Dockets, Deals, and Sagas: Commensuration and the Rationalization of Experience in University Licensing

Posted: 17 Nov 2009

See all articles by Jason Owen-Smith

Jason Owen-Smith

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Date Written: 2005


The collective decision-making process duringtechnology licensing meetings is examined using an unnamed private universityas a case study. Eighteen months of field work are the basis for the study,which focuses on the presentation and description of inventions. Examination ofthe decision-making process connects three disciplines: (1) science andtechnology studies, (2) organizational theory and its interest inorganizational learning and decision making, and (3) economic sociology'semphasis on commensuration (comparison of different entities among a commonmetric) in the creation of markets and contracts. The central roles that local strategies and languages play as members of thetechnology licensing office describe and compare disparate technologies areexamined. Three processes are found at work: (1) docket description, (2) dealframing, and (3) problem resolution.Use of these three approaches isshown to be the result of the collective experience of the technology officestaff.These approaches ("conceptual architectures"), whenrationalized through organizational learning, reflect the processes in thetransformation of university technology transfer. Emphasis is given to theprocess of commensuration. Examination of the discussions suggests that thereare "conceptual spaces" that enable technology licensing decisions.(TNM)

Keywords: License agreements, Management decisions, Organizational learning, Technology transfer offices, Colleges & universities, Technology transfer, Technology licenses

Suggested Citation

Owen-Smith, Jason, Dockets, Deals, and Sagas: Commensuration and the Rationalization of Experience in University Licensing (2005). University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship, Available at SSRN:

Jason Owen-Smith (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

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