Demystifying academics to enhance university-business collaborations in environmental science

Hillier, John K., Saville, Geoffrey, Smith, Mike J., Scott, Alister J., Raven, Emma K., Gascoigne, Jonathan, Slater, Louise, Quinn, Nevil, Tsanakas, Andreas, Souch, Claire, Leckebusch, Gregor C., Macdonald, Neil, Loxton, Jennifer, Wilebore, Rebecca, Collins, Alexandra, MacKechnie, Colin, Tweddle, Jaqui, Milner, Alice M., Moller, Sarah, Dove, MacKenzie, Langford, Harry and Craig, Jim (2019) Demystifying academics to enhance university-business collaborations in environmental science. Geoscience Communication, 2 (1). pp. 1-23. ISSN 2569-7102

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2-1-2019

Abstract

In countries globally there is intense political interest in fostering effective university-business collaborations, but there has been scant attention devoted to exactly how individual scientists' workload (i.e. specified tasks) and incentive structures (i.e. assessment criteria) may act as a key barrier to this. To investigate this an original, empirical dataset is derived from UK job specifications and promotion criteria, which distil universities' varied drivers into requirements upon academics. This work reveals the nature of the severe challenge posed by a heavily time-constrained culture; specifically, a tension exists between opportunities presented by working with business and non-optional duties (e.g. administration, teaching). Thus, to justify the time to work with business, such work must inspire curiosity and facilitate future novel science in order to mitigate its conflict with the overriding imperative for academics to publish. It must also provide evidence of real-world changes (i.e. impact), and ideally other reportable outcomes (e.g. official status as a business' advisor), to feed back into the scientist's performance appraisals. Indicatively, amid 20-50 key duties, typical full-time scientists may be able to free up to 0.5 days/week for work with business. Thus specific, pragmatic actions, including short-term and time-efficient steps, are proposed in a 'user guide' to help initiate and nurture a long-term collaboration between an early- to mid-career environmental scientist and a practitioner in the insurance sector. These actions are mapped back to a tailored typology of impact and newly-created representative set of appraisal criteria to explain how they may be effective, mutually beneficial, and overcome barriers. Throughout, the focus is on environmental science, with illustrative detail provided through the example of natural hazard risk modelling in the insurance sector. However, a new conceptual model of academics’ behaviour is developed, fusing perspectives from literatures on academics' motivations and performance assessment, which we propose is internationally applicable and transferable between sectors. Sector-specific details (e.g. list of relevant impacts, 'user 10 guide') may serve as templates for how people may act differently to work more effectively together.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: University-business collaboration, impact, innovation, knowledge exchange, job specification, appraisal criteria, risk practitioner, catastrophe modelling, insurance sector
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
N100 Business studies
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2019 18:29
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 08:25
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/37539

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