Industry collaboration, scientific sharing, and the dissemination of knowledge

TitleIndustry collaboration, scientific sharing, and the dissemination of knowledge
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsEvans, JA
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Date PublishedOctober 1, 2010
Publication Languageeng
ISSN Number0306-3127
AbstractRobert Merton famously characterized modern science as distinct from other social spheres by the importance of sharing. In contrast, secrecy is often claimed the most frequent method companies employ to benefit from their discoveries. This study interrogates these claims, and then uses fieldwork on academic research with the popular plant model Arabidopsis thaliana and the companies that support it to explore the nature of sharing in academy and industry. Using archival materials and panel models, the study then examines the consequences of industry collaboration, how it influences sharing between academic scientists and the reach of their ideas and materials. Interviews with academic scientists and industrial research managers reveal differences in sharing. Academics are practiced at communicating discoveries and sharing materials, but occasionally withhold to secure credit or barter to maximize it. In contrast, companies manage their ideas and resources for longer-term control. The difference is not that academic scientists never keep secrets, but that many do so badly. Statistical findings suggest that industry sponsorship influences scientists to reduce their sharing of research materials and methods, but it increases the reception of scientists’ early-stage manuscripts, probably as a substitute, enabling competing labs to infer a closed lab’s methods. Industry’s influence also affects sharing indirectly by sponsoring research in less crowded areas. In this way, industry curbs the demand as well as the supply of sharing in science. As a result, industry sponsorship limits the social, organizational, and geographic distance that sponsored ideas travel over time. Scientists find it difficult to enroll other academics in their research findings as they become enrolled in an industry project of avoiding and mitigating competing science.
Full Text