Joint Strategy & Management Seminar: Emeritus Professor Deborah Dougherty
Despite the large literature on the convergence of basic and applied science for innovation, incorporating basic science into drug innovation remains difficult. Only 50% of published academic findings on potential drug targets can be replicated, and the director of the US National Institutes of Health said that the translation of basic biomedical research into safe and effective clinical applications remains a slow, expensive, and failure-prone endeavor. A critical puzzle remains unresolved: what specific practices of knowing explain the divergence and convergence of basic and applied science in complex innovation?
Most research focuses on social structures, which do not determine everyday activities and so cannot explain knowledge convergence. This grounded theory building study finds that socio-material practices of constructing drug possibilities define the real-time practices of creating, combining, and recombining knowledge for new drug therapies. These socio-material practices produce trajectories of knowing that convert unknowns into drug possibilities. Divergent practices of basic and applied science generate different trajectories of knowing and make sense of different aspects of the complexity. Convergence triggers expansive learning because the scientists combine their different views into a richer understanding of the possibilities for constructing a particular drug. However, since knowledge is embedded in particular socio-material practices, convergence depends on enacting these practices in concert, simultaneously.
Our analysis reveals three different socio-material practices that convert different aspects of complexity into possibilities, and suggests distinct approaches to convergence for each. We develop implications for managing knowledge convergence in biomedical innovation, and generalize possible ideas for other domains of academic-applied knowing (such as management).