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Digital Transformations of Work and Employment in the Professions

A BSA Early Career Forum Regional Event

24 January 2024 (09:30-17:00)
Leeds University Business School, Leeds, LS2 9JT

About the Event
This event is supported by the BSA and the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre (Digit) Data Observatory [grant number ES/S012532/1]. The event is also sponsored by the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change (CERIC) at Leeds University Business School. Support from these bodies is gratefully acknowledged.

This event will provide networking opportunities, a forum for the exchange of ideas, detailed feedback on papers and a chance for ECRs and PGRs to develop skills in reviewing. Additionally, the event will facilitate conversations between academics and industry professionals from a variety of sectors, with a focus on digital transformations of work and employment in the professions.

The current wave of digitalisation, which encompasses data analytics, artificial intelligence and platform-based business models, has brought change and anticipated change to roles for professionals and to role relations within the organizations where they work. This encompasses, but is not limited to, legal professionals, accountants, financial advisors, management consultants, HR professionals, journalists, academics, teachers and healthcare professionals. Digital transformation of the professions raises familiar concerns, such as the extent to which digitalisation will automate routine tasks, allowing professionals to focus on skills development and improving client services (Petani et al., 2021; Spring et al., 2022), or, conversely, whether in some cases, it codifies expert knowledge, depriving professionals of what have previously been learning processes (Leibovitz et al., 2022), or even has the potential to replace professionals (Simpson, 2016; Susskind and Susskind, 2015).

Digitalisation in relation to professional work also raises a specific set of sociological concerns about whether working with or alongside data-driven technologies shifts domains of professional knowledge and expertise (e.g. Karakilic, 2020; Pettersen, 2019; Susskind and Susskind, 2015) side-lining domain knowledge and fundamentally changing the way professions are practiced (van den Broek et al, 2021). Studies have examined the extent to which digitalization recasts institutionally embedded jurisdictional legitimacy (Sandholtz et al., 2019), challenging professional judgement and raising concerns among professionals about deskilling and heightened managerial surveillance (Brayne and Christin, 2021). These studies raise further questions about the extent to which these challenges or changes might influence professional identity (Alvesson and Willmott, 2002).

This event aims to bring together ECRs undertaking research on digital technologies and the professions in sociology of work, organization studies, employment relations/industrial sociology and management studies; an area where changes wrought by digital technologies may be more subtle and incremental. The event will include a roundtable session which brings the academic research community into conversation with professionals, providing perspectives on a research agenda for studies of digitalisation of the professions and allowing ECRs and PGRs who attend to consider how to 1) develop their own research agendas and 2) design research with impact.

Call for Abstracts

ECRs and PGRs are invited to submit paper abstracts of relevance and meaning to the above debates and related areas. Submissions should be up to 500 words in length and sent to Esme Terry and Xanthe Whittaker (event organisers) via email Esme Terry no later than Wednesday, 22 November 2023. Please use the email subject ‘Abstract submission – BSA event’.

Participants whose abstracts are accepted will be invited to submit a full paper (up to 8,000 words) before the event which will be reviewed by two other attendees. This will ensure the parallel paper sessions on the day provide participants with detailed discussion of papers-in-progress and in-depth feedback from discussants.

Key Dates

  • Deadline for abstract submissions: Wednesday, 22 November 2023
  • Notification of decisions: week beginning 27 November 2023
  • Full paper submissions due: no later than Tuesday, 9 January 2024
  • Event: Wednesday, 24 January 2024

Both ECRs and PGRs are welcome to submit abstracts for consideration. There are a limited number of bursaries available to cover travel and accommodation expenses, for those participants who do not have access to funding through their own institutions. If you wish to apply for a bursary, please indicate this when submitting your abstract.

Indicative Programme

09:30 - Registration
10:00 - Opening welcome: Professor Mark Stuart (CERIC and Digit Co-Director)
10:15 - Publications panel: Editors from leading journals
11:15 - Coffee and tea break
11:30 - Parallel Paper Workshops 1 & 2
13:00 - Networking lunch hosted by Digit and CERIC
14:00 - Roundtable: A research agenda for the digital future of the professions: conversation between academics and professionals
15:30 - Break
15:45 - Parallel Paper Workshops 3 & 4
17:00 - Event close; followed by optional social in Leeds


  • BSA Member: £5
  • Non-Member: £15


Alvesson, M., & Willmott, H. (2002). Identity regulation as organizational control: Producing the appropriate individual. Journal of Management Studies, 39(5): 619-644.
Brayne, S., & Christin, A. (2021). Technologies of crime prediction: The reception of algorithms in policing and criminal courts. Social Problems, 68(3): 608-624.
Karakilic, E. (2022). Why Do Humans Remain Central to the Knowledge Work in the Age of Robots? Marx’s Fragment on Machines and Beyond. Work, Employment and Society, 36(1): 179-189.
Lebovitz, S., Lifshitz-Assaf, H., & Levina, N. (2022). To engage or not to engage with AI for critical judgments: How professionals deal with opacity when using AI for medical diagnosis. Organization Science, 33(1): pp.126-148.
Petani, F.J., Ramirez, C., & Gendron, Y. (2021). Special issue on Digitalization, work, and professions. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 79(C): 1-3.
Pettersen, L. (2018). Why artificial intelligence will not outsmart complex knowledge work. Work, Employment and Society, 33(6): 1058–1067.
Sandholtz, K., Chung, D., & Waisberg, I. (2019). The double-edged sword of jurisdictional entrenchment: explaining human resources professionals’ failed strategic repositioning. Organization Science, 30(6): 1349-1367.
Simpson, B. (2016). Algorithms or advocacy: does the legal profession have a future in a digital world? Information & Communications Technology Law, 25(1): 50-61.
Spring, M., Faulconbridge, J., & Sarwar, A. (2022). How information technology automates and augments processes: Insights from Artificial‐Intelligence‐based systems in professional service operations. Journal of Operations Management, 68(6-7): 592-618.
Susskind, R.E., & Susskind, D. (2015). The future of the professions: How technology will transform the work of human experts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
van den Broek, E., Sergeeva, A., & Huysman, M. (2021). When the Machine Meets the Expert: An Ethnography of Developing AI for Hiring. MIS Quarterly, 45(3).