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A Fractured Profession

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A Fractured Profession

Commercialism and Conflict in Academic Science

Exploring the growing division among academic scientists over a profit motive in research.

The commercialization of research is one of the most significant contemporary features of US higher education, yet we know surprisingly little about how scientists perceive and experience commercial rewards. A Fractured Profession is the first book to systematically examine the implications of commercialization for both universities and faculty members from the perspective of academic scientists. Drawing on richly detailed interviews with sixty-one scientists at four universities across the United States, sociologist David R. Johnson explores how an ideology of commercialism produces intraprofessional conflict in academia.

The words of scientists themselves reveal competing constructions of status, conflicting norms, and divergent career paths and professional identities. Commercialist scientists embrace a professional ideology that emphasizes the creation of technologies that control societal uncertainties and advancing knowledge toward particular—and financial—ends. Traditionalist scientists, on the other hand, often find themselves embattled and threatened by university and federal emphasis on commercialization. They are less concerned about issues such as conflicts of interest and corruption than they are about unequal rewards, unequal conditions of work, and conflicts of commitment to university roles and basic science.

Arguing that the division between commercialists and traditionalists represents a new form of inequality in the academic profession, this book offers an incisive look into the changing conditions of work in an era of academic capitalism. Focusing on how the profit motive is reshaping higher education and redefining what faculty are supposed to do, this book will appeal to scientists and academics, higher education scholars, university administrators and policy makers, and students considering a career in science.