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  • Writer's pictureRiya Wadhwani

The AE Dilemma: Is There a “Right” Level of Subjectivity?

Updated: Apr 30, 2023

Written by Riya Wadhwani, Ph.D. Student at IIM Udaipur (India)

As an AE, a reviewer, or a researcher, join Pradeep Chintagunta on a journey to the ever-shifting world of academic publishing.

Pradeep K. Chintagunta's interview on how Whole Foods will help Amazon

Staying connected and transforming the field

"Be it endogeneity, fixed/random effects, DID, choice, or structural models, refer to Pradeep Chintagunta’s works.

-Prevalent advice from a senior Ph.D. student

As a second-year Ph.D. student, my introduction to the world of quantitative marketing was through several of Pradeep Chintagunta’s popular works pertaining to online user reviews, user engagement in online courses, and fuel price signs. I got a chance to meet him at the December 2022 Chicago Booth Quantitative Marketing Conference at IIM, Udaipur (Rajasthan, India). Through this newsletter, I seized the opportunity to discuss with him not only his work as a researcher, but also his insights as a reviewer, AE, and mentor.

Pradeep Chintagunta’s works aim at enhancing the empirical understanding of household purchase behavior, pharmaceutical markets, and technology products. Leading the domain of mainstream marketing research, a number of his recent as well as forthcoming papers center around market dynamics and the role of other stakeholders and players in shaping and influencing these dynamics. Moreover, he has often asked why the understanding of marketing is skewed toward developed markets. This question makes his interests expand toward understanding the broader role of marketing in the economic and social development of emerging economies, particularly in health outcomes in these economies.

Over the years, Pradeep has partnered with many senior and prolific researchers. However, his current focus is helping train young researchers and guiding passionate, relevant, and interesting ideas toward publication. A tendency to nurture, build a good support system, and equip young scholars with resilience against the harsh realities of academia is the key to keeping him stay connected and updated about the current advancements in the field.

My marginal impact will be higher with young researchers who are still finding their way to doing research and helping them to get to the point where their papers can be published. I would be happy if I could do that for a few more years.

- Pradeep Chintagunta

Pradeep Chintagunta at IMR Doctoral Conference (2015) at IIM, Bangalore (India)

As a young researcher, he shared how he sat in Ph.D. classes and how the interactions and discussions with students helped him and his ideas rejuvenate. Teaching, spending time with family, and interactions with researchers have always brought freshness and perspective to his research ideas.

The subjectivity dilemma of an editor

Pradeep became editor of the Journal of Business in 1995, only five years after he obtained his Ph.D. As an editor, he understood the game of balancing the interests of authors, reviewers, and the journal itself. According to him, an editor is responsible for understanding the rationale of the reviewer's decision and weighing the suggestions against the interestingness and relevance of the idea. The difficulty of this subjective call quadruples in case of uniform rejection from reviewers. As an AE, he revealed, "I am generally inclined to see whether we can proceed further with the paper and the merit of doing the same for the journal, researchers/authors, and the field of marketing." He further disclosed some of the basic requirements of a manuscript in terms of clear communication of the idea and its implications, as well as relevant future directions to help other researchers continue to build that research stream. Once these requirements are met, an AE's job is to consider the scope for improvement to push the paper closer to publication.

However, as an AE, his role is to help and not interfere with the intended direction of the author(s) regarding the idea. "Our job is not to write the paper for them (authors); as an AE, I aim to nurture interesting ideas to the extent I can."

He further stressed the importance of good reviewing to aid AEs in making the right call given that the paper may have certain subjective aspects that the authors chose to include. Approaching reviewing and “reviewership” with humility and putting oneself in the author's shoes can help provide valuable direction to the author in the further development of the paper. Clearly stating the good things about the paper, articulating requirements for improvement, and suggestions for resolving identified problems are some characteristics of good reviewing.

Balancing personal life

Passion for research and faith in oneself motivated Pradeep to choose to join Northwestern University (Evanston, Illinois) over campus placements post-MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India) in 1986. His current stature and contribution to marketing research are purely because of his optimism and calmness towards life and his tendency to view life’s struggles as opportunities for growth.

Currently, Pradeep is involved with the advisory editorial boards of several top journals, including IJRM. In addition, he also serves on the advisory boards of several organizations like MuSigma, Syntasa, his alma mater, and the IIMA, to name a few. He stressed the importance of saying "No" and sabbaticals to spend time with family and friends as a vital source of maintaining and balancing mental and physical well-being.

Moreover, his love for movies, traveling, and maintaining a collection of vintage electronics keeps him going.

A Collage of Pradeep's Vintage Electronics Collection


Meet Pradeep Chintagunta

Favorite movie of all time

It’s hard to select one, but if I have to choose, then it is Forrest Gump. It’s fictional but quite inspirational.

Favorite travel destination

My family and I love traveling to Israel, followed by Greece.

A ritual/practice/exercise you can’t miss or start your day without?

Prayer, I am quite a religious person.

If you would not a marketing researcher, what would you be?

I always wanted to be a film star. Getting the opportunity to work with a Bollywood movie, I checked that box as well. So yes, in an alternate universe, I would have loved to be an actor.

If you could retain only one concept in marketing, what would that be?

All about the consumers.


This article was written by

Riya Wadhwani

Ph.D. candidate at the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur (Rajasthan, India)

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