9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN24 Science and Technology

2009-09-05 09:00:00 2009-09-05 10:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 09:00 - 10:30 Organisational Aspects of Science and Technology Building AA, AA.225

The organizational structure of research groups in a regional university system

What is the role of research groups inside a university system? What are the elements that influence the structure of scientific and scholarly work in academy? Since the main activity of most university systems is teaching, the organizational arrangements for research are generally non-hierarchically oriented. Apart from research institutes and big labs, academic research is normally carried out in an individual manner or in small teams, depending on the habits and needs of scientific specialties. On the other hand, science policies promote funding schemes to improve participation of professors in research. The recipient is usually a group of researchers, working together as a team, which combines training of PhD students with original investigation. In consequence, the ways of doing research become a result of both bottom-up practices from scientific communities and the incentives provided by research policies affecting universities.

This paper studies the organizational structure of academic work in a regional university system, focusing on the emergence of research groups as the basic unit for scientific activities. The site of the study is a region of Southern Spain (Andalusia) characterized by a large public university sector, traditionally oriented to teaching and yet detached from the industrial tissue that is representative of a considerable number of European regions. The empirical basis for our analysis resides on a face-to-face survey to 765 heads of research groups conducted in 2008.

The main goal of our analysis is to describe how the research work is organized and to identify the fundamental drivers to form a group. For that purpose we observe the characteristics of research groups and the activities they develop. Taking the working practices of the teams as a key variable, we pursue an analysis to detect the influences of the motivations to form a group, the internal decision making process and the workload of the members. Some control variables as the age and size of the group, the science field and the type of center are used. In the conclusions we contribute some research-based insights on the impact of public policy in the organization of a scientific community.