Curiosity and commercialization: Faculty perspectives on sponsored research, academic science and research agendas
Given the need to compete for sponsored research funding, do university faculty believe they retain the freedom to research what is of most interest to them? The higher education literature frequently asserts that faculty research agendas are being subjugated to the demands of sponsors. An alternate perspective, from the science studies literature, posits that academic science itself is changing as some research faculty adapt to a transformed environment for knowledge production that involves new working relationships with sponsors.
However, this transformation produces an altered conception of academic science that moves away from traditional normative systems such as those proposed by Robert Merton. The literature shows that academic scientists can deviate from traditional norms of research practice, but it is not known to what value systems they are gravitating. This question requires conceptualizing academic science as a social activity, understanding that faculty adaptation involves the construction of new organizing frameworks for science as they integrate conflicting values and experience ambivalence regarding their research demands.
Based on an original survey collecting data from more than 1200 faculty at doctoral/research universities, the study has two areas of foci concerning academic science. The primary question addresses concerns that, owing to the need to locate extramural sponsorship for research, university faculty are losing the ability to determine their own research agendas. Following analysis of multiple conceptions, levels of perceived control in different contexts reveal complex patterns of adaptation and negotiation in relation to external circumstances. A more nuanced understanding of control emerges.
The second question examines the value systems present in academic science— such as those proposed by Merton's norms—in relation to alternate views to determine whether faculty would view different academic values as legitimate or even necessary to perform research. The findings reject the notion of conventional values being predominant, and discrete types within the typology being tested were not supported. The findings indicate that faculty move among multiple value systems when conducting academic science.
0585: Science history
0745: Higher education