Academic Entrepreneurship and Exchange of Scientific Resources: Material Transfer in Life and Materials Sciences in Japanese Universities
- Shibayama, S., Walsh J.P. & Baba, Y. (2012) Academic Entrepreneurship and Exchange of Scientific Resources: Material Transfer in Life and Materials Sciences in Japanese Universities. American Sociological Review, 77(5), 804-830, [paper][doi]
- Shibayama, S. (2014) Academic commercialization and changing nature of academic cooperation. Journal of Evolutionary Economics (forthcoming). [paper][doi] (won the International Schumpeter Society Conference Best Junior Paper Award)
- Academic science is essentially sustained by the norm and practice of unconditional sharing.
- The modern science has been becoming increasingly entrepreneurial (academic entrepreneurship), and proprietary rights to research results have been emphasized.
- This study investigates how the norm and practice of scientists are affected under the current regime.
- Data is obtained from Japanese life and material sciences with a questionnaire survey.
- Results suggest that the norm of sharing weakens in the current regime, and that scientists act more for their own benefit than for collective benefit.
This study uses a sample of Japanese university scientists in life and materials sciences to examine how academic entrepreneurship has affected the norms and behaviors of academic scientists regarding sharing scientific resources. Results indicate that high levels of academic entrepreneurship in a scientific field are associated with less reliance on the gift-giving form of sharing (i.e., generalized exchange) traditionally recommended by scientific communities, and with a greater emphasis on direct benefits for givers (i.e., direct exchange), as well as a lower overall frequency of sharing. We observe these shifts in sharing behavior even among individual scientists who are not themselves entrepreneurially active; this suggests a general shift in scientific norms contingent on institutional contexts. These findings reflect contradictions inherent in current science policies that simultaneously encourage open science as well as commercial application of research results, and they suggest that the increasing emphasis on commercial activity may fundamentally change the normative structure of science.
Degree of Academic Entrepreneurship
32 percent of respondents were engaged in at least one form of commercial activity in the two years 2007 and 2008: negotiations with industry over their IP rights (29 percent), founding startups or marketing new technologies (8percent), or out-licensing of their technologies (9 percent). In addition, 50 percent of respondents received industry funds (on average, industry funds accounted for 12 percent of total research expenses), and 28 percent collaborated with industry.
Generalized Exchange vs. Direct Exchange
Social exchange theory, in examining resource exchanges undertaken by actors within a social structure, generally distinguishes two forms of exchange: generalized exchange and direct exchange. Generalized exchange consists of three or more actors who can give to or receive from one another, where givers do not expect a direct return from their recipients but expect support from a third party in the future; direct exchange consists of two actors, both of whom directly contribute to each other, where one’s giving is based on the expectation or agreement of reciprocation from the other (Befu 1977; Blau 1964; Ekeh 1974; Sahlins 1972).
Denial Probability with Field-Level Academic Entrepreneurship
As the field-level academic entrepreneurship, measured by the proportion of academics engaged in commercial activities, grows, the likelihood of GE being fulfilled decreases while that of DE being fulfilled increases. That is, generalized exchange is replaced by direct exchange.
Transition of the Forms and Compliance of Sharing
We find that, in highly entrepreneurially active fields compared to less entrepreneurially active fields, (1) the likelihood of denial for
generalized exchange-based sharing increases, and the likelihood of
successful exchange becomes more tied to direct exchange offers; (2) the proportion of direct exchange-based sharing increases; and (3) the total number of requests declines. In other words, differences in prevalence of field-level entrepreneurial activity are associated with differences in the rates and forms of sharing.