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National Cancer Institute

Crossing Organizational Boundaries in Biopharmaceutical R&D

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Mcbee D. Crossing Organizational Boundaries in Biopharmaceutical R&D. Oral presentation at 2017 SciTS Conference. Clearwater Beach, FL. Jun 13, 2017. Collaborations Across Academia, Industry, and Government. Online at:

Research into the innovative process often stress the contribution of boundary-spanning network ties. By allowing access to new knowledge, social networks facilitate creativity. But problems arise; innovative areas are often characterized by high failure rates and uncertainty. Biopharmaceutical research and development is no exception – only about 2% of projects reach the marketplace. Even successful projects experience serious scientific challenges. To cope with these challenges, biopharmaceutical companies utilize teams of Ph.D.s from a range of disciplines. Even so, some obstacles require communicating and coordinating with university faculty, key opinion leaders, or industry consultants located beyond the boundaries of the focal teams or organization. To understand how these collaborations between different organizational types operate, I conducted 39 in-depth interviews with 34 industrial biopharmaceutical scientists, project managers and project leaders. Using theories of social capital, team science, and fields; I examine how the context of the biopharmaceutical industry shapes scientists’ ability to become aware, evaluate, and access much needed expertise across organizational boundaries in a knowledge-intensive field. Whereas, scientists contribute their social capital in the form of personal network contacts, firms contribute economic capital, legal guidance, and consulting contracts in order to locate, utilize, and protect these sources of diverse knowledge. While these biopharmaceutical firms own the intellectual property they do not end up “owning” these social network ties created through pragmatic problem-solving. Because knowledge of others’ expertise often remains tacit and because many boundary-spanning network ties stem from team affiliations that predate the problem-at-hand, individual scientists exert greater control over these informal networks.



Type of Publication:

Oral presentation


scits 2017 conference, presentation, biopharmaceutical, research and development, R&D

Addresses these goal(s):

  • Learn about the field of team science: history, theory and concepts
  • Conduct research on/evaluate team science

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Resource created by Jane Hwang on 10/3/2017 1:58:51 PM.

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