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Dynamics of knowledge production in the Swedish Institute for Surface Chemistry, 1975-­‐2005

Bruno, Karl (2011) Dynamics of knowledge production in the Swedish Institute for Surface Chemistry, 1975-­‐2005.

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Abstract:The Swedish industrial research institutes are research organisations that exist somewhat in between academy and industry, fulfilling an intermediary role as well as providing a space for research relevant to industrial companies, and they have a history of being collectively funded by state and industry as a way to support technical research in Sweden. The present study examines the history one of these institutes – the Institute for Surface Chemistry – with respect to three aspects of its knowledge production: the role that basic and applied research has played for the institute, its external connections and the heterogeneity of its knowledge production, and how it has evaluated the quality of its research. The time period considered is 1975-­‐2005, a challenging time for the Swedish institute sector, and the analysis is based on an interpretation of annual reports, research programs and newsletters from the period, as well as on interviews with institute managers and researchers. This work contributes to a wider research field in two respects. First, it provides input to the ongoing debate about how a changing research system is linked to changes in knowledge production. Second, it increases our knowledge of the Swedish industrial research institute sector, something interesting in its own right but that also can provide input to the ongoing policy reorientation vis-­‐à-­‐vis these institutes. The main novelty of the work is that no other study has engaged systematically and historically with changes in knowledge production within this type of institute, and it demonstrates how the institute’s knowledge production has been affected by external pressure. To briefly summarise the results, applied research gradually becomes more important than basic research at the institute, but basic research still keeps playing a rather large role for some time, even as this role is downplayed in the official publications. At the same time, the institute becomes more heterogeneous in its knowledge production, associates closer with its industrial partners, and loses some of its independent knowledge production in favour of a more classic intermediary role. During the study period, the institute mainly ascertains the quality of its work through the use of traditional academic standards, and it retains a strong publication culture throughout. Three main conclusions are drawn: that the institute generally has oriented itself more towards its industrial partners; that this is the result of adapting to a situation in which the traditional state funding and political support appear ever more insecure; and that in spite of this general dynamic of adaption, the institute, thanks to a unique knowledge base or strong and well-­‐connected actors, has sometimes had more space to run its own agenda, with some profound and long-­‐lasting effects.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:08 philosophy
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
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