Intermediaries in the relevance-gap debate: A systematic review of consulting roles

Onno Bouwmeester*, Stefan Heusinkveld, Brian Tjemkes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A highly contested issue in management science is its relevance to practice. Despite third parties’ potentially significant role in changing the interaction between divided parties, the long-standing literature on the relevance gap has paid third parties little systematic attention. Drawing on a boundary-spanning perspective, and the concept of brokerage in particular, we review how the consultant role is discussed as an intermediary third party between management science and management practice. Based on a systematic literature review of 133 articles, we identify different intermediary consultant roles linking management science to management practice. Our findings detail how the practices associated with intermediary consultant roles performed by academics or practitioners relate to several key relevance criteria, how management knowledge flows when including intermediaries and how intermediaries in different roles relate to different audiences. Based on the findings, we develop a third-party model of intermediary consultant roles and knowledge flows. The model indicates the theoretical significance of third parties in shaping the interaction and knowledge flows between management science and management practice and has theoretical implications for understanding the persistence of the relevance gap. Regarding practical implications, we suggest how management scientists could target third parties as new key practitioner audiences. Considering third parties, and thus moving away from a two-party view, opens up promising directions for further research on the roles and role shifts of various intermediary actors and on how different intermediary audiences may appreciate different types of academic knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-77
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Management Reviews
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. International Journal of Management Reviews published by British Academy of Management and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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