‘Getting out of the closet’: scientific authorship of literary fiction and knowledge transfer

  • Joaquín M. Azagra-Caro
  • Anabel Fernández-Mesa
  • Nicolás Robinson-García


Some scientists write literary fiction books in their spare time. If these books contain scientific knowledge, literary fiction becomes a mechanism of knowledge transfer. In this case, we could conceptualize literary fiction as non-formal knowledge transfer. We model knowledge transfer via literary fiction as a function of the type of scientist (academic or non-academic) and his/her scientific field. Academic scientists are those employed in academia and public research organizations whereas non-academic scientists are those with a scientific background employed in other sectors. We also distinguish between direct knowledge transfer (the book includes the scientist’s research topics), indirect knowledge transfer (scientific authors talk about their research with cultural agents) and reverse knowledge transfer (cultural agents give scientists ideas for future research). Through mixed-methods research and a sample from Spain, we find that scientific authorship accounts for a considerable percentage of all literary fiction authorship. Academic scientists do not transfer knowledge directly so often as non-academic scientists, but the former engage into indirect and reverse transfer knowledge more often than the latter. Scientists from History stand out in direct knowledge transfer. We draw propositions about the role of the academic logic and scientific field on knowledge transfer via literary fiction. We advance some tentative conclusions regarding the consideration of scientific authorship of literary fiction as a valuable knowledge transfer mechanism.


Creative class Non-formal technology transfer channels Institutional logics Scientific writers 

JEL Classifications

O33 O34 Z11 



This research was funded by Project AICO/2016/A/107 of the Valencian Regional Government. Nicolás Robinson-Garcia was supported by a Juan de la Cierva-Formación Fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. We are indebted to Pablo Marín Liébana (supported by CSIC’s Fellowship JAE-INT 16/00455) for his work in the database, conducting interviews and sharing ideas, and to the authors interviewed for their patience and generosity. Some of them informed about their consent to be mentioned by name: Sergio R. Alarte (‘Tormentas de verano’), María Ángeles Chavarría (‘Mi otro yo’), Juan Pablo Heras (‘De fábula’), Xavier Minguez (‘Flor de carxofa’), Lluís Miret (L’ombra del mal’), Javier Navarro (‘Tableaux vivants’) and Fedosy Santaella (‘El dedo de David Lynch’). David Barberá-Tomás, Alejandra Boni, Elena Castro-Martínez and Richard Woolley provided invaluable feedback through informal talks, and other INGENIO colleagues during a seminar presentation. Thanks as well to attendants to the presentations of the paper at the 2016 Science and Technology Indicators Conference, the 2016 Technology Transfer Conference, the 2017 Bologna Workshop ‘University-Industry Collaborations and Academic Entrepreneurship’ and the 2017 Druid Conference for their participation and constructive comments, especially to our discussants Dipesh Sigdell, Carmelo Cennamo and Juan Antonio Candiani.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), Universitat Politècnica de ValènciaValenciaSpain
  2. 2.Department of Management ‘Juan José Renau Piqueras’University of ValenciaValenciaSpain

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