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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Canadian scientists : their research department structure and research output in four types of organizations Pelton, Terrance Ronald

Abstract

Previous research has revealed a relationship between research department structure and scientist research output. Investigators have drawn on the findings of this research to make recommendations to research directors and administrators regarding the type of structure necessary to maintain high levels of scientist research output. Since the recommendations were made to research directors and administrators in general, the implication is that one type of research department structure should be utilized in all types of organizations. This, in turn, implies that the relationship between structure and output is constant across organization types. Consideration of the goals and operating conditions in different types of organizations suggests that some organizations would tend to place greater structural constraints on scientists than others. In other words, differences in goals and conditions of operation make it almost impossible for research departments in different types of organizations to be structured the same way. If this is the case, the hypothesis that follows inevitably is that some types of organizations cannot have the one best structure and must suffer losses in research output. An examination of some original research, however, reveals that the responding scientists were employed in a variety of organization types. Moreover, the investigators made no attempt to examine the relationships between structure and research output on an organization type-by-type basis. There remains then, an equally plausible hypothesis, that scientists in different types of organizations accept the existing structure and that no basic incompatibility exists. This implies that the relationship between structure and research output is not constant across organization types, but varies from type to type. The problem of this study, therefore, was to determine whether or not the relationships between research department structure and research output was constant across organization types. The main hypothesis tested was: "The relationship between research department structure and research output varies across organization types." Implicit in this hypothesis were two prior hypotheses. 1. There is a relationship between research department structure and research output. 2. Research departments in different types of parent organizations are structured differently. Also implicit in the main hypothesis was a type of summary hypothesis, which properly followed the main hypothesis. 3. Relationships between research output and structure found in combined organization samples are different than relationships found in separate organization samples. These general hypotheses were tested by examining information obtained from testing related specific hypotheses. The data necessary for the testing of the specific hypotheses was obtained from questionnaire responses provided by scientists from four types of organizations—business, government, social development, and university—who were mailed questionnaires in order to obtain measures of reported research output, and perceptions of research department structure. 523 scientists or 45% of the sample, returned a completed questionnaire. Another 15% of the sample provided reasons for not responding. Examination of the data related to Hypothesis Number One indicated that in a combined organization sample, levels of reported research output were: 1. positively associated with levels of perceived (a) influence to decide own work goals and objectives, (b) decentralized control of research activities, and 2. negatively associated with levels of perceived (a) supervisor influence to decide scientist work goals and objectives, and (b) centralized control of research activities. On the basis of this information, Hypothesis Number One was accepted. Examination of the data related to Hypothesis Number Two indicated that scientists in different types of organizations perceived different levels of: 1. emphasis to be placed on particular criteria used in the selection of research projects; 2. time expenditures in basic and applied research; 3. time pressure on their work; 4. influence to decide work goals and objectives; 5. supervisor or department head influence in deciding their work goals and objectives; 6. centralized and decentralized control of research activities; 7. coordination of efforts for common objectives. On the basis of this information Hypothesis Number Two was accepted. Examination of the data related to Hypothesis Number Three indicated that high research output scientists, in different types of organizations perceived different levels of: 1. influence in deciding their work goals and objectives (university scientists only); 2. immediate supervisor or department head influence in deciding their work goals and objectives; 3. centralized and decentralized control of research activities; and 4. coordination of efforts for common objectives. On the basis of this information, Hypothesis Number Three was accepted. Hypothesis Number Four was also accepted because examination of the data indicated that responses from high research output scientists in combined organization samples— as compared to responses from separate organization samples— differed in the same ways as those listed above. In summary, this study found relationships between research output and research department structure. Research departments in different types of parent organizations appeared to be structured differently. Finally, relationships between structure and research output varied across organization types, as well as between separate and combined organization samples. In conclusion, the present study indicated that there is no 'best' type of research department structure for all organizations.

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