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What Stimulates Researchers to Make Their Research Usable? Towards an ‘Openness’ Approach

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Abstract

Ambiguity surrounding the effect of external engagement on academic research has raised questions about what motivates researchers to collaborate with third parties. We argue that what matters for society is research that can be absorbed by users. We define ‘openness’ as a willingness by researchers to make research more usable by external partners by responding to external influences in their own research practices. We ask what kinds of characteristics define those researchers who are more ‘open’ to creating usable knowledge. Our empirical study analyses a sample of 1583 researchers working at the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Results demonstrate that it is personal factors (academic identity and past experience) that determine which researchers have open behaviours. The paper concludes that policies to encourage external engagement should focus on experiences which legitimate and validate knowledge produced through user encounters, both at the academic formation career stage as well as through providing ongoing opportunities to engage with third parties.

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Notes

  1. We contend useful knowledge has to be usable; otherwise it can never be useful. However, usable knowledge does not necessarily have to be useful. Thus, we focus on the production of usable knowledge (sensitive to users’ interest) as a precondition for its eventual usefulness.

  2. By ‘external influences’ we refer to mechanisms through which third parties may influence researchers’ micro-practices and thus the knowledge produced (more or less usable by external parties). External influences might occur directly (users-researcher knowledge exchange) or indirectly (researchers becoming aware of external problems).

  3. See Olmos-Peñuela et al. (2014a) for more details about the questionnaire structure and data collection.

  4. CSIC’s academic ranking system has three kinds of permanent positions, research professor (‘profesor de investigación’) being the most senior figure, followed by scientific researcher and tenured scientist (‘investigador científico’ and ‘científico titular’, respectively).

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge the EU-Spri Forum for the PhD Circulation grant provided to Julia Olmos Peñuela and to CHEPS as her host institution. The authors acknowledge the CSIC and other IMPACTO project researchers (INGENIO and IESA) for their hard and very satisfactory work and the CSIC researchers whose questionnaire answers permitted developing the database. Finally, the authors wish to thank Nabil Amara (Laval University) and Mabel Sánchez Barrioluengo (INGENIO) for their valuable methodological comments and Jordi Molas-Gallart (INGENIO) and Elias Pekkola (University of Tampere) as conference discussants. The authors would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper. Any errors or omissions remain the authors’ responsibility.

Funding

The data used for this study comes from the IMPACTO project funded by the Spanish Council for Scientific Research – CSIC (Ref. 200410E639). The work also benefited from a mobility grant awarded by Eu-Spri Forum to Julia Olmos Peñuela & Paul Benneworth for her visiting research to the Center of Higher Education Policy Studies. Finally, Julia Olmos Peñuela also benefited from a post-doctoral grant funded by the Generalitat Valenciana (APOSTD-2014-A-006).

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Correspondence to Julia Olmos-Peñuela.

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Elena Castro Martínez was a researcher of the IMPACTO project whose data have been used for the empirical analysis presented in the paper. The paper is the result of the collaboration conducted by the authors, supported by the Eu-Spri forum grant. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Table 6 Correlation coefficients for independent and control variables

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Olmos-Peñuela, J., Benneworth, P. & Castro-Martínez, E. What Stimulates Researchers to Make Their Research Usable? Towards an ‘Openness’ Approach. Minerva 53, 381–410 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-015-9283-4

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