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Demystifying academics to enhance university-businesscollaborations in environmental science

17 Jan 2019

Demystifying academics to enhance university-businesscollaborations in environmental science1John K. Hillier, 2Geoffrey R. Saville, 3Mike J. Smith, 4Alister J. Scott, 5Emma K. Raven, 2JonathonGascoigne, 6Louise J. 5 Slater, 7Nevil Quinn, 8Andreas Tsanakas, 9Claire Souch, 10Gregor C. Leckebusch,11Neil Macdonald, 12Alice M. Milner, 13Jennifer Loxton, 14Rebecca Wilebore, 15Alexandra Collins,16Colin MacKechnie, 17Jaqui Tweddle, 18Sarah Moller, 19MacKenzie Dove, 20Harry Langford, 21JimCraig


Abstract. In countries globally there is intense political interest in fostering effective university-business collaborations, butthere has been scant attention devoted to exactly how individual scientists' workload (i.e. specified tasks) and incentive structures (i.e. assessment criteria) may act as a key barrier to this. To investigate this an original, empirical dataset isderived from UK job specifications and promotion criteria, which distil universities' varied drivers into requirements uponacademics. This work reveals the nature of the severe challenge posed by a heavily time-constrained culture; specifically, atension exists between opportunities presented by working with business and non-optional duties (e.g. administration,teaching). Thus, to justify the time to work with business, such work must inspire curiosity and facilitate future novel science40 in order to mitigate its conflict with the overriding imperative for academics to publish. It must also provide evidence of realworldchanges (i.e. impact), and ideally other reportable outcomes (e.g. official status as a business' advisor), to feed back2into the scientist's performance appraisals. Indicatively, amid 20-50 key duties, typical full-time scientists may be able to freeup to 0.5 days/week for work with business. Thus specific, pragmatic actions, including short-term and time-efficient steps,are proposed in a 'user guide' to help initiate and nurture a long-term collaboration between an early- to mid-careerenvironmental scientist and a practitioner in the insurance sector. These actions are mapped back to a tailored typology ofimpact and newly-created representative set of appraisal criteria to explain how they may be 5 effective, mutually beneficial,and overcome barriers. Throughout, the focus is on environmental science, with illustrative detail provided through theexample of natural hazard risk modelling in the insurance sector. However, a new conceptual model of academics’ behaviouris developed, fusing perspectives from literatures on academics' motivations and performance assessment, which we proposeis internationally applicable and transferable between sectors. Sector-specific details (e.g. list of relevant impacts, 'user10 guide') may serve as templates for how people may act differently to work more effectively together.Key words: University-business collaboration, impact, innovation, knowledge exchange, job specification, appraisal criteria,risk practitioner, catastrophe modelling, insurance sector, reinsurance.


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