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'Content to be sad' or 'runaway apprentice'? The psychological contract and career agency of young scientists in the entrepreneurial university

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  • Lam, Alice
  • de Campos, Andre

Abstract

This article examines employee agency in psychological contracts by exploring how young scientists proactively shape their careers in response to unmet expectations induced by academic entrepreneurialism. It uses the lens of social exchange to examine their relationships with the professors engaged in two types of activities: collaborative research characterized by diffuse/reciprocal exchange, and commercial ventures, by restricted/negotiated exchange. These two categories show how career agency varies in orientation, form and behavioural outcome depending on the relational context within which their psychological contracts evolve. Those involved in collaborative research experienced a relational psychological contract and responded to unfulfilled career promises by ‘extended investment’ in their current jobs. They use ‘proxy agency’ by enlisting the support of their professors. However, some become ‘trapped’ in perennial temporary employment and are ‘content to be sad’. By contrast, those involved in research commercialization experienced a transactional contract and assert ‘personal agency’ by crafting their own entrepreneurial careers. They are ‘runaways’ who seek autonomy. The evidence is based on interviews with 24 doctoral/postdoctoral researchers and 16 professors from three leading UK universities. The study extends psychological contract theory by incorporating career agency and sheds new light on changing academic careers.

Suggested Citation

  • Lam, Alice & de Campos, Andre, 2014. "'Content to be sad' or 'runaway apprentice'? The psychological contract and career agency of young scientists in the entrepreneurial university," MPRA Paper 61412, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:61412
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/61412/1/MPRA_paper_61412.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lam, Alice, 2011. "What motivates academic scientists to engage in research commercialization: ‘Gold’, ‘ribbon’ or ‘puzzle’?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(10), pages 1354-1368.
    2. Alice Lam, 2007. "Knowledge Networks and Careers: Academic Scientists in Industry-University Links," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(6), pages 993-1016, September.
    3. Roach, Michael & Sauermann, Henry, 2010. "A taste for science? PhD scientists' academic orientation and self-selection into research careers in industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 422-434, April.
    4. Etzkowitz, Henry, 2003. "Research groups as 'quasi-firms': the invention of the entrepreneurial university," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 109-121, January.
    5. Seeck, Hannele & Parzefall, Marjo-Riitta, 2008. "Employee agency: challenges and opportunities for psychological contract theory," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 49809, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    6. Bozeman, Barry & Corley, Elizabeth, 2004. "Scientists' collaboration strategies: implications for scientific and technical human capital," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 599-616, May.
    7. Hamilton, Gillian, 1995. "Enforcement In Apprenticeship Contracts: Were Runaways a Serious Problem? Evidence from Montreal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 55(03), pages 551-574, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hottenrott, Hanna & Lawson, Cornelia, 2014. "Flying the nest: How the home department shapes researchers’ career paths," Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis LEI & BRICK - Laboratory of Economics of Innovation "Franco Momigliano", Bureau of Research in Innovation, Complexity and Knowledge, Collegio 201409, University of Turin.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    academic scientists; career; career agency; entrepreneurial university; psychological contract; social exchange;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J4 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets
    • J41 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Labor Contracts
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations

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