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Yogesh K. Dwivedi

Laurie Hughes

Anand Jeyaraj

March 26th, 2024

Academic research and industry need more mutual feedback

1 comment | 49 shares

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Yogesh K. Dwivedi

Laurie Hughes

Anand Jeyaraj

March 26th, 2024

Academic research and industry need more mutual feedback

1 comment | 49 shares

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

The priorities of academic researchers and research users in practice and industry are poorly aligned. Drawing on the practical expertise of those working at the interface of research and practice, Yogesh K. Dwivedi, Laurie Hughes and Anand Jeyaraj present their 4D framework for better integrating the needs of researchers and research users.


Impact is defined broadly in two ways. In one sense (as in the Research Excellence Framework) it is characterised as the extension of meaningful demonstrable influence beyond the confines of academic institutions and the scholarly community. This ranges from informing public and institutional policy, engendering economic growth, influencing stakeholders and effects on the community, economy, and wider society.

In another sense, impact is understood as influencing the scholarly community. This is frequently construed through a narrow set of measures, such as citation counts, journal impact factors and author level metrics, such as h-indexes. Frustratingly, rather than these two forms of impact overlapping with each other, they often diverge.

 Frustratingly, rather than these two forms of impact overlapping with each other, they often diverge.

Academic publications can be focused on achieving the latter, leading to an over emphasis on technical academic jargon and a form and style of writing that inhibits readability and understanding by non-specialists. National level incentives work to promote wider impacts, such as the impact element of the REF, but there is more to do to promote innovative and impactful research cultures.

This misalignment has long been recognised. However, in our recent study we wanted to return to this question and explore how current attempts to bridge these divides are faring. We collated and distilled the multifaceted insights from 86 invited experts via a conceptual based opinion study, to better understand the many challenges for academics and industry.

We found academics, industry and government stakeholders have different agendas, perspectives and vested interests. Broadly speaking, academic researchers are focused on the development and dissemination of novel research that could be theoretical in nature and does not necessarily produce tangible ‘useful’ products for industry. In contrast, the same research may offer real value to the wider academic community. The challenge then is one of the perception and presentation of value.

It should not be a surprise to the wider community that industry decision makers may question the relevance, interpretability, and usability of research, resulting in a low level of impact for their sector. Decision makers within industry have different perspectives and priorities from academic researchers. Industry is focussed on operational continuity, short term problem solving and a need for commercial sensitivity and confidentiality. The reality of pragmatic trade-offs, timely decisions, and market ready innovations is at odds with drivers within academia. The resulting relationship between academia and industry is informal and misaligned, with limited trust between both parties and a disconnect of aims and process at a strategic level.

Schematic diagram outlining the unique features of academia and industry, the ways the ways in which they disconnect and mechanisms that might bridge these gaps.

Fig.1:  Academia vs practice – motivations, disconnects and bridging the divide.

To bridge the divide between academia and industry requires meaningful and productive relationships. One of the mechanisms that could yield greater engagement are collaborative partnerships, where the two groups can facilitate conversations and develop a greater understanding of each other’s requirements. In our paper we highlight the existing collaboration infrastructure and culture in countries such as Romania as an example of solution oriented research. Collaborative partnerships can help identify and engage stakeholders who could benefit from academic research and develop more multidisciplinary and co-creative forms of research. This change in emphasis requires a greater level of engagement by academics in understanding industry problems and integrating industry perspectives at different stages of the research process. Conversely, industry figures need to be willing to communicate their requirements and expectations, and take an active role in co-creating.

Schematic outline of the authors' design, deliver, disseminate, demonstrate, 4D model.

Fig.2: 4D Model for manifesting academic research impact

Within collaborative partnerships, the Design – Deliver – Disseminate – Demonstrate, or 4D model (Fig.2) serves as a framework to deliver greater levels of impact for research, providing a structured approach for academia to manage the competing requirements of academia and industry.

  • The Design stage entails the process whereby academia takes steps to better understand the needs of industry and agreeing how impact will be interpretation and measured by the different stakeholders.
  • The Deliver stage focusses on how best to convey research findings in a form and structure that can be easily read and understood by all parties.
  • The Disseminate stage identifies the appropriate communication mechanisms such as open access and multi-media platforms.
  • Finally, the Demonstrate stage serves as an evaluation function to ensure that the research findings and recommendations are realised and measured in terms of their impact and changes to policy.

The 4D model should be considered as a “co-productive” approach whenever possible. That is, both academics and practitioners may participate in activities underlying the 4D model. During the ‘Design’ stage, academics and industry practitioners could engage in defining the research along with the impact. This enables a clear identification of the eventual impact of the proposed research and an appropriate design of the research to achieve such an impact.

For researchers that are looking to bridge the divide between academia and industry we recommend the adoption of new perspectives and a deliberate emphasis on the analysis of industry requirements, explicit identification of non-academic impact, collaborative partnerships and co-creation of knowledge that engages all stakeholders. The 4D model proposed provides a structured approach for academia to consciously align relevant research endeavours with the needs of industry. Designing appropriate research with practical impact in mind, delivering clear and accessible findings, disseminating insights beyond academic circles, and demonstrating tangible benefits to practice, are crucial steps towards maximizing the societal and practical relevance of academic research.

 


This post draws on the authors’ article, “Real Impact”: Challenges and Opportunities in Bridging the Gap between Research and Practice – Making a Difference in Industry, Policy, and Society, published in the International Journal of Information Management.

The content generated on this blog is for information purposes only. This Article gives the views and opinions of the authors and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Impact of Social Science blog (the blog), nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please review our comments policy if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

Image Credit: 3rdtimeluckystudio on Shutterstock.


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About the author

Yogesh K. Dwivedi

Yogesh K. Dwivedi, Professor of Digital Marketing and Innovation, is the Founding Director of the Digital Futures for Sustainable Business and Society Research Group at Swansea University, Wales, UK, and a Distinguished Research Professor at Symbiosis International (Deemed University), Pune, India. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Information Management.

Laurie Hughes

Laurie Hughes is an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. His research interests include the industrial and societal disruption from the adoption of technology and the impact from automation and AI technologies.

Anand Jeyaraj

Anand Jeyaraj is Professor of Information Systems in the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University, Dayton, USA. His research interests include the diffusion, adoption, use, success, and payoff of information systems and new technologies.

Posted In: Academic communication | Impact | Research methods

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