Panel Paper: Network As a Buffer Against Regulatory Environment: How Bio-Scientists Can Minimize the Impact of Regulation on Research Activities

Thursday, November 7, 2019
Plaza Building: Concourse Level, Plaza Court 4 (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Haneul Choi and Eric Welch, Arizona State University

According to Lynn (2005), buffering is defined as insulation of organization processes, functions, and its members from risks derived from the environment. Researchers noted that organizations can employ diverse buffering strategies to minimize their exposure to the external environment and alleviate the harmful outcomes of environmental disturbances. This study borrows the idea of ‘buffering’. We assert and provide evidence that individuals can buffer the impact of the external influence on their core activities that are important for career development. This study specifically focuses on bio-scientists who face the regulatory environment and investigates what factors may help bio-scientists mitigate the impact of regulatory environment on the scientists’ core career activity – research.

Bio-scientists use biomaterials and data as input to research. However the regulatory environment of biomaterials and data has increasingly become more complex as universities and government agencies create different rules and regulations reflecting the increasing interests around intellectual property, environmental conservation and ethical considerations regarding the use of biomaterials. Against this backdrop, this study defines and categorizes different types of ‘buffering’ in the context of regulatory environment surrounding bio-science fields and theorizes how professional network can function as a buffer against the regulatory environment. Then, this study hypothesizes and tests how the ratio of external collaborators and the ratio of female collaborators are associated with the degree to which research is impacted by rules and regulations regarding the use of biomaterials, drawing upon literature on buffering, network and gender.

This study uses egocentric network data collected from tenured and tenure-track academic scientists in research-intensive universities located in the U.S. which is funded by NSF and administered by Center for Science, Technology & Environmental Policy Studies (CSTEPS) in Arizona State University. The study sample includes three sub-fields of bioscience – marine biology, entomology, and ecology – where scientists need to employ biological materials and data for research and hence actively use a professional network as a means to obtain resources.

Preliminary findings suggest the negative association between the ratio of external collaborators and the impact of regulations on research activities. However, the negative association between the ratio of external collaborators and the impact of regulation on research reaches a threshold, after which the negative association reverses exhibiting a curvilinear relationship. Findings also suggest a negative association between the ratio of female collaborators and the impact of regulations on research activities. This study’s investigation of network as a buffer in the context of bioscience field can give a useful insight into how individuals can leverage professional network where external contingencies can affect one’s career-related activities. Interpretations of findings and conclusions are suggested considering implications for policy, practice, as well as theory.