[Report] The 35th PoP Seminar:Policy Platform Seminar Series on Economics of Science and Innovation

Policy Platform Seminar Series on Economics of Science and Innovation
Monday, Oct 19 :Organizational Design of Academic Laboratories and Conflict of Production of Science vs. Scientists

Speaker:Sotaro SHIBAYAMA 
Associate Professor School of Engineering, University of Tokyo / Science, Technology and Innovation Governance Education & Research Program
Time & Date:4:50 – 6:50 pm, every Monday of Oct 19 – Nov 16
Venue:Lecture Room 33, Sch. Eng. Bldg. 3 (2nd floor)

A university laboratory is a fundamental unit of scientific production, but optimizing its organizational design is a formid able task for lab heads, who play potentially conflicting roles of mentor and principal investigator (PI). Drawing on a questionnaire survey and bibliometric data of Japanese life science professors, this study investigates task allocation inside laboratories. The first part of this study investigates how the task allocation affects the lab productivity. Results show a general pattern that lab heads play managerial roles and members (e.g., postdoc, students) are engaged in labor-intensive tasks (e.g., experiment), while revealing a substantial variation among laboratories. Further examining how this variation is related to lab-level scientific productivity, this study finds that productive task allocation differs by context. In particular, significant task overlap across status hierarchies is found more productive for basic research, while rigidly separated task allocation is found more productive in applied research. However, optimal task allocation, with regard to scientific productivity can conflict with the other goal of academic organizations – training of future scientists. Thus, the second part of this study examines how the task allocation influences the training of junior scientists (PhDs). For 1,200 PhD graduat
es trained under the lab heads’ supervision, their career and bibliometric data are additionally collected. The result suggests that providing intensive training for PhD students improves their publication productivity in the long term but decreases it in the short term. Since lab heads are not rewarded for PhD’s post-graduation production, this places lab heads in a dilemma for their incompatible mentor vs. PI roles. The result also implies that lab heads can collect training cost from ex-students’ production by inbreeding them, collaborating with them, and gaining reputation in the form of citations. However, these approaches can restrict the career/research paths of graduates and compromise the dynamics of science. Indeed, the result suggests that excessive constraint on students’ research subjects is detrimental to their career prospect.​

[1] Shibayama, S., Baba, Y. & Walsh J.P. (2015) Organizational Design of University Laboratories: Task Allocation and Lab Performance in Japanese Bioscience Laboratories. Research Policy, 44(3): 610-622.
[2] Shibayama, S. (2015) Production of Science vs. Scientists: Case of Life Science Labs. Atlanta Conference on Science and Innovation Policy​, 17th-19th September, Atlanta USA.