A path dependent perspective on institutional and organizational factors shaping major scientific discoveries


FACILITATING THE MAKING OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES 4



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FACILITATING THE MAKING OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES 4

1. Moderately high scientific diversity: This existed when the organizational context had (a) a variety of biological disciplines and medical specialties and sub-specialties, and

(b) numerous people in the biological sciences with research experience in different disciplines and/or paradigms. Scientific diversity exerted maximum beneficial effect when the organizational context had high depth (that is, individuals highly competent in different task areas—theoreticians, methodologists, scientists highly conversant with literature in various fields, scientists highly competent in the latest instrumentation in diverse fields).
2. Communication and social integration among the scientific community: This was the bringing together of scientists from different scientific fields through frequent and intense interaction in the following types of collective activities: (a) joint publication, (b) journal clubs and seminars, (c) team teaching, (d) meals and other informal activities.
3. Organizational leadership with the capacity to understand the direction in which scientific research was moving and the ability to integrate scientific diversity: These activities were both task-oriented and socio-emotional in nature, and applied to organizational leaders who had (a) strategic vision for integrating diverse areas and for providing focused research, (b) the ability to secure funding for these activities, (c) the capacity to recruit individuals who would confront not only important scientific problems but ones which could be solved, and (d) the capability to provide rigorous criticism in a nurturing environment.
4. Recruitment: Organizational capacity to recruit individuals who internalized a moderate degree of scientific diversity.
5. Organizational autonomy and organizational flexibility: Organizational autonomy was the degree to which the organizational context where the research took place was relatively independent of its institutional environment, and organizational flexibility was the ability of the organizational context to shift rapidly from one area of science to another. To attain organizational autonomy and flexibility, it was necessary that the organizational context be loosely coupled to its institutional environment if the organizational context were an entire organization; but if the organizational context were a sub-part of a larger organization, it could attain flexibility and autonomy only if it were loosely coupled both to the larger organization and the institutional environment in which it was embedded.

TABLE THREE
ORGANIZATIONAL CONTEXTS CONSTRAINING

THE MAKING OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES

1. Differentiation: Organizations were highly differentiated internally when they had sharp boundaries among subunits such as (a) basic biomedical departments and other subunits, (b) the delegation of recruitment exclusively to departments or other subunit level, (c) the delegation of responsibility for extramural funding to the department or other subunit level.


2. Hierarchical authority: Organizations were coded as being very hierarchical when they experienced (a) centralized decision-making about research programmes, (b) centralized decision-making about number of personnel, (c) centralized control over work conditions, (d) centralized budgetary control.
3. Bureaucratic coordination: Organizations which had high standardization of rules and procedures.
4. Hyperdiversity: This was the presence of diversity to such a deleterious degree that there could not be effective communication among actors in different fields of science or even in similar fields.

FIGURE ONE
THE RELATIONSHIPS AMONG SCIENTIFIC DIVERSITY, COMMUNICATION/INTEGRATION, AND MAKING MAJOR DISCOVERIES


HIGH


Number of

Major Breakthroughs in Biomedical Science


Communication

and Social

Integration


LOW


HIGH


Cognitive Distance

Scientific Diversity

F

IGURE TWO: MULTI-LEVEL ANALYSIS OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES - PANEL ONE*


* Note: The width of the arrows indicates the relative frequency of the specified outcome. Characteristics in gray tend to be associated with making major discoveries.


Characteristics of MOST departments and subunits: Type 2


  1. High flexibility

  2. Moderate scientific diversity

  3. Little integration across subspecialties and laboratories

  4. No leader with capacity to integrate scientific diversity

Examples: University of Cambridge Department of Zoology, Department of Physiology in 1980s and 1990s

Organizations having multiple major discoveries: Type I

Weak Institutional Environment

Laboratories

Major

Discovery

No Major Discovery

1) Weak control over personnel

2) Weak control over scientific disciplines



3) Weak control over funding for scientific research

4) Many different types of training systems



Research Organizations

Generally no departments between core of organization and laboratories

Organizational Characteristics:

  1. Relatively small organizations

  2. High flexibility

  3. High integration of new knowledge

  4. Moderate diversity

  5. Leader with ability to integrate scientific diversity

  6. Low hierarchical authority and low bureaucratization

  7. High capacity to recruit those internalizing scientific diversity

Examples: Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Salk Institute, The Rockefeller, Scripps Research Institute, Caltech

Institutional Characteristics:

Characteristics of FEW departments and subunits: Type 1

  1. High flexibility

  2. Moderate scientific diversity

  3. High integration of new knowledge

  4. Leader with ability to integrate scientific diversity

  5. High capacity to recruit those internalizing scientific diversity

Examples: Dept. of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Harvard University College of Arts and Sciences; University of Cambridge Departments of Physiology and Biochemistry before WW II; Cavendish Lab during the 1950s

Organizations having multiple major discoveries: Type II


Major

Discovery

No Major Discovery

No Major Discovery

Major

Discovery

Laboratories

Organizational Characteristics:

  1. Relatively large

  2. Highly flexible

  3. Moderately high scientific diversity

  4. Leaders have little ability to integrate scientific diversity

  5. Low integration of knowledge across scientific fields

  6. Low hierarchical authority to influence research

Examples: University of Cambridge, Oxford University, Harvard University, University of Washington Medical School, University College London

Laboratories

Type B

Type A

Type A

Type A

Type B

Type B


Type A Laboratories have the following characteristics: 1) Cognitive: High scientific diversity; 2) Social: Well connected to invisible colleges (e.g. networks) in diverse fields; 3) Material Resources: Access to new instrumentation and funding for high risk research; 4) Personality of Laboratory Head: High cognitive complexity, high confidence and motivation; 5) Leadership: Excellent grasp of ways scientific fields might be integrated and ability to move research in that direction.




FIGURE TWO: MULTI-LEVEL ANALYSIS OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES—PANEL T

WO*




Characteristics of departments and other subunits in large universities: Type 3

  1. Sizeable departments with various sub-specialties

  2. Low capacity for change in departmental research agenda

  3. Departmental leaders with little ability to integrate scientific diversity

Organizations having few or no major discoveries: Type III


Weak Institutional Environment

Major

Discovery

No Major Discovery

1) Weak control over personnel

2) Weak control over scientific disciplines



3) Weak control over funding for scientific research

4) Many different types of training systems



Research Organizations

Type B

Laboratories

Characteristics of departments and other subunits in large universities: Type 4 — Research Institutes

  1. Members in full-time institute appointments, not in disciplinary-based departments

  2. Type is quite rare

  3. Members of institute have full-time appointments

  4. Relatively high degree of scientific integration among staff

  5. Leaders play important role in integrating scientific diversity

Examples: Enzyme Institute and McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at University of Wisconsin

Organizational Characteristics:

  1. Relatively large organizations

  2. Low flexibility

  3. Organizations are highly differentiated internally: hyperdiversity

  4. Leaders tend to be managerial types and to have little ability to integrate scientific diversity

  5. High hierarchical authority and high bureaucratization

  6. Low capacity to recruit those internalizing scientific diversity

Examples: Universities of California (Berkeley), Wisconsin (Madison), Birmingham, Sheffield

No Major Discovery

Major

Discovery

Laboratories

Type A

Type A

Type B

Institutional Characteristics:


Type B Laboratories have the following characteristics: 1) Cognitive: Moderately low scientific diversity; 2) Social: Well connected to invisible colleges (e.g. networks) in a single discipline; 3) Material Resources: Limited funding for high risk research; 4) Personality of Laboratory Head: Lack of high cognitive complexity, limited inclination to conduct high risk research; 5) Leadership: Not greatly concerned with integrating scientific fields.


F

IGURE TWO: MULTI-LEVEL ANALYSIS OF MAJOR DISCOVERIES—PANEL THREE*





Research Organizations

3) Strong control over funding for scientific research

4) Few types of training systems

Organizations having few or no major discoveries: Type III


Organizations having few or no major discoveries: Type IV

Strong Institutional Environment

Laboratories

Major

Discovery

No Major Discovery

No Major Discovery

1) Strong control over personnel

2) Strong control over scientific disciplines



Type B

Organizational Characteristics:

  1. Relatively large organizations

  2. Low flexibility

  3. Organizations are highly differentiated internally: hyperdiversity

  4. Leaders tend to be managerial types and to have little ability to integrate scientific diversity

  5. High hierarchical authority and high bureaucratization

  6. Low capacity to recruit those internalizing scientific diversity

Examples: Universities of Munich, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Paris, Strasbourg

Characteristics of departments and other subunits in large universities: Type 3

  1. Sizeable departments with various sub-specialties

  2. Low capacity for change in departmental research agenda

  3. Departmental leaders with little ability to integrate scientific diversity

Major

Discovery

Type B

Type A

Institutional Characteristics:

Type A

Organizational Characteristics:

  1. Relatively small organizations

  2. Low flexibility

  3. Low integration of new knowledge

  4. Low scientific diversity

  5. Leader with little ability to integrate scientific diversity

  6. High hierarchical authority and low bureaucratization

  7. Low capacity to recruit those internalizing scientific diversity

Examples: Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Biology; Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Leather Research; Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Biochemistry; Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institute for Brain Research; Kaiser-Wilhelm/Max-Planck Institute for Cell Physiology; Max-Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry; Institut Pasteur #

Laboratories

Generally no departments

between core of organization and laboratories

* See note and definitions on Panels One and Two.

# Institut Pasteur is a bit of an anomaly within this grouping. For most of its history, it has had relatively few major discoveries. But in the first two decades of the twentieth century and again during the late 1950s and into the 1960s, there were a number of major discoveries there. However, during the years when it had stronger connections with its strong institutional environment, it had fewer major discoveries (Hage, 1998).




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