Making and mending your nets: managing relevance, participation and uncertainty in academic–practitioner knowledge networks

Alferoff, Catrina and Knights, David (2009). Making and mending your nets: managing relevance, participation and uncertainty in academic–practitioner knowledge networks. British Journal of Management, 20(1) pp. 125–142.



Making and mending your nets is concerned to examine, from an actor–network theory perspective, how the relevance debate concerning research and teaching is a significant non-human actor in the development and management of industry–academic networks associated with UK business schools. By significant, we do not imply the most important because it is only one of many human and non-human actors that may arouse interest, be problematized, enrolled and/or mobilized for such networks to become ‘obligatory passage points’ and ultimately irreversible collective assemblies. The paper then utilizes actor–network theory as a framework for examining our primary empirical research on academic–practitioner knowledge networks – nets that require a continuous making and mending in managing relevance, participation and uncertainty. We argue that the actor–network framework is more compatible than alternative knowledge diffusion or transfer models with the data we have collected on academic–practitioner knowledge networks in the UK. In accounting for the dynamic instability and precariousness of knowledge networks, it avoids raising false expectations about business knowledge and its relevance or effectiveness. If knowledge in the physical sciences and engineering unfolds slowly and unevenly in the face of many disputes, disruptions and setbacks, as actor–network theory has claimed, then how much more likely is this to be the case in the social sciences? Consequently there should be no expectations of one-to-one, direct causal chains between knowledge production and application, as some business school critics seemingly demand.

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  • Item ORO ID
  • 38033
  • Item Type
  • Journal Item
  • ISSN
  • 1467-8551
  • Project Funding Details
  • Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
    Evolution of Business KnowledgeRES-334-25-0009ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
  • Academic Unit or School
  • Faculty of Business and Law (FBL)
  • Copyright Holders
  • © 2008 British Academy of Management
  • Depositing User
  • Jackie Fry