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Book cover: Research in the Sociology of Work

Research in the Sociology of Work

ISSN: 0277-2833
Series editor(s): Lisa A. Keister

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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The “independent” investigator: how academic scientists construct their professional identity in university–industry agricultural biotechnology research collaborations


Document Information:
Title:The “independent” investigator: how academic scientists construct their professional identity in university–industry agricultural biotechnology research collaborations
Author(s):Dina Biscotti, Leland L. Glenna, William B. Lacy, Rick Welsh
Volume:18 Editor(s): Nina Bandelj ISBN: 978-1-84855-368-2 eISBN: 978-1-84855-369-9
Citation:Dina Biscotti, Leland L. Glenna, William B. Lacy, Rick Welsh (2009), The “independent” investigator: how academic scientists construct their professional identity in university–industry agricultural biotechnology research collaborations, in Nina Bandelj (ed.) Economic Sociology of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Volume 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.261-285
DOI:10.1108/S0277-2833(2009)0000018013 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:

Purpose – University–industry relationships raise concerns about the influence of commercial interests on academic science. In this paper, we investigate how academic scientists who collaborate with industry understand their professional identity in relation to their research money and the notion of scientific “independence.”

Design/Methodology/Approach – We conducted in-depth interviews with 84 scientists and 65 administrators from 9 U.S. universities. The scientists do research in the field of agricultural biotechnology and collaborate with industry. The administrators have oversight responsibility for academic research, university–industry collaborations, and technology transfer.

Findings – We find that our respondents are wary of industry funding but believe that it has an appropriate place in academic research. Typically, industry money is treated either as seed money for preliminary research or as flexible funding that supplements the core, essential competitive grants academic scientists obtain from public agencies. We find that academic scientists talk about the mix of public and private funds in their research funding portfolios in ways that aim to construct an “independent” investigator professional identity.

Originality/Value – Our study is a case of how money is inscribed with meanings in institutional settings. It contributes to scholarship in economic sociology of work by revealing how money is used by academic scientists to signal their alignment with institutionally sanctioned professional norms and by administrators to evaluate scientists' work.


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