Academic artists’ engagement and commercialisation

Joaquín M Azagra-Caro, Carlos Benito-Amat, Ester Planells-Aleixandre
The Journal of Technology Transfer

Academic artists are researchers who create artistic work. They form part of the cultural life of cities and contribute to welfare not only through research but also through art. They may commercialise their art or use it to engage in scientific knowledge diffusion. We seek to understand the relationship between art, academic commercialisation and engagement, and detect barriers to academic art. The resources needed to develop and diffuse art in addition to conducting research may be incompatible with a career focused on science quality or an organisational logic based on teaching and pure basic research. We study the responses to a survey of some 7,000 Spanish academics and compare university researchers to other researchers. More than half of the researchers surveyed create artistic work; however, whereas engagement is the norm rather than the exception, commercialisation is rare. Working in a university and producing good quality science run counter to being an artist. The detrimental effect of science quality on being a commercial or engaged artist turns positive after a certain threshold, which suggests polarisation among academic artists. Among commercial artists, this polarisation seems to apply specifically to university researchers. We discuss the implications for the valorisation of art across knowledge transfer channels and in research evaluations.