Managing the paradox of commercialising public good research

Wong, Hiong Chin. (2005). Managing the paradox of commercialising public good research PhD Thesis, School of Business, The University of Queensland.

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Author Wong, Hiong Chin.
Thesis Title Managing the paradox of commercialising public good research
School, Centre or Institute School of Business
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2005
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Assoc Professor R. Westwood
Dr A. Griffiths
Total pages 284
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subjects L
360203 Research, Science and Technology Policy
720403 Management
Formatted abstract
The government's provision of public good by funding scientific research, on the one hand, and its policy of commercialising research knowledge on the other, creates a paradox for public research organisations and their scientists. Historically, these organisations disseminated their knowledge products freely through publications and other modes of transfer without any expectation of returns. This mode of transferring research is consistent with the prevailing culture of most public research organisations and universities, a culture that stems from these institutions' original mandate - to perform public good roles.

However, since the late 1970s, industrialised nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom introduced new policies and legislations to promote the commercialisation of public funded research. In line with international developments, Australia also followed suit. But the commercialisation of science engendered a cultural clash and created paradoxical objectives for public research organisations and their scientists. It is this paradox that this thesis seeks to investigate.

The thesis investigates the phenomenon of the paradox through two organisations— the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)—that were originally established to conduct and provide scientific research to assist the community with agricultural problems. Currently, these two organisations are confronted with the need to be more commercially focused and, consequently, are caught in a web of conflict that generates tensions for both the organisations and the scientists.

This thesis employs a novel approach based on critical realism. It combines in-depth interview data with an analysis of extant literature to uncover the deeper structures (the generative mechanisms) that account for the intervening dynamics leading to the emergence of the outputs observed at the empirical domain—outputs that take the form of the views expressed by the respondents to this thesis. In other words, the thesis elucidates not just what the interviewees said in response to the commercialisation of their research, but also why they responded in such a way. A total of fifteen themes, subdivided under three main groupings, emerged from the interview data; these themes reflect the paradox of commercialisation. The first theme group explores the divide between public good and commercialisation, and explains the emergence of the paradox. The second theme group focuses on the reward system and the scientists' views on publication and knowledge sharing - issues that directly impact on their careers. The third theme group discusses the scientists' concerns with the restrictions on publications and the external influences on research as a result of third-party collaborations. Issues of autonomy and funding also emerged from the interview data. These themes reflect the scientists' deep concerns about organisational barriers and policy inconsistencies that render it difficult for them to support the commercialisation of research. The exposure of these issues will enable management to take appropriate measures to redress the inconsistencies.

The thesis contributes to both theory and practice. Within the critical realist framework, generative mechanisms are considered middle range theories in that they are uncovered through deep reasoning and analytical work. Through these processes, this thesis identified three key mechanisms endowed with causal powers, whose activation—through their interaction with the contingent conditions engendered by commercialisation—was able to provide theoretical explanations for the thesis's research outcomes. These mechanisms are the scientific ethos; society's need for new knowledge; and the need for systematic mechanisms for the production, dissemination, and application of knowledge.

Through an analysis and synthesis of research literature and interview data, this thesis also develops a conceptual model that presents and explains the phenomenon of the paradox. The thesis thereby departs from previous work in this field, which adopted either a quantitative or social constructive approach, and offers a new perspective for better understanding the commercialisation of public good research. Additionally, the social and cultural implications of commercialisation, especially in Australia, are issues in which limited research has been conducted. This thesis thus adds to the pool of knowledge on the commercialisation of public sector research. The critical realist approach allows variations of the contexts and the identification of different mechanisms, thereby providing a launching pad for further research in this field.
Keyword Research -- Australia -- Finance
Science and industry -- Australia
Additional Notes

Spine title: Commercialising public good research : the paradox

Document type: Thesis
Collection: UQ Theses (RHD) - UQ staff and students only
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Fri, 24 Aug 2007, 18:39:57 EST