Careers and contradictions: faculty responses to the transformation of knowledge and its uses in the life sciences

The Transformation of Work

ISBN: 978-0-76230-766-1, eISBN: 978-1-84950-097-5

ISSN: 0277-2833

Publication date: 14 March 2001


Drawing on interviews with more than 80 scientists on two university campuses, we create a typology that offers insights into how transformations in the nature and locus of life science innovation influence academic careers and work practices. Our analyses suggest that a strong outcome of increased academic concern with research commercialization is the appearance of new fault lines among faculty, between faculty and students, and even between scientists' interests and those of their institutions. We argue that life science commercialization is driven by a mix of new funding opportunities, changing institutional mandates for universities, and novel research technologies that bring basic research and product development into much closer contact. The rise of patenting and commercially motivated technology transfer on U.S. campuses stands to alter faculty work practices and relationships, while transforming the criteria by which success is determined and rewards are allocated. Through close analysis of interviews with four researchers who typify a range of academic responses to commercialism, we demonstrate emerging patterns of conflict and agreement in faculty responses to commercial opportunities in the life sciences.


Owen-Smith, J. and Powell, W. (2001), "Careers and contradictions: faculty responses to the transformation of knowledge and its uses in the life sciences", Vallas, S. (Ed.) The Transformation of Work (Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 109-140.

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Copyright © 2001, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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