Practical Applications as a Source of Credibility: A Comparison of Three Fields of Dutch Academic Chemistry [Book Review]

Minerva 49 (2):215-240 (2011)
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In many Western science systems, funding structures increasingly stimulate academic research to contribute to practical applications, but at the same time the rise of bibliometric performance assessments have strengthened the pressure on academics to conduct excellent basic research that can be published in scholarly literature. We analyze the interplay between these two developments in a set of three case studies of fields of chemistry in the Netherlands. First, we describe how the conditions under which academic chemists work have changed since 1975. Second, we investigate whether practical applications have become a source of credibility for individual researchers. Indeed, this turns out to be the case in catalysis, where connecting with industrial applications helps in many steps of the credibility cycle. Practical applications yield much less credibility in environmental chemistry, where application-oriented research agendas help to acquire funding, but not to publish prestigious papers or to earn peer recognition. In biochemistry practical applications hardly help in gaining credibility, as this field is still strongly oriented at fundamental questions. The differences between the fields can be explained by the presence or absence of powerful upstream end-users, who can afford to invest in academic research with promising long term benefits



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