James Dzisah, a recent PhD graduate in Sociology.
Photo by Kristen Poitras
March 9, 2007
By Angelina Costain
“The university,” asserts James Dzisah, reflecting on some of the motivating factors behind his study, “is a knowledge bank.” The recent PhD graduate of the Department of Sociology then goes on to explain that the university is in competition with the world, and in order to compete globally, it must “take advantage of the knowledge it generates.” The university must find ways to transfer its knowledge into economic activity.
In recent years, Dzisah says, there has been a transformation in the production and capitalization of academic scientific knowledge. These changes, due in part to factors like globalization of the economy and the ability of universities to hold and generate income from patents, have prompted policy makers to find ways of improving collaborative relationships between the university, industry, and the government. The idea is to better to facilitate scientific and technological innovation.
Sociologists have described this university-industry-government relationship as the triple helix, said Dzisah, and it helps explain innovation in a knowledge-based society. Conjuring images of three separate entities working together to reap the benefits that their pooled resources might offer, the triple helix as a concept recognizes both the independence and interdependence of the three sectors.
The purpose of Dzisah’s study was, first, to explore the perception of academic scientists and other university-based researchers who play significant roles in the production and capitalization of knowledge. The second objective was to examine the impact of university-industry research relations on the core functions of the university.
Dzisah’s study found that opinions of university-industry collaborations were generally more favorable among those who received commercial funding than among those who did not. Addressing the notion that the university is becoming industrialized, and that basic research is being neglected when universities work with industry, his study concluded that the outcomes of collaborations between university and industry were neither predetermined in favor of industry, nor at expense of the universities.
Furthermore, the findings argue against the notion of academic capitalism – the idea that the university-industry collaborations are harming the core functions of the university. Dzisah says there was a time when research was not part of the core functions of a university, defined as the production, preservation, and transmission of knowledge. However, despite the initial resistance by those who believed that research would take away from the core functions, Dzisah found that research worked together very smoothly with the other functions of the university.
Angelina Costain is a student writer with the College of Graduate Studies and Research.