Fiction Lagging Behind Or Non-Fiction Defending The Indefensible? University-Industry (et al.) Interaction In Science Fiction,

Joaquín M. Azagra-Caro, Laura González-Salmerón & Pedro Marques
The Journal of Technology Transfer

University–industry interaction has many supporters and some detractors in the scholarly literature. Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policy frameworks emphasise interactions between universities and stakeholders other than industry, and the contribution made by these interactions to a range of goals such as environmental sustainability. Given the significance of discourse to shape public opinion, it is important that academic and policy actors convey positive views of university interaction. We investigate whether this is happening by examining representations of university interactions in popular culture. Since public opinion can shape science, our investigation could also suggest new research questions. Our sample includes science fiction novels that won prestigious awards (Hugo, Nebula and Locus) for the genre, from the 1970s to the 2010s. The use of an objective corpus of the literature increases external validity, a methodological novelty in representations of science studies. We show how science fiction, predominantly, is critical of university interactions, reflecting a lack of convincing institutional narratives on their benefits. The apprehensions expressed about interactions with industry or other stakeholders are equivalent. We offer some recommendations for research on STI policy frameworks to incorporate critical views of university–society interaction, including threats to sustainability, and new research questions related to defence of non-disclosure of information for political reasons and conflicts of equity due to the lack of career progression for ‘disengaged’ academics.