Overcoming the “lost before translation” problem: An exploratory study

Nabil Amara, Julia Olmos-Peñuela, Ignacio Fernández-de-Lucio
Research Policy

This paper draws on Stokes’ (1997) framework to position the disconnection between theory and practice as a knowledge production problem. In this sense, we argue that a better understanding of different academic profiles is extremely important to focus efforts on those academics that may overcome the ‘lost before translation’ problem. Our data, that come from a survey of researchers affiliated to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), provide a good opportunity to explore the factors that might increase or impede the likelihood that researchers engage in research that reconciles the quest for fundamental understanding with the consideration of use (Pasteur’s profile), rather than in research complying with fundamental understanding, but not with the consideration of use (Bohr’s profile). The descriptive and bivariate analyses reveal that the largest proportion of the researchers belongs to Bohr’s profile. The econometric exercise enables to identify several motives that might increase or decrease the likelihood that researchers belong to Pasteur’s profile instead of Bohr’s profile, notably the lack of fit between researchers and non-academic agents, their motivation for learning in the context of application, having access to in-kind resources, and to a lesser extent, motives linked to career promotion imperatives and personal income. The results of the paper are also discussed to derive policy and managerial implications for research institutions.