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Reflexive evaluation of an academic–industry research collaboration: can Mode 2 management research be achieved?

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We present a reflexive retrospective account of a UK government research council funded project deploying knowledge management software to support environmental sustainability in the construction industry. This project was set up in a form typical of a Mode 2 research programme involving several academic institutions and industrial partners, and aspiring to fulfil the Mode 2 criteria seen as transdisciplinarity and business relevance. The multidisciplinary nature is analysed through retrospectively reflecting upon the research process and activities we carried out, and is found to be problematic. No real consensus was reached between the partners on the 'context of application'. Difficulties between industry and academia, within industry and within academia led to diverging agendas and different alignments for participants. The context of application does not (pre-)exist independently of institutional influences, and in itself cannot drive transdisciplinarity since it is subject to competing claims and negotiations. There were unresolved tensions in terms of private vs. public construction companies and their expectations of ICT-based knowledge management, and in terms of the sustainable construction agenda. This post hoc reflexive account, enables us to critique our own roles in having developed a managerial technology for technically sophisticated and powerful private industrial actors to the detriment of public sector construction partners, having bypassed sustainability issues, and not reached transdisciplinarity. We argue that this is due to institutional pressures and instrumentalization from academia, industry and government and a restricted notion of business relevance. There exists a politically motivated tendency to oppose Mode 1 academic research to practitioner-oriented Mode 2 approaches to management research. We argue that valuing the links between co-existing Mode 1 and 2 research activities would support a more genuine and fuller exploration of the context of application.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/24331/

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