A new reward system in academic science
Johnson, David Russell
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This research examines the operation of a new reward system in academic science. Since 1980, the erosion of structural and cultural boundaries between universities and industry has led to a radical acceleration in the commercialization of scientific discoveries in the form of patents and companies generated by scientists in the academy. The implications of this shift for scientific work are dramatic as it introduces new rewards, norms, and career prospects for scientists. To address these problems, sixty-one interviews with academic scientists were conducted at four universities. Drawing on a sampling frame that identified the most prolific commercialist academic scientists in the United States, the study employs a theoretical sampling strategy that compares commercialist and traditionalist scientists at public and private universities, evenly divided between scientists who received their PhDs before and after the onset of commercialized academic science. The analysis focuses on the constitution of moral orders in science, social mechanisms that enable and constrain identification with commercial trajectories, identity work, and the normative structure of contemporary science.