Academic artists and knowledge diffusion

Joaquín Azagra-Caro

Carlos Benito-Amat

Ester Planells-Aleixandre

Academic artists are researchers who create artistic work. Like academic entrepreneurs, not focusing in scientific production may endanger science quality, especially if artistic work is commercial. Women marginality in science may be also apparent in their need to put higher efforts to fulfil university teaching and research missions, and hence have fewer opportunities than men researchers to develop art. In general, academic researchers may find fewer complementarities between science and art than non-academic researchers. Our first objective is to explore these aspects of the process of being an academic artist.
Academic artists may transfer their scientific knowledge through art, directly or indirectly. We wonder whether academic knowledge diffusion through art presents similar relationships with science quality, gender and commercialisation to those of being an artist. The second objective of this research is to investigate so.

The population of our study was Spanish researchers. We operationalized the definition as authors of scientific publications affiliated to Spanish organizations. More concretely, authors were corresponding authors of publications listed in the Web of Science (WoS) from 2013 to 2016. The choice of corresponding authors was practical, to gather e-mails for an electronic survey. However, choosing corresponding authors has the advantage of picking the researchers leading the publication, which is closer to the concept of researcher implicit in this study. We gathered some 65,000 valid e-mails. We run a pilot in July 2017, a second pilot in April 2018 and the definitive survey from July to November 2018. We got over 7,300 responses, i.e. a response rate of 11%.

Dependent variables
• Researcher artist: The researcher has created some artistic work in at least one art field. The survey included a questionnaire on creative activities, adapted from the Creativity Achievement Questionnaire (Carson et al., 2005).
• Knowledge diffusion types (based on the case study by Azagra-Caro et al., 2018):
o Direct knowledge diffusion: Degree to which the researcher uses art for diffusing scientific knowledge. A construct based on four items, according to whether scientific knowledge derives from the researcher’s field of knowledge, her speciality with her field, her WoS publications or fields of knowledge other than her own. A factor analysis indicated a single-factor structure.
o Indirect knowledge diffusion: Degree to which the researcher-artist diffuses scientific knowledge by word-of-mouth with art businesspeople, other artists and the public, i.e. the cultural world. A construct based on three survey items.
o Reverse knowledge diffusion: Degree to which the researcher gets ideas from art businesspeople, other writers and the public for future scientific production

Independent variables
• Academic researcher: 1 if the respondent worked at a university, 0 otherwise.
• Science quality: Field Normalized Citation Score (FNCS). In a first step, for each individual paper, we divided the number of forward citations (2-year window: publication year and the next two years) into the average number of forward citations received by all Spanish papers in that thematic category and year. For example, a paper published in 2016 received one citation in 2016, 2017 and 2018; this paper belongs to two categories: ‘Mathematics, Applied’ and ‘Mathematics’; all Spanish papers published in 2016 in those two categories received, respectively, an average of 1.25 and 0.97; FNCS would be then ((1/1.25) + (1/0.97))/ 2 = 0.91. In a second step, we grouped all papers of every corresponding author and averaged the FNCS.
• Gender: 1 if female, 0 if male.

Control variables
We control for a wide range of institutional (science field, country and region of residence), sociodemographic (age, nationality, language, education, civil status, number of children), organizational (number of organisations, ownership regime) and professional (seniority, teaching load, stays abroad, work abroad, projects and contracts as principal investigator, number of research awards).

Academics are less likely to be artists than other researchers. Science quality and being female are contrary to be an artist, but there is no difference between academics and other researchers. The detrimental effect of being an academic artist on science quality only applies to commercial academic artists. Knowledge diffusion through art is the norm rather than the exception among academic artists. Beyond a certain threshold, science quality is positively related to knowledge diffusion. This is true for direct knowledge diffusion, but not for indirect knowledge diffusion, where there is no relation with science quality. Women are less likely to use art for knowledge diffusion.

Art can diffuse scientific knowledge, and academics may engage in artistic production to that end. This is valuable for universities to form part of the cultural life of cities and for science communication. Such recognition may contribute to the valorisation of research in art and humanities, that often translates into art, but also to the artistic production in other scientific fields. Artistic production could be included among mechanisms of university-industry knowledge diffusion in the typical study which lists channels such as patents, spin-off, contract research, informal contacts, etc. Academic knowledge diffusion through art could have more weight more in the evaluation of researchers’ curricula. If not properly rewarded, universities could be losing valuable skills for research, such as writing and visualisation skills.