Anticipatory Uncertainty: How Academic and Industry Researchers in the Life Sciences Experience and Manage the Uncertainties of the Research Process Differently

Author(s)
Maximilian Fochler, Lisa Sigl
Abstract

The institutional contexts of research increasingly require researchers to anticipate their productivity and the uncertainties inherent in their research. This applies to both academic researchers and to researchers in start-up companies. This creates a specific kind of uncertainty, anticipatory uncertainty, that we define as the state of being uncertain as to whether research processes will be productive in a specific time frame and along situated definitions of good performance. In the life sciences, this anticipatory uncertainty is experienced and managed differently, depending on how research is organized and the cultural resources available in specific institutional contexts. In biotechnology companies, there is a readiness to embrace dynamic changes in both research strategies and the organization of work in response to new developments in the progress of the overall research agenda. In academia, the ability of research groups to react with similar flexibility seems significantly constrained by the individual attribution of research work and credit, and the correspondingly high level of individual anticipatory uncertainty. This raises questions about how far the current organization of academic research allows epistemic uncertainty to be embraced and corresponding risks to be taken, rather than safe questions to be pursued.

Organisation(s)
Department of Science and Technology Studies, Research Platform Responsible Research and Innovation in Academic Practice
Journal
Science as Culture
Volume
27
Pages
349-374
ISSN
0950-5431
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1080/09505431.2018.1485640
Publication date
2018
Publication status
Published
Peer reviewed
Yes
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
509017 Social studies of science
Portal url
https://ucris.univie.ac.at/portal/en/publications/anticipatory-uncertainty-how-academic-and-industry-researchers-in-the-life-sciences-experience-and-manage-the-uncertainties-of-the-research-process-differently(dfe99572-8f50-4c75-b3fb-253b9b88773f).html