Resources

Interdisciplinary Strategies in U.S. Research Universities, by Creso M. Sá

Structural Change in Faculty Roles at Research Universities, by Roger L. Geiger

Corporate-sponsored Research at Penn State: Report to the Office of the Vice President for Research, by Roger L. Geiger

State Policies for Science and Technology: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by Roger L. Geiger

Universities and State Policy Formation: Rationalizing a Nanotechnology Strategy in Pennsylvania, by Creso M. Sá, Roger L. Geiger, and Paul M. Hallacher

The Riddle of the Valley, by Roger L. Geiger

Interdisciplinary Strategies in U.S. Research Universities

by Creso M. Sá

Published in Higher Education.

Many believe that some of the most intellectually exciting and relevant fields of research lie between and across traditional disciplines. As discussed in Tapping, that is the case of science-based technologies such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and informatics. Nonetheless, universities tend to evolve slowly and retain organizational structures that represent historical configurations of academic work. For this reason, universities have long created research centers and institutes to assemble research teams from multiple departments. This paper examines three strategies employed in recent years by central administrators to facilitate interdisciplinary research. First, they organize formal “incentive grant” schemes that provide seed money competitively for new cross-departmental research teams, with the aim to leverage large-scale federal support. Second, central administrators create and support “steering structures” – campus-wide units whose main purpose is to build research capacity in interdisciplinary fields across colleges and departments. Third, the central administration supports adaptations in faculty hiring and evaluation practices to accommodate researchers whose work span conventional disciplinary and departmental boundaries. These strategies create matrix-like organizational arrangements that have been little investigated in academic settings. They also suggest that the pursuit of research quality, resources, and reputation are more probable drivers of institutional adaptations towards interdisciplinary ways of organizing than longstanding normative arguments.

Read the full review here [PDF].

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Structural Change in Faculty Roles at Research Universities

by Roger L. Geiger

The expectation for universities to spur economic development has been one of the factors fueling the intensification of research—the increase of research relative to instruction at U.S. universities (see Table 1). In fact, the expansion of research at universities since the late 1990s may be comparable to the transformation of the 1960s. Like that decade, it has had a powerful, although quite different, impact on university faculty. This paper discusses how universities optimize the balance of research and instruction, and the ways they have coped with the intensification of research. It then specifically addresses the bifurcation of full-time faculty into tenured and tenure-track faculty on one side and non-tenure track faculty on the other. Although issues raised by the growing use of part-time faculty have received much attention, the trend toward full-time non-tenure-track faculty has been more significant for research universities. Moreover, it has been accelerating at an alarming pace since 2000. In documenting and discussing this phenomenon, the paper makes the following points. This is a complex development, but negative implications for student learning and the academic profession largely outweigh positive ones. Universities set the conditions that are driving this phenomenon, but its implementation by departments is a grass-roots process.  Some departments employ instructional faculty to improve instruction, some to create a division of labor between drudge courses and advanced courses. And still others are compelled to do so to meet instructional responsibilities. Hence, this phenomenon must be examined and evaluated separately across departments and colleges. Finally, this trend is driven by powerful forces unlikely to be deterred by normative arguments.

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Corporate-sponsored Research at Penn State: Report to the Office of the Vice President for Research

by Roger L. Geiger

Corporations directly support more than $2 billion of university research, but these links are relatively neglected in discussions of technology transfer. Moreover, there is cause for concern for the health of these relationships: of all corporate research partners, universities have experienced the most sluggish growth in support. There can be little doubt that university claims for intellectual property is a sticking point for many industries. On the other hand, university-spawned start-ups would seem to have become formidable competitors for corporate research funds. This paper presents a general analysis of corporate-sponsored university research as context for examining the specific situation at Penn State. This general material recapitulates a good deal of the analysis in Tapping, but some additional topics are discussed. Penn State provides an exemplar for the ‘military-industrial-academic innovation system’ and its unique characteristics. The paper also explores ‘university supply and industry demand for research.’ This case study provides insight into the breadth and complexity of these relationships at one of the largest performers of corporate-sponsored research.

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State Policies for Science and Technology: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

by Roger L. Geiger

States have been decidedly junior partners under the prevailing system of science federalism, chiefly responsible for the institutional base for academic research, but in recent years they have become increasingly active formulating and implementing policies to further science and technology. Tapping depicts the initiatives of four states that have taken fairly aggressive approaches to augmenting and focusing academic research. This paper provides an overview and analysis of the efforts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which since the early 1980s has sought policies that could mobilize the state’s strong academic and scientific base to assist in generating new, technology-based industries. Despite early leadership in this area, recent efforts tend to exemplify the weaknesses of state efforts to promote science and technology. These include: political domination that results in a short-term outlook predicated solely on creating jobs; absence of overall analysis or planning; failure to honestly evaluate existing programs; and ignorance of the efforts of other states. The lack of direction at the center presents opportunities for policy entrepreneurs. Pennsylvania’s research universities have worked this system to their advantage, but only in scattered areas. However, such an approach virtually precludes any concerted effort to focus state resources upon strategic or long-term objectives.  The states multiple initiatives may well contribute something to economic development, even though they are in many respects ineffective or inefficient.

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Universities and State Policy Formation: Rationalizing a Nanotechnology Strategy in Pennsylvania

by Creso M. Sá, Roger L. Geiger, and Paul M. Hallacher

Recently published in the Review of Policy Research.

Over the past ten years, the federal government has made substantial investments in science and engineering at the nano-scale. States have followed suit, seeking to create local poles of nanotechnology research and discovery. They all pursue the scientific and technological leadership deemed fundamental to attract and grow nanotechnology-related firms. In this paper, we investigated how and why one pioneering state in the “nano gold rush” that sweeps the states – Pennsylvania – got involved in this field and formulated a “strategy” in the mid-2000s. We found the universities played a central role in instigating state investments in the late 1990s. They pursued their nanotechnology programs independently and secured state support through a series of isolated initiatives. Mounting state funding for nanotechnology-related programs and the coming of a new government eventually led to an effort torationalize a state policy for the field. While Pennsylvanian pledges to nanotechnology are nowhere near those made by New York and California, the incremental pattern in place allowed for continuing commitments to the field during the decade, activating the actors in the state nanotechnology “innovation system”. Such pattern of rationalized policy formation may be more common than suspected, given observed patterns of interaction between universities and state governments.

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The Riddle of the Valley

by Roger L. Geiger

Review of Christophe Lécuyer, Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970, Minerva (2008) 46:127-132.

Nurturing thriving economic clusters is almost the holy grail of technology-based economic development, and the real or intended contribution of universities to clusters is a recurrent theme in Tapping the Riches of Science. Hence, this detailed study of the origins of everyone’s favorite cluster, Silicon Valley, is an important contribution to this subject. The author focuses on the signature industry—electronic components and particularly semiconductors. In this account, the formation of the cluster was due primarily to the superior manufacturing techniques developed in the pioneer firms and subsequently dispersed into the numerous semiconductor firms that gave the name to Silicon Valley. Interestingly, Stanford University played only a minor role in these developments—at least up to 1970. Rather, Lécuyer describes a process of technology transfer flowing from industry to the university. Stanford Provost Frederick Terman, recognizing the significance of this technology, hired a key scientist in solid state electronics from Bell Labs and sent a junior faculty member to Shockley Semiconductor to master its technology. Once Stanford had incorporated these new technologies, it not only educated expert workers for these industries, but Stanford scientists also advanced these fields and founded important companies themselves. The result was a reciprocal relationship between university research and technology-based industry that characterizes many successful clusters.

Read the full review here [PDF].

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