Hidden Power in Formalized Structures: The Case of University F&A Rates




Inizio: Apr 22 | 05:00 pm

Fine : Apr 22 | 06:00 pm

Lunch Seminars
public policy |

Via Lambruschini, 4B 20156 Milano MI

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Seminar in presence

Building BL26/B – Room 0.19 (ground floor)
Department of Management, Economics and Industrial Engineering
Via R. Lambruschini 4/B, 20156 Milano


John Walsh
Georgia Institute of Technology, USA



Resource Dependence Theory (RDT) argues power asymmetry and mutual dependence in an inter-organization exchange relationship predict exchange outcomes. While widely tested for voluntary market exchanges, less is known about how RDT might operate in a highly formalized exchange relationship.
To expand the scope of RDT, we focus on resource allocation in a highly regulated setting, where enacting of power advantages might be substantially constrained, and where mutual dependence effects might be less likely to be manifested. We use the case of government agencies negotiating Facilities and Administrative (F&A) cost rate contracts with universities, a formalized setting and one where constraint absorption strategies are largely unavailable, allowing a clearer focus on resource allocation.
We find negotiated F&A rates related to the agency’s degree of mutual dependence and power asymmetry with each university. The effect varies across agencies, with a significant relation between mutual dependence and the negotiated rate for only one of the two agencies, suggesting resource dependency effects may depend on the specifics of agency practices.
These results highlight the relatively less-studied mutual dependence as a critical dimension of RDT. We discuss the implications of these findings both for organization theory and for science policy.


John Walsh is Professor of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology. He studies the work and organization of science and innovation.  He is also an editor at Research Policy. His PhD is in sociology from Northwestern University. His work has been published in American Sociological Review; Science; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences; Research Policy; Management Science; Science, Technology & Human Values; and Social Studies of Science.



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