Academics’ “ambidextrous behavior” and doctoral science mentoring practices

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Although academics (academic scientists) are the vanguards in mentoring doctoral science students, emergent science policies increasingly push academics to venture into industrial science work with industrial scientists. This puts academics in a situation of heightened role strain given that academic life is already exacting in terms of teaching, research, and service. Now, academics have to balance between intrinsic and extrinsic demands. In this paper, we examine how academics’ involvement in academic and in industrial science activities impacts how academic scientists mentor doctoral students. We introduce the idea of academics’ “ambidextrous behavior” and apply it in three scientific activities, namely: (1) formally collaborating in academic and in industrial research projects, (2) informally networking with academic and with industrial scientists, and (3) producing patents and publications. We test the hypothesis that academics, who exhibit ambidextrous behavior, manifest mentoring practices that differ from colleagues who do not exhibit such behavior. We adduce evidence from a face-to-face survey of 104 East Asian chemical science professors, and analyze data using principal component and regression analyses. Our results provide insights on how academics’ involvement in both academic and industrial science activities shapes the way doctoral students are mentored. Our work also exemplifies how the concept of ambidextrous behavior can be applied in examining aspects of scientific apprenticeship in academia at a time when knowledge production increasingly takes place at the intersecting sectors of Etzkowitz’s (Res Policy 27(8):823–833, 1998) Triple Helix science (i.e., academia, government, and industry).

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