Blog 4: Too busy for valorization

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In our recent blogs we discussed some of the arguments we get from researchers why they should or shouldn’t get involved with societal impact. Today, we discuss one of the most commonly heard arguments against this phenomenon: it is simply too time consuming!

As anything in life, activities take time. Unconsciously, people weigh the activity against the expected outcome. In general one could say that if the balance between the expected outcome and the effort that one needs to put in isn’t right, people tend to not do it. Or, when they are forced to do the activity, they tend not to like it. Maybe this is the key challenge in valorization: researchers are forced to think about it and to act on it, and they don’t feel the value outweighs the effort. They do recognize the importance of valorization on the level of the institute, but don’t prioritize it themselves. It appears to be a special case of: “This is primarily interesting for my neighbor” said the neighbor.

It is unlikely that the pressure on valorization will relent. It is one of the core tasks of a university, and therefore we need to think about ways to improve the balance.

A first option, and we increasingly see this, is division of labor. Historically, many departments in university already had people that were focused more on education than research and publications, despite the latter being the primary performance criterion. This is a good thing because everyone can focus on the part of the job where he or she can perform in the best possible way. Somehow, in the topic of valorization, the system is designed such, that everybody should be concerned with valorization. While we believe every researcher should be able to explain why their research is important for society at large, this doesn’t mean that everyone should be on television or negotiate with industry. In many departments, we see that some people like to step a bit out of the university whilst others prefer to work inside. We should exploit these differences, because it will make the work in the research group more efficient and will strengthen the research group as a whole!

A second option, which isn’t ruled out by executing option 1, is to focus on valorization opportunities that help you as a researcher in your research. Where can you get distinct data, state of the art facilities, special methodology or unique expertise? Many companies have part-time PhD’s who work for the company and also spend some of their time on their PhD. Organizations like the CPB have employees that are still connected to universities. In terms of valorization this is a win-win. The researcher has a competitive edge thanks to the additional resources at his/her disposal and the organization has access to frontline scientific knowledge. Many researchers should be able to think of organizations that have these assets that could fast-track research. Why don’t you get in touch with these organizations? By working with them, you put yourself into a unique position for both academic publications and valorization activities.

A third option can be to involve more practice oriented research institutes, such as the GTI’s or the applied universities. Because the research conducted in these institutes is inherently more practice oriented, they may be in a good position to engage in valorization activities for your work.

There is a fourth alternative, if thinking about the different options and how they could make your work easier is a struggle: you can reach out to us and we will help you to identify those organizations that will be glad to work with you.

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