclassical perfect market model wherein limited productive resources are utilised in a more optimal manner than is possible with conventional approaches. It is likely that recognition of this revolution will emerge most rapidly in the realm of information and communications technology (ICT) before the concepts spread more widely.

Agmon, T. (2021) 'The new distributed digital technology world trade and MNEs: another step in the inventive process', European J. International Management, Vol. 15, No. 1, pp.135–145.
DOI: 10.1504/EJIM.2021.111945

A new photo-sharing social network based on the blockchain could enhance the authenticity and credibility of data as well as precluding data tampering, according to research published in the International Journal of Technology Management.

Blockchain is the technology that famously underpins digital cryptocurrencies. Fundamentally, the blockchain is simply a ledger, a digital record of transactions. It is an open system that does not require a trusted third party as all transactions are logged in an immutable distributed public ledger that requires no central repository of data, it is entirely decentralized.

Jiang Duan, Li Kang, and Zhi Chen of The Blockchain Research Center of China at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu and Tao Peng and Yifeng Wang Chengdu 9Broad Technology Co. Ltd also in Chengdu, suggest that some people are reluctant still to adopt certain social networking and social media technologies because of privacy and provenance concerns. They have developed a blockchain approach that addresses many of these concerns.

Given how many people billions of people currently use social networks and how many more might if given improved security and privacy there is obvious pressure for the development of such technology. There are an estimated 5 billion accounts on the well-known centralized social networks at the moment, which represents connectivity among a large proportion of the world's population.

The team's new blockchain consensus algorithm supports fast and frequent transactions and improves efficiency in a way that was not possible previously. Moreover, it is highly scalable and so should cope well with the vast numbers of potential users that are online. The system allows a user to claim and control ownership of their images and to putatively be rewarded financially for their use.

Duan, J., Kang, L., Chen, Z., Peng, T. and Wang, Y. (2020) 'A photo-sharing social network based on blockchain technology', Int. J. Technology Management, Vol. 84, Nos. 1/2, pp.70–85.
DOI: 10.1504/IJTM.2020.112078

Technology is providing educators with unimaginable tools that are rapidly coming to the fore especially because of restrictions due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Writing in an editorial in the International Journal of Smart Technology and Learning, Charles Xiaoxue Wang and Michele Garabedian of the Stork College of Education at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, USA, discuss the potential of virtual reality in education and prelude a special issue of the journal on this topic.

They define virtual reality (VR) as "any technology that provides its users an interactive computer-generated experience through text, audio, visual, spatial and/or speed messages within a simulated environment that engages its users in multi-sensory interactions and reactions". By this definition, augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and hybrid reality (HR) are also included in the purview of this issue. They point out that with current technology it is possible to seamlessly integrate VR in learning, training, and instruction in many different contexts.

Broadly, VR can offer different communication methods, immersive and reproducible learning environments adaptable for special needs, a unique perspective that promotes interaction and is low-risk. VR also opens up new perspectives that an educator might offer and gives learners novel opportunities for their response.

The number of research papers discussing VR had already begun to increase dramatically in engineering and medicine and more recently the number in educational research has surged too.

"Each article in this special issue offers a unique and significant perspective in exploration of VR and VR related issues," the authors write.

Editorial: virtual reality through the lens of educators – full editorial available as a free PDF here. Special Issue table of contents here.

Journal news

Associate Prof. Marco Opazo Basáez from the University of Deusto in Spain has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of International Journal of Business Environment.

Prof. Vishwanath V. Baba from McMaster University in the USA has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Comparative Management.

The European Journal of International Management's Editor in Chief and Deputy Editor in Chief, Prof. Ilan Alon and Prof. Włodzimierz Sroka, are pleased to announce the following Best Paper Awards:

2020 Award
The expanded model of cultural intelligence and its explanatory power in the context of expatriation intention
European Journal of International Management 2020 14(2)
Nicole Franziska Richter (University of Southern Denmark), Christopher Schlaegel (University of Groningen, The Netherlands), Marian Van Bakel (University of Southern Denmark) and Robert L. Engle (Quinnipiac University, USA)

2019 Award
The influence of competences and institutions on the international market orientation in foreign-owned subsidiaries
European Journal of International Management 2019 13(3)
Sven Dahms (I-Shou University, Taiwan)

2018 Award
Entrepreneurial orientation in a hostile and turbulent environment: risk and innovativeness among successful Russian entrepreneurs
European Journal of International Management 2018 12(1-2)
Daniel J. McCarthy (Northeastern University, USA), Sheila M. Puffer (Northeastern University, USA) and Anna Lamin (Northeastern University, USA)

The Editors congratulate the authors on their significant contributions to research in the field of international management. All winners will receive an online subscription to EJIM and a certificate.

The winning papers are available for free from EJIM's sample articles page.

Newly published title: MENA Journal of Cross-Cultural Management

Associate Prof. Biju Issac from Northumbria University in the UK has been appointed to take over editorship of the International Journal of Information and Computer Security.

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