Sustainable Development of Science and Scientists: Academic Training in Life Science Labs

60 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2018

See all articles by Sotaro Shibayama

Sotaro Shibayama

Lund University - Department of Business Administration; University of Tokyo

Date Written: October 16, 2018


Academic training plays a crucial role in the development of scientists, where senior scientists transfer their knowledge and skills to junior scientists through apprenticeship. Focusing on two aspects of academic training, autonomy and exploration, this study investigates how different modes of training are incentivized and how they affect junior scientists' performance and career prospects. Drawing on a sample of 162 supervising professors and their 791 PhD students in life science labs in Japanese universities, this study suggests two fundamental conflicts in academic training. First, autonomy allowed to PhD students under apprenticeship improves their long-term performance but decreases short-term performance. Because the latter effect costs supervisors while the former does not benefit them in general, this inter-temporal tradeoff creates an incentive conflict between supervisors and students, inducing non-autonomous training. The short-term cost for supervisors can be compensated in the form of labor input or reputation gain from previous students in the long term, but this typically happens when students are trained with limited scope of exploration, which hinders the originality of students' knowledge production. This reduces the diversity of knowledge production, presenting another incentive conflict between individual scientists and the collective scientific community.

Keywords: Academic Training, Higher Education, Academic Career, Knowledge Transfer, Exploration, Autonomy

Suggested Citation

Shibayama, Sotaro, Sustainable Development of Science and Scientists: Academic Training in Life Science Labs (October 16, 2018). Research Policy, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Sotaro Shibayama (Contact Author)

Lund University - Department of Business Administration ( email )

Box 117
SE-221 00 Lund, S-220 07

University of Tokyo ( email )

Hongo 7-3-1
Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8656


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