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Geoscience Communication An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/gc-2018-13
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Research article 16 Aug 2018

Research article | 16 Aug 2018

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Geoscience Communication (GC).

Demystifying academics to enhance university–business collaborations in environmental science

John K. Hillier1, Geoffrey Saville2, Mike J. Smith3, Alister J. Scott4, Emma K. Raven5, Jonathan Gascoigne2, Louise Slater1, Nevil Quinn6, Andreas Tsanakas7, Claire Souch8, Gregor C. Leckebusch9, Neil Macdonald10, Jennifer Loxton11, Rebecca Wilebore12, Alexandra Collins13, Colin MacKechnie14, Jaqui Tweddle15, Alice M. Milner16, Sarah Moller17, MacKenzie Dove18, Harry Langford19, and Jim Craig20 John K. Hillier et al.
  • 1Geography and Environment, Loughbrough University, Loughborough, LE11 3TU, UK
  • 2Willis Towers Watson, 51 Lime Street, London, EC3M 7DQ, UK
  • 3School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK
  • 4Dept. Geography and Environmental Sciences, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
  • 5JBA Risk Management, South Barn, Broughton Hall, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 3AE, UK
  • 6Dept. Geography and Environmental Management, University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1QY, UK
  • 7Cass Business School, City, University of London, 106 Bunhill Row, London, EC1Y 8TZ, UK
  • 8AWHA Consulting, 67 Worcester Point, Central Street, London, EC1V 8AZ, UK
  • 9School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  • 10School of Environmental Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZT, UK
  • 11School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH93JW, UK
  • 12Dept. Zoo logy, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3SZ, UK
  • 13Centre for Environmental Policy, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Imperial College London, London, SW7 2AZ, UK
  • 14Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Wallingford, OX10 8BB, UK
  • 15School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, UK
  • 16Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, TW20 0EX, UK
  • 17Dept. Chemistry, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK
  • 18Walker Institute, University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 19Dept. Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
  • 20OasisHub, 40 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3UD, UK

Abstract. In countries globally (e.g. UK, Australia) there is intense political interest in fostering effective university-business collaborations, but there 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 is derived from UK job specifications and promotion criteria, which distil universities' varied drivers into requirements upon academics. This reveals the nature of the severe challenge posed by a heavily time-constrained culture; specifically, a tension exists between opportunities presented by working with industry and non-optional duties (e.g. administration, teaching). Thus, to justify the time to work with industry, such work must inspire curiosity and facilitate future novel science in order to mitigate its conflict with the overriding imperative for academics to publish. It must also provide evidence of real-world changes (i.e. impact), and ideally other reportable outcomes (e.g. official status as a business' advisor), to feed back into the scientist's performance appraisals. Indicatively, amid 20–50 key duties, scientists may be able to free up to 0.5 days/week for work with industry. 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-career environmental scientist and a practitioner in the insurance industry. These actions are mapped back to a tailored typology of impact and newly-created representative set of appraisal criteria to explain how they may be effective, mutually beneficial, and overcome barriers. Throughout, the focus is on environmental science, with illustrative detail provided through the example of natural hazard risk modelling in the insurance industry. However, a new conceptual model is developed, joining perspectives from literatures on academics' motivations and performance assessment, which we tentatively posit is widely applicable. Sector-specific details (e.g. list of relevant impacts, user guide) may serve as templates globally and across sectors.

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Short summary
Globally there is intense interest in converting research excellence in universities into commercial success, but there has been scant attention devoted to exactly how individual scientists' workload and incentive structures may be a key barrier to this. By investigating this, the severe challenge posed by a time-constrained culture is revealed, and pragmatic actions are proposed in an illustrative user guide for effective collaboration with an environmental scientist.
Globally there is intense interest in converting research excellence in universities into...
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