The recognition of academic research as a potential source of economic growth and social welfare has attracted the attention of both policy-makers and academics over the past decades. But emphasising the impact of research brings a new set of tensions to scientific governance processes, and raises the risk that academics who engage more with users be hindered in pursuing their research activities. In this paper, we seek to understand whether researchers that meaningfully engage with societal users in their research micro-practices face additional obstacles in their research, whether in terms of the acceptance of that research by academic communities and the absorption of that knowledge by users. To do this, we draw on a recent approach to knowledge production highlighting the importance of ‘openness’ of research practices in influencing the subsequent societal usability of that knowledge. Openness occurs by involving users in research practices, and we therefore ask the question of whether researchers who use open research practices do indeed suffer additional obstacles to their research. Drawing on a questionnaire of 1583 scientists working for the largest Spanish Public Research Organisation, we identify that the greatest obstacles that all researchers face are in administrative structures, which make it harder to engage with users. Less-open users tend to experience fundamental obstacles in their engagement, such as a lack of interest from users or a lack of acceptance by other academics, whilst more open researchers experience problems relating to the practices of managing technology transfer projects. We conclude by arguing that a differentiated support structure is need to assist academics with user engagement reflecting their past experience as well as the need for a rethink of how research organisations situate user engagement in their administrative structure.
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