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Academics or entrepreneurs? Investigating role identity modification of university scientists involved in commercialization activity

Sanjay Jain, Gerard George and Mark Maltarich

Research Policy, 2009, vol. 38, issue 6, 922-935

Abstract: Establishing the microfoundations of academic entrepreneurship requires closer scrutiny of a key actor contributing to this phenomenon--the university scientist. We investigate the sense-making that scientists engage in as part of their participation in technology transfer and postulate that this process involves a potential modification in their role identity. We analyzed more than 70Â h of interview data at a premier U.S. public research university. We observe that scientists invoke rationales for involvement that are congruent with their academic role identity. They typically adopt a hybrid role identity that comprises a focal academic self and a secondary commercial persona. We delineate two mechanisms - delegating and buffering - that these individuals deploy to facilitate such salience in their hybrid role identity. Overall, these patterns suggest that university scientists take active steps to preserve their academic role identity even as they participate in technology transfer. Our findings clarify the social psychological processes underlying scientist involvement in commercialization activity, and offer fresh insights to the academic entrepreneurship, science policy and role identity literatures.

Keywords: Academic; entrepreneurship; Role; identity; Identity; work; Technology; transfer; policy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009
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Research Policy is currently edited by M. Bell, B. Martin, W.E. Steinmueller, A. Arora, M. Callon, M. Kenney, S. Kuhlmann, Keun Lee and F. Murray

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