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Dr. Kevin So was named on the 2021 Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate, a data and analytics company.

World Class: Kevin So's research among most highly cited in world

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Media Contact: Terry Tush | Director, Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2703 |

Dr. Kevin So is making waves in hospitality and tourism research.

So, the William E. Davis Professor and associate professor with the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Spears School of Business, was recognized as a breakthrough star with some of the most highly cited articles in his field and best papers among his awards and honors this year.

“Dr. So’s publications speak for his quality of work,” said Dr. Ramesh Sharda, vice dean for graduate programs and research in Spears Business. “Most journals have an acceptance rate of no more than 25%, and top-tier journals usually have an acceptance rate of below 10%, which shows the competitive nature of faculty publications in top-tier journals and he has been published in them numerous times.”

So was named on the 2021 Highly Cited Researchers list from Clarivate, a data and analytics company. The list identifies researchers who produced multiple papers ranking in the top one percent by citations for their chosen field or fields published between January 2010 and December 2020, demonstrating significant influence among their peers. 

This top one percent of the global research community represents magnets in their respective disciplines with 6,600 researchers, representing 1,300-plus institutions in more than 70 countries.

On the elite list, So is one of only 263 researchers in the world in the social sciences discipline and one of only four Oklahoma State University professors to be included.

“Dr. So does high quality and prolific work,” Sharda said. “He is an extremely hard-working colleague who focuses on both quantity and quality of work, which in turn creates more highly cited work.”

So’s research accolades are possible because of extensive work in the hospitality and tourism management field.

“For me, quality and impact are very important. No matter where I go, no matter which institute I work at, those will always be the two indicators that are driving my research efforts."

— Kevin So

Born in China and raised in Hong Kong, So pursued his undergraduate degree in business management, majoring in hotel management from Griffith University in Australia, graduating in 2009. Of the approximately 5,000 graduates, two students received the University Medal and So was one of them. In 2010, he continued his graduate education in mathematical sciences, majoring in statistics and statistical modeling at Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

He was then awarded three full ride scholarships for his doctoral studies at Griffith, the world-renowned hospitality and tourism management program where he graduated in December 2013 with his Ph.D.

“When choosing my undergraduate major, I took the chance of reading introductory textbooks from various business areas including accounting, finance, supply chain and logistics,” So said. “When I started turning the first few pages of one of the best-selling hospitality management textbooks, I was hooked. It is an industry full of excitement.”

After his educational endeavors and before entering academia, So gained extensive industry knowledge in hotels and resorts throughout Australia. He then relocated to the U.S. where he earned early tenure and early promotion at the University of South Carolina. While there, he served as associate professor in the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management and as a research associate in the SmartState Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development. In August 2020, he began his career at OSU as an associate professor.

“I am passionate about conducting cutting-edge research that not only informs the academic thinking of other scholars and students, but also provides compelling industry insight into the world’s largest industry: tourism,” So said. “It is always intriguing to me how consumers respond to and engage with different service companies and brands differently. The dynamics of such interactions and what constitutes a superior and memorable experience have always attracted my attention as a researcher.”

His main research focus lies at the intersection of hospitality and tourism marketing and service management. Focusing on these industries as the contextual domain of his research, he has concentrated on researching global consumer trends and their behavior, with a special emphasis on customer engagement, platform business models, the sharing economy, access-based services, artificial intelligence and service robots.

Kevin SoSo was also recognized for having the No. 1 most highly cited paper from 2011–2021 published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research (JHTR), his 2014 article, “Customer engagement with tourism brands: Scale development and validation.”

This article conceptualized consumer engagement through a 25-item scale, developed from a survey of hotel and airline customers. The scale comprises five factors — identification, enthusiasm, attention, absorption and interaction — which provides tourism practitioners with insights into a customer’s psychological and behavioral connections with their brand.

The three leading and most widely recognized sources provided the citation metrics for this honor: Google Scholar, SCOPUS and Web of Science. Because the sources have varying ways of quantifying publications, article numbers differ by source.

Google Scholar shows So’s article as being cited 561 times and ranks the article No. 1 of 748 articles published in JHTR in the last 10 years. According to SCOPUS, the article is the top cited of 596 papers and has been cited 261 times. Of 610 articles published, Web of Science also ranks the article as No. 1, with 234 citations.

The second most highly cited article across all three platforms was cited 100 fewer times than So’s article.

Winning JHTR’s Best Article of the Year Award in 2015, this article has now been downloaded more than 15,000 times based on the data from SAGE and ResearchGate.

Several articles that cited the 2014 article have now been referenced more than 500 times with one exceeding 1,000 citations. Of those articles, So’s 2016 paper, “The role of customer engagement in building consumer loyalty to tourism brands” has been cited 558 times.

“The number of citations and downloads are two important indicators of academic impact,” So said. “It shows other researchers are using and reading our work.”

In the last academic year, So produced 15 publications and of those, 13 were accepted into Spears college-level A journals.

The hospitality and tourism industry is an integral part of the U.S. and world economy and its traditional consumption model is changing rapidly with the rise of platform-based businesses, peer-to-peer consumption and the sharing economy.

These evolutions in the industry have created new questions from the consumer perspective and service ecosystem perspective as well as in the minds of researchers. Some of these questions include — how can we convince consumers such as older generations who are apprehensive about using shared services to adopt a new way of thinking and how does that affect actors in the existing ecosystem such as incumbents? Why are they apprehensive? The increasing adoption of artificial intelligence and service robots also presents new research questions. What services are consumers open to allowing a service robot to provide for them? How do consumers perceive and evaluate the dynamic situations of service failures resulting from service robots?

These are some of the questions So hopes to answer through his research.

Conducting this type of research is partially so impactful because of the industry itself. Tourists who go out to dinner, use a ride-share service or stay in a hotel are actively contributing to the hospitality and tourism industry.

So believes in order to be at the cutting edge of research, you have to identify where the edge is by being at the forefront of the latest literature, as well as understanding why that research is publishable and highly relevant to colleagues.

Therefore, he and his graduate students sit down regularly to discuss the latest published paper to analyze research methodologies, what makes it impactful and why it is highly relatable or cited.

“For me, quality and impact are very important,” So said. “No matter where I go, no matter which institute I work at, those will always be the two indicators that fundamentally drive my research efforts.

“When I work with my graduate students, I want to instill that notion in them. Focus on quality and impact.”

Story By: Bailey Stacy | Engage@Spears Magazine

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