Organising the socio-economic relevance of university research: the case of nanomaterials research in Taiwan

Tsai, Min-Hua (2014) Organising the socio-economic relevance of university research: the case of nanomaterials research in Taiwan. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with academics’ behaviour when organising research aimed at being relevant. More specifically, this study combines a sociological approach and an extensive bibliometric analysis, investigating the relationships between scientists’ perceptions of relevance, their research behaviours and their publishing activities in terms of organising nanomaterials research in Taiwan. By introducing a resource-based concept of the notion of relevance from a scientist’s perspective, it contributes to intellectual debates on changes to knowledge production and the relationship between scientific excellence and socio-economic relevance.

The study finds that the ways nanomaterials scientists perceive and organise their research, specifically in terms of research orientation, industry involvement and
interdisciplinary collaboration, are not entirely oriented towards socio-economic concerns. Scientists tend to adapt to the demand for relevance by demonstrating potential research applications and forming interdisciplinary collaborations. Nevertheless, they are more persistent in terms of not having industry involved in the research process. Balancing adaptation and persistence reflects scientists’ concerns with securing financial, intellectual and symbolic resources in order to establish their academic credibility.

The bibliometric analysis broadly confirms the qualitative results findings, showing an increasing trend towards publishing in applied and targeted basic journals, and towards interdisciplinary collaboration. Yet, the proportion of university-industry papers has been rather stable over time. While our interviews suggest that senior scientists tend to consider interdisciplinary collaboration as a way to facilitate application, the bibliometric analysis shows that interdisciplinary co-authored papers tend to be more basic and receive more citations. The analysis also finds that junior scientists tend to feel more pressure to achieve a strong academic performance, thereby pushing them away from activities concerning achieving the envisioned socio-economic relevance of their research. Given the ambiguous notion of relevance and the inconsistency of policy practices, this thesis suggests that the real pressure is more to do with the demand for excellence than for relevance.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Business, Management and Economics > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS701 China > DS798.92 Taiwan
L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education > LC5225.A-Z Special topics, A-Z > LC5225.R47 Research
T Technology > T Technology (General) > T0174.7 Nanotechnology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2014 14:16
Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015 13:41
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/47900

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