The "independent" investigator: How academic scientists construct their professional identity in university-industry agricultural biotechnology research collaborations

Dina Biscotti, Leland L. Glenna, William B. Lacy, Rick Welsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

5 Scopus citations

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-285
Number of pages25
JournalResearch in the Sociology of Work
Volume18
StatePublished - Dec 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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