Boundary Spanning in a For-Profit Research Lab: An Exploration of the Interface Between Commerce and Academe
42 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2010
Date Written: August 5, 2010
In innovative industries, private-sector companies increasingly are participants in open communities of science and technology. To participate in the system of exchange in such communities, firms often publicly disclose what would otherwise remain private discoveries. In a quantitative case study of one firm in the biopharmaceutical sector, we explore the consequences of scientific publication - an instance of public disclosure - for a core set of activities within the firm. Specifically, we link publications to human capital management practices, showing that scientists’ bonuses and the allocation of managerial attention are tied to individuals’ publications. Using a unique electronic mail dataset, we find that researchers within the firm who author publications are much better connected to external (to the company) members of the scientific community. This result directly links publishing to current understandings of absorptive capacity. In an unanticipated finding, however, our analysis raises the possibility that the company’s most prolific publishers begin to migrate to the periphery of the intra-firm social network, which may occur because these individuals’ strong external relationships induce them to reorient their focus to a community of scientists beyond the firm’s boundary.
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