Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Scientists, Career Choices and Organisational Change: Managing Human Resources in Cross Sector R&d Organisations

Academic journal article Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Scientists, Career Choices and Organisational Change: Managing Human Resources in Cross Sector R&d Organisations

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The resource-based view of the firm has drawn attention to the role of human resources in building innovative capacity within firms. In 'high technology' firms, scientific capability is a critical factor in achieving international competitiveness. Science, however, is a costly business and many firms are entering into cross-sector R&D partnerships in order to gain access to leading edge scientific capability. The Australian Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program is typical of the ways many governments are seeking to promote such cross-sector R&D collaboration. Scientists are key resources in these organisational arrangements. However, there is only fragmentary information available about why and when scientists choose to work in these cross-sector organisations rather than others, or the impact of changing funding regimes on their career choices. Similarly, there has been little research into the impact of such partnerships and career choices on the organisations in which scientists work. This paper presents some findings from two new ARC funded studies in Australia designed to investigate the careers of scientists and the organisational and career implications of participation in cross-sector R&D collaboration. One of our findings is that CRCs may not endure as long term 'hybrid' organisational arrangements as some observers have suggested, but rather remain as transitional structure influencing the partners involved and the careers of scientists. This has important implications for the managers of CRCs as well as those responsible for partner organisations.

INTRODUCTION

One of the more pervasive features of national research policies in recent years has been the considerable amount of public funds directed toward national cross-sector research programs. Collaborative research programs have been one of the most stable and widely supported components of US research policy for at least three decades (Behrens & Gray 2000: 179). In Australia, South Africa; and Germany collaborative grants and block institutional grants have come to dominate research funding mechanisms (Van der Walt & Blankley 1999; Garrett-Jones & Turpin 2002). In some countries, such as Australia, collaborative research programs have become not only major components of the research system but also a major driving force in research policy debates'.

Research scientists in this context work in quite complex and often novel organisational arrangements that depend on cooperation between interdependent parties. The interests, objectives and strategies among the parties, however, may conflict or converge (see for example Jacob 1997; Hellstrom & Jacob, 2000; Jacob et al, 2000; Bun & Chung, 2003). Ambiguities or ambivalence associated with such cooperation can emerge between individuals as well as between organisations within the cross-sector cooperative arrangement. Managing such ambiguities can become a difficult but pressing task.

This article is concerned with the human resource aspects of this task. In particular, our focus is on the tensions and ambiguities that drive career expectations and choices of research scientists and the organisational tensions created by the different institutional objectives and expectations of the partner organisations. The analysis presented in this article draws primarily on data collected through a three year study in Australia concerned with organisational experiences in managing cross sector R&D through the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program (Managing the Risk of Cross-sector R&D Collaboration, Turpin, Garrett-Jones, Fulop & Couchman 2002-04). Through this project data were collected from university and public sector research centre managers and scientists about their experiences in managing science and careers in collaborative environments. The last stage of this project comprised a final sample of 370 practising scientists and research managers. …

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