Academia Meets Industry: creating long-term collaborations

23 November 2016, 14:00 - 16:00

S3, Alison Richard Building

A Mellon Teaching Seminar

This is a closed seminar only for participants who have previously registered to attend the whole series of seminars in term.

Wednesdays in Michaelmas term 2.00-4.00pm starting on 12 October until 30 November 2016.


Lionel Bently (Law)
Ananay Aguilar (Music)

Through a case study on the music industry, this course will reflect critically on collaborations between academia and industry. It will do this by engaging in direct conversation with some of its stakeholders: from music producers and distributors, to users, unions and government. It will examine the multiplicity of voices, including that of scholarship, their differing perspectives and stakes in the business of making music. By working within a multi-disciplinary team on possible directions emerging from a widely publicised contemporary challenge, this course will seek a better understanding of how collaborations between academia and industry may be sustained in the long-term and, importantly, will provide an opportunity to bring the students' own expertise to bear on this debate.

Industry professionals respond to investors and employees, which demand that they consider value for money and seek to maximise profit in the short term. In contrast, being publicly funded, scholars are encouraged to think about the public interest, try to understand the bigger picture and seek long-term solutions. Scholars’ interests not only lie with the public, however; they are concerned with education, may bring their interests in line with those of private funders and need, more recently, to direct their efforts towards generating impact. In the AHSS, efforts are often focussed on public policy and may therefore involve some form of advocacy. In addition, trained in ‘organised scepticism’ (Merton 1973), scholarly critique tends to be reactive, rather than proactive. Yet, in order to develop their work meaningfully in the public interest, scholars need to collaborate both with content producers and users so that they can understand wider needs and motivations. By working together, the industry can gain a wider and a longer-term perspective. Indeed, business practice has been influenced by the arts and humanities in ways ranging from cultural awareness through to technological innovation and legal interpretation (RAND Europe 2010).

This course will provide a forum where these tensions can be explored by examining the multiplicity of voices engaged in what we call ‘the music industry’, their differing perspectives and stakes in the business of making music. It will assess the involvement of these different actors with copyright law and the extent to which the law serves their needs. Importantly, it will provide a self-conscious exploration of the motivations and interests of academia and reflect upon the transferability of this case study to other industries and similar problems in the future.

The course will start out with a panel of representatives from different sectors of the music industries. We will ask them about their most pressing challenges and what they think academia can do for them. Over the next sessions, we will analyse and dissect these propositions and set them against one another. Where are the commonalities, what are the differences? Is there order in this complexity? Can or should academia attempt to contribute or guide developments within industry? If so, what is or should our perspective be? The course will end by asking these representatives back and presenting our conclusions developed by individual or small groups of students.

The course will offer an opportunity to engage with the complexities of the REF’s impact agenda and hone public engagement skills and will develop problem-solving skills of multi-dimensional, contemporary challenges that can be translated to other problems faced by different sectors of society today.