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Doctoral students pay the price of industrial collaboration

PhDs involving industrial research yield fewer papers. Students should understand the trade-offs that their project might involve, argue Hsing-Feng Lee and Marcela Miozzo.

The academics who publish the most are also the most likely to collaborate with industry. Thus, for principal investigators there appears to be no trade-off between academic and industrial engagement and—putting aside concerns of a potential clash between academic science’s norms of openness and the business world’s secrecy and profit motive—policies fostering university-industry collaboration seem an effective way for society to capture the value of publicly funded research.

But the consequences of the increased emphasis on industry collaborations for doctoral training and the careers of doctoral students are seldom discussed. Collaborations are brokered by senior academics, but doctoral students or postdocs usually end up doing the research. And whereas principal investigators may have both basic and applied projects in their research portfolio, doctoral students are typically focused on one project. For the students involved, a project with industrial involvement may be their entire research experience.

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