Tuunainen, J. (2004) Hybrid Practices: The Dynamics of University Research and Emergence of a Biotechnology Company. Academic Dissertation. Research Reports No. 244, Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.
This doctoral thesis focuses on the trajectory of an agricultural plant biotechnology research group and its transformation into a university start-up company under the auspices of a major Finnish university, the University of Helsinki. The data applied in this study consist of 79 interviews and an extensive body of documentary material including scientific publications, research plans and reports, and correspondences. The qualitative analysis of these materials was informed by conceptual resources drawn from several theoretical approaches that have addressed science and the university organization in terms of work and practice (e.g., cultural-historical activity theory, ethnomethodology and symbolic interactionism). On the grounds of the results so achieved, four sociological theories purporting a change of science and the university institution are discussed. The theories considered include the Mode 2 knowledge production thesis, the triple helix of university-industry-government relations, academic capitalism and the enterprise university.
The main body of the thesis is composed of four research articles, each analyzing a distinctive phase in the agricultural plant biotechnology groupís trajectory. The first article analyzes the construction of research objects in the laboratory and the transformation of experimental systems used at the early stages of the groupís research. The second paper relates to the social world perspective and investigates the complex organizational ecology of disciplines in the university department where the biotechnology group operated. The third paper makes use of the concept of boundary work and deals with the regulation of the emergent spin-off company at the university. Finally, the fourth article unites the empirical results and criticizes two of the above-mentioned theories, namely, Mode 2 knowledge production and the triple helix.
On the grounds of the literary review and empirical analyses accomplished, the thesis demonstrates the deficiencies in the existing sociological theorizing on the transformation of science and the university. By appraising the dissimilar theoretical statuses of the four theories in focus, the thesis also demonstrates the need to see science and universities as complex dynamic entities whose development is locally shaped by multiple historical, political and cultural characteristics, better appreciated by the practice-oriented sociology of science than the four theories considered.