AuthorMcBee, David Jeremy
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 08/23/2020
AbstractProblem solving is regarded as an essential to scientific work, yet remains a curiously understudied topic. This is due, in part, to the different meanings attributed to the word ‘problem’ by different lines of research and different disciplines. While scientists do choose research topics, battle for control of their jurisdictions, and have opportunities to apply their abstract knowledge, they also face research obstacles – problems that must be overcome in order to fulfill the aims of research. A lot can – and does – go wrong during the course of innovative scientific work. In fact, many of the most innovative scientific fields have high failure rates. This is very apparent in the biopharmaceutical field, the field that I chose to study. Biopharmaceutical scientists must often deal with research-related obstacles that crop up during the course of their work if their projects are to move forward. Fortunately, these biopharmaceutical scientists do not face such obstacles alone but have the support and backing of their organizations, project teams, and social networks. Thus, problem solving in the realm of biopharmaceutical science involves social processes. My dissertation seeks to provide an understanding of these social processes through three studies. The first study investigates how biopharmaceutical scientists deal with research obstacles by interviewing 36 core scientists working on biopharmaceutical research and development. These conversations reveal that personal jurisdictions, functional area teams, and multifunctional project teams provide a template of action for biopharmaceutical scientists that draws upon specialist knowledge and interdisciplinary teamwork. Additionally, scientists’ accounts of legal boundaries associated with utilizing interorganizational network ties suggests the biopharmaceutical field relies on formal authority structures to organize scientists’ problem solving efforts. The second study asks what kind of social network contacts facilitate problem solving. Recent work on social networks and creative innovation claims that social network contacts with different types of characteristics will prove useful for different innovation phases. Because problem solving moves through similar phases, I argue by analogy that different types of social network contacts will prove useful for different problem solving phases. Further, I test whether path dependence exists between problem solving phases. To address these questions, I utilize a multi-level path model to model survey data from members of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. Results indicate that biopharmaceutical scientists associate the characteristics of strong social network ties, leadership relationships, and competence-based trust with problem solving. Additionally, social network contacts that provide useful assistance at an earlier problem solving phase are more likely to provide useful assistance at a later problem solving phase. Thus, path dependence exists between phases of problem solving. The third study asks why some biopharmaceutical scientists are more effective at problem solving than others. To ask this question, I draw upon research on the strength of ties, the knowledge components of networks, individual job performance, team science, and problem solving. To address this question, I utilize the same survey of biopharmaceutical scientists affiliated with the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. Results of a structural equation model show two pathways. The first emphasizes social networks. The influence of the strength of ties on scientists’ problem solving effectiveness is mediated by the knowledge components of networks. The second path emphasizes performance. The influence of team performance runs through the job performance of individual scientists. These studies build a holistic understanding of the social processes associated with problem solving in the field of biopharmaceutical science.
Degree ProgramGraduate College